A lot of people in my social media sphere are making a big deal about Timothy Carney’s piece at The American Conservative arguing that Trump’s evangelical support came from self-described evangelicals who do not go to church. Read it here.
Meanwhile, over at his blog “Religion in Public,” political scientist Ryan Burge sees very little difference among the evangelicals who voted for Cruz in the GOP primaries and the evangelicals who voted for Trump. Read his piece here.
If anything, I think I can make more sense of why white evangelicals so easily shifted their support from Ted Cruz to Donald Trump when it was clear that he was going to be the GOP nominee. It’s for two reasons: many of them supported Trump in the first place. As described above: Cruz only did well with a small portion of white evangelical voters. The other reason is that the jump that many of them had to make from Cruz to Trump was relatively small. Most of the Cruz supporters were statistically the same as Trump supporters on a wide variety of issues, especially fiscal questions. The upshot is this: white evangelicals are fairly monolithic. Sure, some are more socially conservative than others but by and large they are shockingly similar. The idea that there was a strong and significant bloc of socially conservative evangelical Cruz voters who had to drastically change their mind to vote for Trump is not supported by the data that I analyzed.
Burge’s analysis is closer to what I argued in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump