An Evangelical-Voters Typology for the Age of Trump

Trump court evangelicals

Most of the people in this picture–the court evangelicals– would probably fall into categories 1-2 below.

I just discovered religion journalist Terry Mattingly’s “evangelical-voters typology.” (I am assuming he means “white” evangelicals).  He lays out six types of white evangelical approaches to Donald Trump.  If you are a white evangelical, which category best fits your relationship to the POTUS?

(1) Many evangelicals supported Trump from the get-go. For them, Trump is great and everything is going GREAT.

(2) Other evangelicals may have supported Trump early on, but they have always seen him as a flawed leader — but the best available. They see him as complicated and evolving and are willing to keep their criticisms PRIVATE.

(3) There are evangelicals who moved into Trump’s tent when it became obvious he would win the GOP nomination. They think he is flawed, but they trust him to – at least – protect their interests, primarily on First Amendment issues.

(4) Then there are the lesser-of-two-evils Trump evangelicals who went his way in the general election, because they could not back Hillary Clinton under any circumstances. They believe Trump’s team has done some good, mixed with quite a bit of bad, especially on race and immigration. They think religious conservatives must be willing to criticize Trump — in public.

(5) There are evangelicals who never backed Trump and they never will. Many voted for third-party candidates. They welcome seeing what will happen when Trump team people are put under oath and asked hard questions. … However, they are willing to admit that Trump has done some good, even if in their heart of hearts they’d rather be working with President Mike Pence.

(6) Folks on the evangelical left simply say, “No Trump, ever.” Anything he touches is bad and must be rejected. Most voted for Clinton and may have yearned for Bernie Sanders.

I am probably in group 6, although I don’t define myself as part of the “evangelical left.”  (Although I am not sure I really have any other place to go right now).

If 81% of white evangelicals voters pulled a lever for Trump, they would all find themselves in the first four categories.  I would like to see a breakdown of the 81% by these six categories.

27 thoughts on “An Evangelical-Voters Typology for the Age of Trump

  1. I think I’d put myself between (4) and (5). I mean…
    Out of 300+ million people, the best both major parties could come up with was a choice between Cersei Lannister and Benito Mussolinii? Really?

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  2. Five and six are so similar that they may be seen as one I think. I am there too. Tied for third party but would have voted for Bernie and yet I do not see myself as evangelical left though I am certainly sympathetic to their concrns

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  3. Like you, I probably have to put myself in group 6 as Mattingly breaks these down, although I certainly don’t consider myself “evangelical left.” In order to “type” me, there needs to be a category between 5 and 6 for a traditional/moderate evangelical who is deeply opposed to Trump’s words and actions and policies, and sees problematic aspects even in those things he does that would initially seem to be in line with evangelical goals, because they always seem to come along with a corresponding “dark side” that taints whatever positive aspect there may be.

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      • What fascinates me is that there is never a thought that there should be some parallel explanatory typology for evangelicals who voted for Hillary Clinton. John’s contention Trump is beyond the pale (and I respect the argument that he is; I voted for neither presidential candidate), but somehow — again, evaluated from a framework of Christian values — that it’s perfectly explicable and non-disappointing that evangelicals would vote for Hillary, baffles me.

        If we take John’s (and other “Sixes”) critique of Trump seriously, and apply it with equal rigor to Hillary’s decades-long history of corruption, grifting, lying, above-the-law entitlement and ruthless will to power (to say nothing of the policies which she would pursue), how does she pass muster?

        Philosophically, I’d be closest to a 4 on the list. I find myself in the odd position of frequently defending Trump — or, perhaps more accurately, pointing out the gob-smacking double standards in play — because I try to separate his tweets from actual policies, the latter of which are (for the most part) pretty standard issue for a R president. More important, I consider the nearly 24/7 hysteria with which the political Left and the media has greeted his presidency, and in particular their ongoing unwillingness to accept its legitimacy (when is the next think piece from Vox, the Atlantic or the NYT about how the electoral college must be abolished, or the method for electing Senators scrapped, or the Supreme Court packed, because: wrong team won), to be far more disturbing and corrosive of so-called democratic norms than Trump’s daily vulgarisms.

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        • Tony,
          Excellent thoughts! I hate to use a trite phrase, but you are definitely “thinking out of the box” in your posting. It seems that the left is so consumed with hate for Trump that they can focus on little else.
          James

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        • “If we take John’s (and other ‘Sixes’) critique of Trump seriously, and apply it with equal rigor to Hillary’s decades-long history of corruption, grifting, lying, above-the-law entitlement and ruthless will to power (to say nothing of the policies which she would pursue), how does she pass muster?”

          Fairly easily, in fact. Given the decades of scrutiny she’s been under, and the multiple congressional investigations that have spent millions of dollars combing through her doings, we should expect some indictments at the very least, if not a conviction or two, or maybe the odd gulty plea. And yet, unlike the Trump administration, there are none.

          Out in the fever swamps, of course, that somehow becomes proof of just how efficiently devious she is, somehow always evading the consequences of her acts, whether it’s the murder of Vince Foster or the child-sex ring she ran from the basement of a nunnery in Montreal–oops, sorry, I mean the basement of a pizza restaurant in Washington DC.

          But hey, it’s early days. We may see Trey Gowdy frog-marching her off to prison yet. Keep hope alive, Tony. Like Rick said, we’ll always have Benghazi …

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          • If it is your belief that Hillary Clinton “fairly easily” satisfies a test of good character, well … that’s your story and you are sticking with it.

            Regrettably, I’ll have to go with my lying eyes over your testimonial.

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                • Her character is no worse than what we’ve seen for centuries from our politicians. The “lock-her-up” crowd actually applauds the very same character when it shows up in an angry white male. We all know what sets her apart: She refuses to stay home and bake cookies. Sometimes it takes an effort to see what’s right before one’s nose.

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                  • Good Morning John Haas,
                    I have to differ with you that her character is no different than other DEM standard bearers. Please note the character traits of other DEM presidential candidates in the last couple of generations. Kerry, Dukakis, Obama, Gore, Humphrey, McGovern,Mondale, Carter, Kennedy all had their warts but nothing close to the Clintons. Bill and Hilary are in a class of their own. I can see how Lyndon Johnson might have had more ethical issues than the aforementioned non-Clintons but he still was not in a league with the Clintons.
                    I realize we are in the realm of opinion and personal observation here, John, but it wasn’t so much the content of the “stayed home and baked cookies” comment which irritated me. It was the nasty, spiteful tone which would have been unseemly in a politician of either gender. She often used this hateful tone. I can recall when she was Secretly of State that she was in some overseas venue where a reporter asked her what her husband thought about a particular subject. It wasn’t a formal press conference as I recall. She became quite nasty and cold with the reporter as she answered, “I am the Secretary of State. I have no idea what my husband thinks.” Or words to that effect. She didn’t have to answer in that tone. She could have made a joke or a light quip and then answered the reporter explaining her views. Instead there was venom in her voice. Being a feminist is one thing; being ungracious and mean-spirited is another. Her vicious behavior is simply not becoming to a man or a woman. There is a deep well of bitterness and rancor in Hilary. Although I did not vote for him, I always thought Hubert Humphrey exemplified the opposite traits. He was called, “The Happy Warrior.” What a contrast to Mrs. Clinton! She is acerbic———not an admirable trait in a man or a woman.

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                    • Thanks, James, that’s actually a fantastic illustration of my point. As with all Hillary discussions, we start out in Jerome Corsi-Alex Jones territory (full of assasinations and pedophilia and pizzas) and the goal-posts just keep moving, until eventually we end up in the realm of personality and her being accused of a failure of sweetness and charm, but now with the added insistence that this somehow proves gender has nothing to do with it! If it wasn’t so perverse, it would almost be beautiful.

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                    • Dear John Haas,
                      Again, I simply cannot follow your logic. Are you excusing hateful behavior in either gender? And by the way, I have never mentioned pizza parlor pedophiles, Vince Foster, or any other comparable subjects. There is enough valid scandal involving both Clintons. They are in a league of their own.
                      James

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                    • I see. The fact that she’s never been indicted is actually proof that she should have been indicted. And we know that because there’s an “unwritten agreement” that the indictable should not be indicted, so the lack of indictments is actually incontrovertible evidence of her indictablity. Powerful thinking we got there. It’s how we know, for example, that the subtle truth is that Muleskinner really doesn’t want Custer to go down there!

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                • John H.,
                  Again, I cannot follow your reasoning. You and I both know that no former President or major party standard bearer is going to be criminally indicted and prosecuted short of committing murder or espionage. It is simply not within the culture of the USA. The political leadership of both parties has an unwritten agreement not to resort to that because of the rancor it would cause in the country. Furthermore, even if the charges are valid the whole thing would summon forth images of tin horn dictatorships where that sort of thing is done.
                  As much as she deserves prosecution for her misdeeds, it won’t happen. Fortunately, however, the DEM party seems to be attempting to distance itself from her. The smart ones in those ranks realize that they made a big mistake allowing her to get the nomination. A DEM standard bearer with integrity and charisma might have beaten The Donald.
                  James

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              • John H.,
                I still predict Hilary will never be indicted—-not because she doesn’t deserve it——but simply because of our two-tiered justice system. With that being said, no comparable GOP figure would be indicted either. That is the way the D.C. system works. It has nothing to do with mule skinning or General Custer; there is an understanding among senior politicians which allows moral passes for people like Hilary. Anthony Wiener wasn’t high enough on the totem pole to get the same benefit.

                John, I can understand why you don’t care for Trump, but it’s tough to see how anyone could defend a person as morally flawed as Mrs. Clinton.

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      • An example of what I mean. I am sure you will strongly disagree with this assessment, but . . .

        A typical evangelical goal is getting pro-life justices. Trump’s most recent justice certainly fits that bill. But why was this particular individual chosen from among the candidates, all of whom were equally pro-life? I think at least part of it was his views on presidential powers, expressed in precious writings, that led Trump to conclude he would be the candidate most likely to protect Trump should a case involving Trump himself end up before the Supreme Court.

        On a semi-related note but a larger issue, I find it troubling as a Christian that judges and justices who get the “thumbs up” from evangelicals on pro-life issues also tend to be ones who invariably side with the powerful against the weak, the rich against the poor, the privileged against the marginalized. To me, that skews so contrary to what I see as the values that Christians would want to celebrate, but it is all ok, because, you know, pro-life.

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        • Dave,
          Thanks for the thoughtful response.

          I can understand your concern about judges but I wonder if we are going to find one judicial candidate who meets all of your criteria. There is just so much polarization in society that people on the bench are also pulled toward ideological opposite ends. The issue is prioritizing the issues of concern to us as Christians. In your example we must ask if human life is a more weighty concern than other social and economic issues.
          James

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  4. Good Morning, John:

    Like many category lists Terry Mattingly’s is inexact. With that being said, I would place myself most closely into category #3. I supported Ted Cruz until it became obvious “the Donald” was going to get the GOP nomination. I part company with Mattingly’s full description though. Now that Trump has an identifiable record of achievement as president, I am very enthusiastic about his performance on the economy, foreign policy, judicial selections, and domestic social policy. He has shaken Washington, Brussels, and Beijing up——long overdue. I do wish Trimp would do more to reign in federal spending but that is going to have to be a bipartisan effort, and I don’t think the DEMs are inclined to alter their role as year-round Santa Claus.

    On a more fundamental analytical level, I am starting to wonder how much longer the term “evangelical” can hold up for purposes of discussion. The descriptor had more meaning when it came into common use after World War II and into the early 1970s. Today the term is used to encompass a “mixed multitude” essentially robbing it of its original clarity.

    It has been my personal observation that political categorization is becoming more accurate when traditionalist Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, and other religious conservatives are lumped with Protestant conservatives. We will never see ecclesiastical union on this front but for political and social purposes, this ecumenical grouping is definitely a category useful for political analysis.

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    • Brantley: Partly because I don’t like labels. But I also think the evangelical left, like James Davison Hunter has argued in To Change the World, has aligned itself too closely to the Democratic Party.

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