Why so many evangelicals like Trump

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Last week, my RNS colleague Tobin Grant used some newly released survey data to provide the best portrait we yet have of the white evangelicals who are Donald Trump’s biggest supporters; to wit, those with racist views who don’t go to church much. Now comes the Public Research Religion Institute with a new report suggesting why so many white evangelicals have been drawn to Trump.

It’s immigration, stupid.

On Trump’s signature issue, evangelicals stand out as the only religious grouping in America of which a majority (53 percent) believe that immigrants “threaten traditional American customs and values.” Just 32 percent of them believe that “newcomers from other countries benefit the U.S.” Those numbers are the reverse what all Americans believe (30 percent and 50 percent respectively).

It’s useful, as well, that PRRI differentiates white evangelicals by age in this regard. Younger evangelicals look like all Americans, splitting on immigrants 55 percent (benefit) to 33 percent (threat); older ones, not so much: 57 percent (threat) to 23 percent (benefit). This sheds significant light on why Trump does better among older than younger Republicans generally.

When the Republican Party came into being before the Civil War, it absorbed the Know-Nothings, the nativist Protestants whose stock in trade was hostility to Catholic immigrants. That’s the ancient piece of GOP DNA that Trump has used to incarnate his Jurassic Park candidacy.

  • Ken

    It isn’t immigration it is “illegal immigration” that people agree with.

  • Thomas Ryscavage MD

    This was one of the most racist articles that I have seen in a long time. ‘Know-Nothings’, ‘Nativist’, Catholic haters. Mr. Silk’s position could easily be labeled with these same egotistical personalities but it CAN’T apply to him! Oh yes it does.

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  • Jack

    I wish you were right, Ken, but the poll seemed to focus on immigration itself, not illegal immigration in particular.

  • Debbo

    “When the Republican Party came into being before the Civil War, it absorbed the Know-Nothings, the nativist Protestants whose stock in trade was hostility to Catholic immigrants. That’s the ancient piece of GOP DNA that Trump has used to incarnate his Jurassic Park candidacy.”

    Perfect summation Dr. Silk.

  • cken

    Simple answer is of the remaining candidates all the rest are worse than Trump, and he ain’t all that great. I shudder to think of an election between Hillary and Cruz. Both are mendacious and untrustworthy albeit with widely different agendas. I wouldn’t turn my back on either of them. Actually I fear for the future of the country should either of them win. Hillary favors communism/socialism and Cruz favors a theocracy.

  • Sir Cadogan

    Exactly. This author is smug and condescending. ANOTHER thing I’m tired of.

  • Glenn Harrell

    When we have to try this hard to land on a legitimate explanation or a sampling of statistical probabilities explaining why Donald Trump is not only in a presidential race but still standing and liked by anyone, this is a sign in and of itself.

    My survey says much fewer words are needed in explaining why anyone will vote for Donald Trump. One in fact. MONEY.

    We like him like we praise the guy who can get us into the circus for free, and the extravagantly overly confident ring leader who will keep all the animals in their proper place so we don’t have to as we enjoy the show.

  • yoh

    Unless they are refugees and asylum seekers. Those people are legal immigrants, yet draw a ton of ire from the nativist crowd.

  • drwho13

    “The Tide of Syrian Refugees is Unraveling Europe”

    “When Chancellor Angela Merkel announced in fall 2015 that Germany would adopt an open-door policy toward refugees fleeing the war in Syria, she didn’t inform her Christian Democratic Union party or her coalition partners. Nor did she inform the European Commission, the EU’s executive, or her neighbors—except her Austrian counterpart, Chancellor Werner Faymann” (Judy Dempsey- 2/25/16, Newsweek).

    What actions would Austria, Germany, and Sweden take now if they were given a “do-over?”

  • yoh

    There goes any pretension that nativist conservative types are only interested in illegal immigration. Just as I said. Europeans don’t really do immigration well at all. We do not need to be taking lessons from people who are lousy at things.

    The US has a fairly extensive history of taking in large numbers of refugees in the face of a hostile population. Generally the way these things work is that in the first 5 years or so after a wave of refugees all the hysterical nonsense comes out. 20 years later they forget all that and they claim everything worked out fine. Then the latest batch of refugees gets demonized and it starts all over again.

  • Everett

    This is another perpetuation of the “Trump Evangelicals” meme which is really a false narrative. Actually, this points to the reality that words like “evangelical” and “fundamentalist” have completely lost all meaning.

  • drwho13

    “Generally the way these things work is that in the first 5 years or so after a wave of refugees all the hysterical nonsense comes out. 20 years later they forget all that and they claim everything worked out fine” (yoh).

    “A Flood of Cuban Migrants — The Mariel Boatlift, April-October 1980”

    “That set in motion a six-month drama in which more than 125,000 Cubans fled their country and overwhelmed the shores of the U.S. Castro, whose façade of popularity and support was badly shaken, then upped the ante by allowing thousands of criminals and mental patients to leave as well. The Mariel boatlift was ended in October by mutual agreement between the U.S. and Cuba. However, South Florida had to contend with the repercussions for years to come, including a marked increase in crime (which, among other things, influenced the plot for the 1983 remake of the hyper-violent movie classic Scarface.)”

    http://adst

  • drwho13
  • yoh

    And a generation after the fact we have people commemorating it in Miami, stats showing criminals were only a miniscule number of refugees and an overall positive impression which did not exist contemporaneously. Exactly my point. Refugees are usually seen as a negative initially but end up a net positive.

  • drwho13

    yoh- ‘”It was a terrible time for Miami,” in terms of crime, said police Cmdr. David Rivero, who was on a law enforcement task force targeting Mariel criminals.”

    “Murders spiked, and the city was depicted in the national media and films such as “Scarface” as crime-infested. Miami Beach, today known for its nightclubs and Art Deco hotels, was so besieged that its mayor complained residents were “prisoners” in their homes. Even then-Gov. Bob Graham, whose family had been in the Miami area for generations, called it a “city of fear.”‘

    “Time passed, and most Mariel refugees found jobs, finished school and blended into society.”

    So yoh, by your reasoning as long as the above sentence is true, all the victims of crime, the degraded standard of living, and the cost to tax payers, can be consider collateral damage that is justified because the refugees eventually blended into society.

    http://staugustine.com/stories/041005/sta_3003382.shtml

  • yoh

    Actually yes! Very much so. The clamoring against the refugees in the past be they Irish, Jewish, Vietnamese, Cuban, Russian, … was always focusing on negative extremes. But in the end it works out and we are better for it. Because that is what always has happened with refugees. Claiming this latest batch from Syria poses any kind of threat the US can’t handle is ridiculous. We have handled far worse than them. Turning refugees away goes against our very nature as a nation. We are not Europeans.