Donald Trump is gaining ground with evangelicals. Hillary Clinton is supported by those who describe themselves as atheists, agnostics, or “nothing in particular.” Those are the conclusions of a just-released study by The Pew Research Center.
In June I reported on my observations at the evangelical gathering called “A Conversation With Donald Trump.” (Trump Supports Evangelical Values) Less than a month later it seems Trump’s time spent with evangelicals is paying off.
Despite the concerns of many Christian leaders expressed about Trump, the study shows evangelicals are more strongly supporting Trump than they did Mitt Romney at a similar point in the 2012 campaign. Fully 78% of white evangelical voters say they would vote for Trump if the election were held today, including about a third who “strongly” back his campaign.
Not surprisingly, those who call themselves atheists, agnostics, or have no religious affiliation are backing Hillary Clinton. Two thirds of those Americans say they would vote for Clinton if the election were held today. This is about the same number that intended to vote for Barack Obama at a similar point in the 2012 campaign. However the same group seems less enthusiastic (26% strongly support her) than they were about Obama (37% strongly supported him.)
Both groups make up a large portion of the electorate. White evangelical Protestants comprise one-fifth of all registered voters. Religious “nones” also are about one-fifth of all registered voters and most vote Democratic.
Support By Issue
The study also gives data on how white evangelicals support the candidates on the issues. On every issue in the survey, white evangelicals gave more support to Trump than to Clinton. The only issue that was even close was “race relations.”
Though most evangelicals do not think Trump shares their religious commitment, most do think he understands the needs of people like them. A full 61% say they think Trump understands their needs “very” or “fairly” well, while just 24% say this about Clinton.
Black evangelicals, however, support Hillary Clinton by a wide margin. Catholics also support Clinton but by a much smaller margin. Hispanic Catholics, however, support Clinton overwhelmingly over Trump.
It is difficult to reconcile the support of Clinton by Catholics who strongly oppose abortion and contraception and whose religious freedom has been challenged by the Obama administration. Clinton strongly backs the Obama administration on all the same issues, yet apparently Catholics still intend to vote for her. Black evangelicals, on the other hand, seem to be following the political preferences of their race rather than their faith.
All of these findings strongly highlight the importance of the evangelical vote in the 2016 presidential campaign. The church must get out and vote!