Opinion

Robert P. Jones: White evangelicals stay locked in for the GOP

Robert Jones of PRRI. Photo courtesy of West End Strategy Team

RNS asked some of the country’s top faith leaders, scholars and activists to consider what changes the religion landscape will see in 2018. Find all their predictions here.

(RNS) — 2018 will likely see white evangelical Protestants remaining locked in for Republican candidates in the midterm elections. According to the exit polls, 81 percent of white evangelical Protestant voters pulled the lever for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, and they strongly supported the president throughout his first year in office.

While Trump’s job approval rating among the general population hovered around 4 in 10 (and dipped occasionally into the 30s) for most of 2017, 72 percent of white evangelicals approved of his job performance in the fall, including 3 in 10 who said there was virtually nothing Trump could do to lose their support. In the Alabama special Senate election at the end of 2017, despite multiple allegations that Roy Moore had inappropriate sexual relationships with teenage girls, no major evangelical pastor in Alabama publicly spoke out against Moore, and white evangelical Protestants similarly rallied around him, with 80 percent voting for him over his Democratic opponent.

Simply put, in 2016 and 2017, white evangelical voters demonstrated that most have come to value partisanship and political goals over candidates’ character.

Even if the 2018 midterm elections turn out to be a wave election for Democrats, as the best barometers currently suggest, white evangelicals will likely remain tethered to tribal Republican loyalty, or at least to Democratic Party antipathy, no matter who is on the ballot.

(Robert P. Jones is the CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute and author of “The End of White Christian America.” The views expressed in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)

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