More on Evangelicals and Trump

Yesterday I described religion as Donald Trump’s kryptonite.  He is not a man of deep religious faith and this is something that he will not be able to fake.  Evangelicals who vote for him in the primaries are going to have to do so while holding their noses.

But who are these evangelicals? Do evangelicals even make up a voting bloc?   Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig’s recent New Republic article, “Why is Donald Trump Winning Over Evangelical Voters?,” should remind us of two things: 

First, Trump is not attracting anywhere close to a majority of evangelical voters.

Second, evangelicals are not all the same.

Here is a taste:

What should be immediately apparent from these numbers is that evangelicals are not, in fact, all rushing out to vote Trump. In fact, among various polls, only twenty-something percent of them have registered any interest in Trump, with the remainder of their votes split among the other sixteen GOP options. As Philip Bump recently pointed out in the Washington Post: At this point, the evangelical vote is not really dissimilar from the general Republican vote—there really is no obvious evangelical pick. The curiosity of evangelical attention to Trump isn’t so much a question of how the belligerent billionaire captured the most sought after voting bloc in the Republican game (he hasn’t), but why any evangelical would have even the vaguest inclination toward him whatsoever.
The first and most obvious point to raise is that evangelicals are not all the same, as Pew found in 2007, when analyzing changes in evangelical approval ratings for George W. Bush. Though they constitute a voting bloc, the definition of ‘evangelical’ is somewhat mutable, and the population it encompasses is quite varied. By the end of Bush’s tenure in 2008, almost everyone was dissatisfied with him, but young, white evangelicals lost patience much more quickly and intensely than their older white counterparts. After having been among the president’s most ardent supporters, giving him an 87 percent approval rating in 2002, young evangelicals positively rated Bush at only 45 percent by 2007. Older evangelicals, meanwhile, approved of Bush at a peak rate of 80 percent in 2002, which declined to 52 percent in 2007, a significant but less sharp drop than the evangelical whippersnappers. At the time Pew thought the departure between the two age subsets within the evangelical population signaled an opening for Democrats to appeal to young evangelicals; what it really seems to have suggested is youthful dissatisfaction with the Republican party establishment.

One thought on “More on Evangelicals and Trump

  1. The New Republic article's argument for evangelical defection from the GOP depends on popularity polls [Bush with younger evangelicals in '07?], not real elections. Meh.

    John Fea asks:

    Do evangelicals even make up a voting bloc?

    Since Bill Clinton left office, for the lion's share of white evangelicals, any Republican has been preferable to a Democrat. Even a Mormon.

    There was considerable speculation during the 2012 primaries about the strength of support for Mitt Romney among white evangelical Protestants. A Pew Research Center analysis of exit poll data finds that white evangelical Protestants voted for Romney with as much enthusiasm as his other supporters did. In addition, white evangelical Protestants voted as heavily for Romney as they did for the GOP candidates in 2008 and 2004, and they made up about the same share of the electorate as they did in the two previous elections.

    These numbers hold for the 2010 and 2104 midterms as well. There's no evidence at this point of any white evangelical defection from the GOP, although John McCain, who had expressed some antipathy toward evangelicals, got only 73% of their votes as opposed to Bush and Romney's 78-79%.

    This isn't to say that nominating the semi-psychotic Trump couldn't cause a Goldwater-type electoral armageddon for the GOP. But then again, a Hillary or Bernie nomination holds the same possibility, she for her incompetence and dishonesty, he for a…communitarianism…unseen since Henry A. Wallace.

    The GOP would be safer with Bush, the Dems with Biden–win or lose, like sacrificial lambs Mondale and Dole, neither would not be a liability for their party downticket. Despite getting stomped at the top of the ticket, the Dems quite comfortably held their control of the Senate and the House in '84, as did the GOP in '96.


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