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White evangelicals are backing Trump, new poll shows

Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump react at the start of his campaign rally in Greensboro, North Carolina on June 14, 2016. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

(RNS) White evangelical Christians, a crucial bloc of Republican voters, are backing likely GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump by a wide margin over Hillary Clinton, but their support is significantly lower than for previous Republican candidates.

That relatively tepid faith-based endorsement could wind up undermining  Trump’s chances for victory in November.

A new poll from CBS News showed Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, with a 6-point lead over Trump, 43 percent to 37 percent, basically unchanged from a month earlier.

The survey, released Wednesday (June 15), also showed white evangelicals supporting Trump 62 percent to just 17 percent for Clinton.

That sounds like an impressive lead until you consider that recent GOP presidential candidates have won close to 8 in 10 white evangelical voters, and that Trump’s sky-high negative ratings and vulnerabilities as a volatile, first-time candidate mean he will likely need strong turnout from that base to win.

In the previous three presidential elections, for example, George W. Bush won 79 percent of the white evangelical vote (2004), John McCain won 73 percent (2008), and in 2012 Mitt Romney – the first Mormon to head a major party ticket – also won 79 percent, like Bush.

The CBS poll, most of which was conducted before the Orlando nightclub massacre by a professed Muslim extremist, has a margin of error of 3 percentage points. But even shading on the up side, the numbers are not encouraging for Trump.

It’s not clear whether vocal opposition to Trump’s campaign by many prominent Christian conservatives has hurt the candidate, or whether repeated statements by the brash New York real estate magnate, and his personal history and current struggles to speak articulately about his faith, have raised suspicions among evangelicals.

But Trump is continuing to try to woo conservative Christians.

He spoke at a major conference of social conservatives Friday in Washington and next week is to meet with some 900 conservative Christians, mostly evangelicals, who have been invited to attend “a conversation” with him to try to gain their trust.

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About the author

David Gibson

David Gibson is a national reporter for RNS and an award-winning religion journalist, author and filmmaker. He has written several books on Catholic topics. His latest book is on biblical artifacts: "Finding Jesus: Faith. Fact. Forgery," which was also the basis of a popular CNN series.

28 Comments

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  • What in the world do Evangelical see that I don’t. He offend every Christian value. Unless what we’re seeing is an evolution in the evangelical world in which faith is becoming detached from politics. Only a rube would think Trump is a social conservative Christian.

  • Congress members urging other congress members to pray for the president, and pointing out Psalms 109:8 as a good one to pray for, a Christian congressman posting the passage with you reap what you sow after the night club shooting..Christians supporting Trump…. No wonder so many are fleeing the church.

  • Of course they are. we gay people have always known that it is not faith that moves evangelicals, but power, money, and dominion. Power trumps politics trumps prejudice trumps principle, EVERY SINGLE TIME.

    4 times bankrupt Trump is still a billionaire, despite that little bit about needles and desert quadrupeds and who gets to enter the kingdom of heaven. 3 times married Trumpelstiltskin is living in un forgiven sin, and adultery. But hey, No problem. We all are sinners, ain’t we? 2 Corinthians 2Rump is no Christian, despite the importance of being Christian, except for that Romney fellow– RMoney?

    But nevertheless, Trumpenstein is the ONE.

  • I don’t think evangelicals are stupid people, so I don’t think they truly believe that Trump is a Christian. I think they Want to believe it so they can rationalize supporting him. In reality, trump’s faith is as thin as his skin.

  • “What in the world do Evangelical see that I don’t.”

    As Stephen Stills said, if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one your with. Any attempt at a presidential candidate who addressed their agenda has failed miserably. So they are left with either Trump, not voting or Hillary. At least with Trump there is the vain hope he is receptive to their agenda. (Although all signs point to he doesn’t give a damn about them, just their votes).

    Plus Evangelical Christian values always dovetailed nicely with socially sanctioned bigotry. Why be merely sectarian, anti-atheist, or anti-LGBTQ, if you can be full on racist, xenophobic and demonize the poor?

  • What do evangelicals see that you don’t ?

    Power, money, and dominion.

    Of course.

  • Mateen wasn’t gay. He wasn’t one of “our own.” He was a homosexual hating homosexual. Religion is full of them, desperately trying to deflect attention from themselves by attacking people with courage to live their lives, desperately trying to deal with their own demons by attacking people who don’t have those demons, desperately trying appease their appalling God by sacrificing innocents to him, desperately wishing that they were heterosexual, but of course, are never going to be.

    Thanks for demonstrating conclusively that your sincere religious beliefs are just a coverup for basic bigotry..

    Not that I had the slightest doubt.

  • CErmle is correct about Trump being gay-friendly; Trump was openly displaying that quality on his reality show “The Apprentice.”

    But maybe you were too busy hating on people to notice….

  • (Said in a monotone) “Raymond Shaw is the bravest, kindest, and most generous human being I have ever met in my life”

  • I don’t know if we’ll someday feel the “Berne”, but if Hillary Clinton wins in 2016, America’s Christians are guaranteed to feel the BURN !!!!

  • LMAO! On what planet would a guy promising to add Scalia like justices to SCOTUS and overturn Obergfell be getting the gay vote? Trump made that promise. You really should get yourself better informed.

  • I thought you were sarcastic at first. But your follow up made it clear I mistook ignorance for snark.

  • The FBI is beginning to conclude that being a homosexual hating homosexual was not what was going on with Mateen.

  • “Trump has the gay vote in his back pocket.”

    Hello Mr. Space Alien! Welcome to Earth!

    Do remember that on Earth, everything is the opposite of what it is on your home planet, Bizarro World. Have a nice visit!

  • If he says he’s a Christian, he’s a Christian. Maybe not a very good one (OK…no “maybe” here) but he’s a Christian nevertheless.

  • I believe that Hillary is, or at least was raised as, a United Methodist and The Donald is a Presbyterian, though he would appear to be a nominal one.

  • Who’s denying that Mateen wasn’t a Muslim? Nobody. I doubt that most Muslims think that he was a good Muslim.

    Few Christians, conservative, moderate, liberal, think that Trump is a good Christian.

    It’s not IF Mateen was a Muslim, he was, but when did Mateem, who seemed to have been diffident to religion at one time in his life anyway, start taking violent religious extremism to heart, and why?

    If he was a self-hating man over his bisexuality (married twice with a child, after all), a Gay friend said this about him:

    “Every time he pulled he trigger, he was shooting himself.”

    When did he start hating his own sexuality, and why would he?

    Probably for the same reasons that a young Gay Christian in an oppressive environment would kill himself.

  • I use to think that Trump was a neurotic, entitled , crass buffoon. Now I wish he were merely that, instead of something perhaps worse.

    I suggest that you see someone about your addiction to the politics of privilege and resentment.

  • “…Trump’s sky-high negative ratings and vulnerabilities as a volatile, first-time candidate mean he will likely need strong turnout from that base to win.”

    Or tactical voting restrictions across the country?

  • “The evidence is clear.” “. . . the facts are there for all to see.”

    Your use of those words is amusing. Almost all of your comments demonstrate that you give zero consideration to legitimate evidence and facts when they conflict with your delusions/fantasies/myths

  • Trump will be fine with the establishment GOP. Trump’s biggest hurdle is the lunatic evangelicals (RINOs) that think they own the GOP. Trump is well aware that the lazy, welfare mooching, crazy RINOs that are typically religious evangelical kooks will all come around because they have no one else to vote for other than Trump.

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