There was no singular evangelical Trump voter

The title of this post plays off of Henry Olsen’s recent Washington Post column: “There is no singular Trump voter.” Here is a taste:

The motivation behind voters’ support for President Donald Trump has been a source of intense speculation ever since he burst onto the political scene. But there is no singular “Trump voter.” Despite how it is often portrayed in the media, Trump’s coalition is ideologically and demographically diverse.

That’s according to a new survey from the polling firm YouGov. The poll, which I helped to write, collected responses from 1,000 self-described 2020 Trump voters and was sponsored by the Ethics and Public Policy Center, where I am a senior fellow.

Trump voters are typically thought of as hardcore conservatives and evangelical Christians with a strong White, blue-collar vibe. These demographics are part of Trump’s support, but far from all of it.

Take religion, for example. The poll shows that 41 percent of Trump voters describe themselves as evangelicals, but 24 percent say they are atheist, agnostic or have no religious beliefs in particular. Only 31 percent say they attend religious services at least weekly; 46 percent say they attend services “seldom” or “never.” Many of Trump’s voters are religious Christians who like his pro-life views and support for religious liberty, but many more are not.

Over the last couple of months I have heard from more than 1000 Christians, both pastors and laypersons. I am no social scientist, and I am not making any definitive claims, but I am noticing different kinds of evangelical Trump voters:

  1. Evangelical voters who love Trump. They are not bothered by his immoral lapses because no one is perfect and God forgives sin. They believe God uses flawed individuals to support his purposes in the world.
  2. Evangelicals voters who voted for Trump because of his stands on abortion, Israel, and religious liberty. They wish he wasn’t so abrasive, immoral, or untruthful, but they were willing to vote for him because of his policies. Some of these voters remained silent about Trump’s corruption. Others criticized him. A lot of evangelical pastors fell into this category. They voted for Trump, but they tried to steer their congregations away from political saviors. Some of these pastors completely avoided politics in their sermons.
  3. Evangelical voters who voted for Trump because they thought he would become more “presidential” once he took office. These voters eventually regretted their decision and either did not vote for a major candidate in 2020 or voted for Biden. These voters generally supported Trump’s Supreme Court appointments and defense of religious liberty.

Of course one could also argue, as I have, that all of these evangelical Trump voters enabled and empowered the former president and are thus indirectly complicit in what he did to American democracy and our democratic institutions.