Election Mark Silk: Spiritual Politics Opinion Politics

The religious factors in the election

Evangelical pastors lay hands on Donald Trump and pray for him. Screenshot from video
Evangelical pastors lay hands on Donald Trump and pray for him. Screenshot from video

Evangelical pastors lay hands on Donald Trump and pray for him. Screenshot from video

(RNS) The story of religion in the election goes like this.

Donald Trump kissed up to the old religious right and reaped the reward. Eighty-one percent of white evangelicals voted for him, as compared to 79 percent for George W. Bush in 2004, 73 percent for John McCain in 2008, and 79 percent for Mitt Romney in 2012.

So much for Russell Moore and the handful of #NoTrump evangelical leaders.

As Catholics went, so (per usual) went the nation. But with 52 percent voting for Trump against 45 percent for Hillary Clinton, the margin for the victor was bigger than it’s ever been this century.

So much for Latinization pulling the Catholic Church in America towards the Democrats.

The God Gap — measured by weekly worship attenders’ preference for Republican candidates — was 16 points. That’s a few points smaller than it’s been since 2000, but definitely in the same ballpark.

So much for indications that, for the first time since 1968, the God Gap would be smaller than the Gender Gap. The margin by which women chose Clinton over Trump was 12 points (54-42).

Nones kept the Democratic faith. They voted 68 percent for Clinton versus 26 percent for Trump, giving her a margin slightly smaller than they gave Obama four years ago (70-26).

Jews moved in the opposite direction, increasing their margin of support for the Democrat by eight points over 2012, from 69-30 to 71-24.

Jews tend to believe that hate-spewing demagogues won’t be good for the Jews.

Bottom line: Catholics and white evangelicals made the difference for Trump.

About the author

Mark Silk

Mark Silk is Professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and director of the college's Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life. He is a Contributing Editor of the Religion News Service


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  • Now that Hilary Clinton’s political career is officially dead, maybe Elizabeth Warren will finally show some ambition.

  • Catholics overall voted for Hillary. White Catholics went somewhat for Trump but Latino Catholics went solidly for Hillary. The “Christians: who voted for Trump voted for the less Christian of the two candidates.

  • I disagree Mark. It’s simply “Fly over America” strokes back.” It just happens that they are mostly Protestant and backsliding Catholics. Charles Murray, Harvard professor, keeps writing the books, that the costal “elite” do not wish to take seriously.

  • Hillary’s been sent home a-packin’, Edd.
    (And all that liberal “Obama-Legacy” garbage with it !! )
    The End.

  • As the years of 2017-2021 go on, evangelicals are going to have to own the results. Terrible damage has been done to evangelicalism by Falwell, F Graham and others. That’s a pity because some evangelical people do wonderful things.

    While I have been urging all those disappointed in the outcome to forswear obstructionism at the expense of the country as the Republicans did, we must hold tight to the moral values Christ taught whenever necessary. We must be on the side of America first, rather than the side of blind power. In other words, we must be bigger in defeat than the Republicans were.

  • I do not understand. How do you know that those 81 % of whites who voted for Trump were evangelicals?

  • According to the Pew and CNN exit polls (24537 respondents), 52% of all Catholics (60% of white Catholics) voted for Trump.

  • Agree. For the first time this century, a man won the GOP nomination without the support of the Religious Right. The white working class living in non-urban areas in the South and Midwest are mostly Christian.

  • Yes. The left focused on the small basket of deplorables and extremists that attended Trump rallies and ignored the “silent majority”. Having lived in the south for over 45 years I know them well.

  • Big question. Will Trump and family attend Sunday services when in D.C.? It seems to be a tradition even if the president didn’t wan to go.

  • OK let’s get rid of the ACA–you can start paying for pre-existing conditions again and any children in college can lose their coverage if they’re over 23. Cut funding for the Clean Water Act and the food inspection program– we don’t need to know what’s in our food and water, right? And cut NOAA—don’t need any severe storm warnings. NIH? Who needs ’em. Don’t need any cancer or heart research. People with those conditions don’t need any help. Oh and cut Pell grants for college too. Job safety? Get rid of it. Are you really sure you want to live in that kind of America?

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