Back in the day, most white Southerners were yellow dog Democrats, the idea being that they’d vote for a yellow dog as long as it had a “D” next to its name. Today, most white evangelicals are yellow dog Republicans. The latest Pew survey shows that white evangelical support for Donald Trump is as high as it was four years ago for Mitt Romney — and if you look back in time, right up there where it was for George W. Bush. As long as there’s an “R”…
But the big news from Pew is the disappearance of the God gap. Four years ago, respondents who said they attended worship at least once a week preferred Romney to Obama by 15 points, 55 percent to 40 percent. This year, the margin is just four points: 49 percent for Trump to 45 percent for Clinton. That recent Iowa poll was no anomaly.
Meanwhile, the “godless gap” among the less-than-weekly attenders has remained the same at 16 percent. But there, an internal shift brings us back to white evangelicals. In 2012, less frequent attending white evangelicals preferred Romney to Obama by 29 points (62-33). This year the margin for the Republican has doubled to 57 points (76-19) — almost the same as the margin among frequent attending white evangelicals.
What’s evened things out among both the godly and the godless — ok, let’s call them the less godly — is a move toward the Democrats on the part of Catholics. Weekly Mass attenders have shifted from supporting Romney by three points to supporting Clinton by 19. Less frequent Mass attenders have shifted significantly though less so, from supporting Obama by four points to supporting Clinton by 16.
Nor is this simply the result of the impact of a growing Latino Catholic population that is intensely anti-Trump. Four years ago, white Catholics were backing Romney over Obama by nine points, 53 percent to 44 percent. That margin has now been halved, with Trump at 50 percent and Clinton at 46 percent.
The bottom line is that Trump has seriously undermined the Republican appeal to the more religious among us. Except among white evangelicals of all stripes, who just love that yellow dog.