Columns Government & Politics Mark Silk: Spiritual Politics Opinion Politics

Trump is losing (some) white evangelicals

Evangelical supporters place hands on and pray with President Trump in the Oval Office of the White House. Photo courtesy of Johnnie Moore

The big religion story of Donald Trump’s presidency has been the support he has received from white evangelicals. It took some doing on his part, because a lot of them initially gravitated to Ted Cruz and other, well, more Christian candidates.

But eventually they came around, thanks to endorsements by some of their prominent leaders, considerable pandering on the candidate’s part, and, perhaps above all, antipathy to Hillary Clinton. In the end, Trump won 81 percent of them — a higher percentage than any other GOP presidential candidate in history, constituting well over 40 percent of his popular vote.

Journalists have found this support something of a mystery as well as a scandal, given Trump’s personal lack of religious knowledge or commitment and his flagrant personal behavior. Since taking office, the persistent question has been: How can this faith community, once emblemized by an organization called the Moral Majority, support such a person?

The answer, it seems, is maybe not as much as we thought. According to a new Pew survey, since February Trump’s job approval among white evangelicals has gone down 17 points, from 78 percent to 61 percent.

This drop is more than twice the size of the decline (39 percent to 32 percent) in Trump’s overall approval rating. Indeed, it is the largest point decline of any demographic group measured in the survey. By contrast, support among mainline Protestant slipped by just three points, from 49 percent to 46 percent.

This is not to suggest that growing numbers of white evangelicals are fixing to vote for whoever the Democratic candidate happens to be in 2020. But disillusionment with Trump — and possibly with an increasingly Trumpian Republican Party — could lead them to stay at home in next year’s midterm elections, which would be very bad news indeed for the GOP.

Ergo, what we see from the president is an effort to gut the Johnson Amendment’s restriction on electioneering from the pulpit; a war on the “War on Christmas”; an endorsement of Alabama senatorial candidate Roy Moore; and a recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Given Trump’s horrible poll numbers, conventional political wisdom says he should be reaching beyond his base. But his base is shrinking. So he’s laid on an agenda to shore it up.

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

6 Comments

Click here to post a comment

  • President Trump is basically a cult leader. Since he is not able to isolate his cult from contact with the outside, it is not unexpected that some members will leave.

  • In general the evangelicals who attempt to call themselves Christians have little to know knowledge of just what it means to be Christians. Instead they belong to a political group directly descended from the cult started by John Calvin & Oliver Cromwell. When they and their followers overthrew Charles the First it was all about political power. However one must keep in mind at the time there was no separation of church and state so they also took over the Anglican Church. Their current followers belong to the Southern Baptist Cult and diligently bobble their heads and follow the Ayn Rand wing of the Republican Party voting accordingly. Keep in mind Ayn Rand was an atheist who’s primary measure of a person’s qualities was based solely on their material accumulation.

  • Remember Hoody Doody from the 1950’s-that’s Trump. He is a puppet running a daily TV show called the daily POTUS. I think the ratings are falling. Soon the show will be cancelled by the true Christian voters!

ADVERTISEMENTs