News

Most US faith groups say country is on the wrong track

President Donald Trump speaks with Liberty University president, Jerry Falwell Jr., right, during commencement ceremonies at the school in Lynchburg, Va., on May 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

(RNS) — A new poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute and The Atlantic shows that when it comes to politics, white evangelical Christians stand apart from every other religious group.

The poll found that 61 percent of evangelicals say the United States is headed in the right direction. By comparison, 64 percent of the overall public — including majorities of other Christian groups as well as religiously unaffiliated Americans — believes the country is seriously off track.

“White evangelical Protestants are sitting in their own unique space in the religious landscape on a whole range of issues,” said Robert Jones, the CEO of PRRI.

The survey, conducted in June from among 1,000 people, asked questions about voting and political engagement. But it also broke down respondents’ answers based on religious affiliation: white evangelical, white mainline Protestant, nonwhite Protestant, Catholic and religiously unaffiliated.

It’s no surprise white evangelicals are happy with the country’s overall direction. An overwhelming 81 percent of white evangelicals voted for President Trump and they have generally stuck by him during his first 18 months as president.

Trump’s nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill the seat of retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy was widely hailed by evangelicals. And just last week, Robert Jeffress, one of Trump’s informal evangelical advisers and the pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, called for an end to Robert Mueller’s investigation of possible collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election.

The PRRI poll showed 77 percent of white evangelicals view Trump favorably or mostly favorably, the highest percentage since the 2016 election. By comparison, 17 percent of non-white Protestants, a group made up of African-Americans and Hispanics, viewed Trump favorably or mostly favorably.

As a group, white evangelicals were also the least likely to view America’s changing racial demographic makeup positively. Fifty-two percent of white evangelicals said they felt negatively about the prospect that nonwhites would become the majority of the population by 2043. That fits with white evangelicals’ approach to immigration, their distrust of Muslims and support for a border wall with Mexico. By comparison, all other religious groups in the survey viewed the changing demographics in mostly positive terms.

Do you think things in this country are generally going in the right direction or do you feel things have gotten pretty seriously off on the wrong track? Graphic courtesy PRRI

“I argued that white evangelical voters have really shifted from being values voters to being what I call ‘nostalgia voters,’” said Jones. “They’re voting to protect a past view of America that they feel is slipping away. That’s driving evangelical politics much more than the old culture-war dynamics.”

Brantley Gasaway, a professor of American religious studies at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa., said white evangelicals’ fears about the nation’s growing racial diversity might be linked to their perception of religious diversity.

“They perceive that America becoming less white means America will become less Christian,” he said. “I don’t think that’s true. Many Latino immigrants are coming from predominantly Christian nations. But they perceive changes in racial demographics as being a threat to the predominance of Christians in the United States.”

As a group, white evangelicals are declining. A decade ago they made up 23 percent of the U.S. population; today it’s more like 15 percent, Jones said. But they have an outsize influence at the ballot box because they tend to vote in high numbers.

The one area where religious groups appeared united is in their support for legislation that would make it easier to vote — measures such as same-day voter registration and restoring voting rights for people convicted of felonies.

A majority of all religious groups, with the exception of nonwhite Protestants, saw media bias as a “major problem.” White evangelicals led the pack, with 79 percent saying media bias was a major problem. By contrast, 50 percent of religiously unaffiliated also said it was a major problem.

And while most religious groups said they would prefer that presidential elections be decided by the national popular vote as opposed to the Electoral College, white evangelicals once again stood out: 52 percent said presidential elections should be decided by the Electoral College. (Trump won the Electoral College but lost the popular vote.)

Rob McCoy, a pastor and city councilman in Thousand Oaks, Calif., is active in a group called the American Renewal Project, which encourages clergy to run for office. He said white evangelicals will defend their values.

“They don’t waver from it,” he said. “It may not be popular, but it still is what they hold to. They are who they are.”

The margin of error for the national survey was plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.

About the author

Yonat Shimron

Yonat Shimron is an RNS National Reporter and Senior Editor.

Add Comment

Click here to post a comment

  • “I argued that white evangelical voters have really shifted from being values voters to being what I call ‘nostalgia voters,’” said Jones. “They’re voting to protect a past view of America that they feel is slipping away. That’s driving evangelical politics much more than the old culture-war dynamics.”

    It’s not an either/or situation but rather a both/and one. They’re still fighting a culture war precisely because they rue a mythical, idealized “lost America.” And that wistful reference to “nostalgia voters” conveniently fails to mention that what they’re really nostalgic for a whiter America that was dominant. That’s rather a significant thing not mention – it sanitizes what’s really going on when people blithely talk about “nostalgia voters.” Nostalgia, indeed!

  • They perceive that America becoming less white means America will become less Christian,” he said. “I don’t think that’s true. Many Latino immigrants are coming from predominantly Christian nations.”

    For many white Evangelicals, Catholicism doesn’t count as a form of Christianity.

  • “… religious affiliation: white evangelical, white mainline Protestant, nonwhite Protestant, Catholic and religiously unaffiliated.”

    In other words, Black Evangelicals and Latino Evangelicals simply don’t exist for the PRRI and The Atlantic. Evangelicals of color are deliberately not counted as the actual label that they themselves would self-identify.

    Blacks and Latinos don’t get to be called Evangelicals, and this time they don’t even get to be called Black or Latino. For the PRRI and The Atlantic, it’s okay to swallow up these two distinct racial-religious groups as a generic mushy bunch of “Nonwhite Protestants.”

    So honestly, this poll is a joke. Possibly a racist joke. Whatever this snake-oil poll is trying to say about White Evangelicals or any other religious group, there’s no chance I’m going to take it seriously. I’ll just wait for some competing religion pollsters who know what they’re doing.

  • We need a new definition of “white evangelical”. I’d go for this one. A white evangelical is a white person who is affiliated with a church which cannot teach them that steeply progressive income taxes, collective bargaining, government social engineering, public education, corporate regulation, environmentalism and promotion of human rights via all-race feminism are the main drivers of whatever goodness America ever had. Everyone alive in America today is a direct beneficiary of the efforts of those who toiled before us in all those endeavors and it’s mainly the so-called evangelicals who are too thick-headed to be grateful for what was handed to them in the last century. Blame church. Who the heck else has their rapt attention and yet cannot teach them what is plainly in front of the nose of any honest person?

  • Hispanics are often Christian, but it is often a very different form of Christianity than what we are used to, one almost devoid of the focus on personal morality and societal holiness thst defines being a white evangelical or conservstive catholic.

    Too much of what we see called “Christianity” south of the border could just as easily be called marxism with a cross.

  • It might well be nostalgia, but it wasn’t mythical. Its unfortunate that good social trend recording only matured in the 1950s and 1960s, when the sexual revolution was already setting in…but even so, you can go back and find that rates of birth, marriage, divorce, illegitimacy, church attendance, professed belief, etc. were all far better than they are today.

  • White evangelicals are a minority of Americans, and a dwindling and aging one, at that.

    They sit “in their own unique space” when it comes to all kinds of issues, Robert P. Jones says — and they represent a minority understanding of what it means to be Christian in the world today, as compared with other U.S. Christians.

    Yet this dwindling, aberrant minority claims the right to control the entire nation and force its views by legislation and the courts on the entire nation. This is the very essence of anti-democratic behavior.

    It’s as if their ultimate goal is to dismantle democracy itself — and that goal is now out in the open with the current president and their response to him.

    White evangelicals have made themselves the thing to be overcome by all Americans defending our democratic systems, and by fellow Christians who want our faith represented adequately and honestly in the pulbic square — and, despite their constant claims that they are under attack, they have chosen to do this to themselves.

    Go figure.

  • Looking at the Rasmussen Polls, using a larger sample, an increasing percent, now at 42% say the country is headed in the correct direction.

  • “Better than they are today” you forgot to add for White Americans. NativeAmericans, Hispanics, Asians weren’t a part of or more precisely were excluded from that “betterAmerica”.

  • Read my comment to Mr. Kilburn. I didn’t think to add to what I wrote for him that “better America” also was a bad time (or at the least not a great time) for women!

  • White evangelicals are getting louder and shriller as they fade away. Trump may be their last big tantrum.

  • Ahh yes, Rasmussen: “Surveying older white Americans to tell them what they want to hear.”

  • So, you’re saying their version of it might be good rather than evil? That would be a welcome change.

  • Its evil to care about morality? Its evil to be concerned about the decline of the family, falling birth rates, drug use, moral relitivism, etc? Its “good” to advocate the forcible confiscation of what other people have earned for your own benefit? No on all counts.

    Its not “good rather than evil”, its “temporal rather than transcendent”. Leftist “Christians” care too much about the body and not enough about the soul.

  • Actually, on the criteria I mentioned, they weren’t. The percentage of black children born out of wedlock has gone from 30% in 1960 to more thsn 70% today. Is that your definition of progress?

  • Yonat Shimron cites Robert P. Jones to say that “white evangelical Protestants are sitting in their own unique space” — and Jones is saying that on the basis of abundant polling data, of course, which apologists for the unique views of white evangelicals want to pretend are erroneous or non-existent data.

    Meanwhile, as Mikel Jollet notes on Twitter this morning, there’s this — which illustrates neatly what a “unique space” white evangelicals have chosen to inhabit:

    “The President’s former lawyer made a tape of the President discussing a hush-payment to a former Playboy model with whom he had an affair just after his third wife gave birth.

    This man has the approval of 75% of white Evangelical Christians in America.”

    https://twitter.com/Mikel_Jollett/status/1020349488156721152

    Wrong about slavery; wrong about segregation; wrong about women’s rights and LGBTQ rights; wrong about Donald Trump: the unique gift of many white evangelicals would seem to be an utter inability to learn a blessed thing from their own sordid history marked by the dogged determination to be on the wrong side of history’s moral arc at every turn.

  • And what percentage of children are surviving? And what percentage of mothers are surviving? And what percentage are living below the poverty line? AND……..

  • PRRI is a professional polling organization. There might not have been enough Black or Latino Evangelicals in the sample to fairly reflect their opinion as a group. That judgment is by definition knowing what you’re doing as a pollster. You may have missed the fact that Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and all other non-Christian minority religious groups “don’t exist” in this poll either.

  • Considering you and Floyd are so on the lookout for racism, I guess you missed your fellow rightist Matthew Kilburn commenting about how Hispanics are defective Christians.

  • An irrationalist tendency is to force things into coarse grain buckets so that one doesn’t have to have more refined and elaborated (better data explaining) mental models of the world.

    You’re that way. Over fitter.

  • If you believe the President is “wrong about LGBTQ ‘rights'”, you have no business making a comment on fidelity to Christian faith or doctrine. Homosexual relationships, transgenderism, and the general alternative-lifestyle ideology are antithetical to the Christian faith, to basic human biology, and to common sense. End of story.

    Those who can’t even be brought to acknowledge that having male anatomy and male biology makes you…male; and that men are biologically designed to be with women are in no position to lecture the rest of us on anything.

  • Catholicism is not Christian. They believe in works based salvation like most false religions. There is no such thing as less Christian, you either are or aren’t Christian and it can be seen in a person’s actions and beliefs based on the Bible alone. This survey is looking at the wrong thing. The reality is all are sinners and none come to God except through Christ alone including leaders of nations but likely what many true Christians see about the nation getting better is that immorality is being fought against unlike under the last president.

  • Better how? By numbers? There were more births because there was no birth control, but now it is better qualitatively because there are too many people and not enough resources. Divorce rates are up, but that may be good because now abused wives are not stuck in them. Illegitimacy? Well ask the Palin girl about that. I think it is better today.

  • It’s true, the groups you mentioned got left out, or “don’t exist” on this one. Given the significant Jewish vote for Trump in 2016, (for example), one has to ask why.

    But it’s also true that each group you mentioned specifically does NOT self-identify as Evangelical Christian. Many blacks and Latinos do. Leaving those two groups out DOES affect the fairness, in a poll aimed at examining evangelicalism & politics in light of Trump.

  • And how do you know Rasmussen surveys only older people, or are they “deplorables”, to be ignored?

  • You think that evolution is snake-oil. There’s no chance that anyone will ever take you seriously.

  • They survey landlines.

    “After the 2010 midterm elections, (Nate) Silver concluded that Rasmussen’s polls were the least accurate of the major pollsters in 2010, having an average error of 5.8 points and a pro-Republican bias of 3.9 points according to Silver’s model.”
    http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/04/rasmussen-polls-were-biased-and-inaccurate-quinnipiac-surveyusa-performed-strongly/

    “Rasmussen Reports is a conservative-leaning polling group.”
    http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1946935,00.html

    “Rasmussen is a firm with a record of relying on dubious sampling and weighting techniques.”
    https://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/13/upshot/democrats-are-seeing-more-daylight-in-path-to-senate-control.html

  • Actually you can’t because there was more reluctance to record such things accurately and minorities were almost never considered at all.

    It’s nostalgia for covering up problems, enabling abuse/violence, and to be more to a point socially and legally acceptable bigotry.

    When you scratch the surface of “conservative culture warriors” you see obvious and vile panoply of types of bigotry.

  • The fact that one wasn’t recording such things accurately at all back then.

    Of course that also coincides with the rise of mass incarceration dealing with drug laws in the late 60’s to Early 70’s under Nixon. “Culture war” and bigotry go hand in hand.

  • Nope. But we do see the flat out unambiguously racist nature of conservatives and their position. Dogwhistle appeals have been replaced with airhorn style white supremacy.

  • Not at all. Just because you chose to define your Christian belief based on validating your personal bigotry, doesn’t mean the rest of the faith has. In fact a good deal of it doesn’t. “End of story” means you are too lazy to support your view rationally and are just making a blanket declaration.

    But it’s good to know your desire to discriminate against your fellow citizens is entirely based on your sectarian beliefs and nothing valid under our system. You do not get to establish your faith under color of law. (See 1st Amendment)

  • Because for the most part, your version of them are simply a miniscule adjunct to the white evangelicals. Your views align exactly with them, even the obvious appeals to racism and discrimination. Uncle Ruckus nattering in support of white supremacy.

  • What you call “morality” never has to do with moral thinking. Simply deference to arbitrary authority and rules. Excuses to attack others and hide bigotry under other guises.

    Values and morals are for other people, not themselves. Evangelicals and conservative Catholics overwhelmingly support a white supremacist, adulterer, admitted sexual predator, compulsive liar, cheat and swindler. Their view of what is moral and good isn’t worth a pile of crap.

  • Everyone discriminates, unless you can’t tell sh-t from shinola.

    “Homosexual relationships, transgenderism, and the general alternative-lifestyle ideology are antithetical to the Christian faith, to basic human biology, and to common sense. End of story.”

    Amen.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VlAr7nAOHOI

  • You will soon need to get over losing the next one, Bob Jose Arnzen Carioca. Even with more Russian help, Trump will crumble and fall.

  • If by “significant” you mean less than a quarter then I guess you’re right. In comparison, Romney got 32% of the Jewish electoral vote in 2012, which was a downgrade from the 74-78% Obama got in 2008. In other words, Hillary’s results were in between 2008 Obama and 2012 Obama.
    The poll in this article was of the general populace. It did not examine evangelicalism, it examined what the respondents reported themselves as. If you want to examine a smaller demographic, you have to examine them specifically. For example, a June 2018 American Jewish Committee poll found that 71% of Jewish Americans disapproved of Trump’s job performance, while 26% approved — almost the exact numbers from the 2016 exit poll.

  • That’s a whole bunch of fancy words to try and distract from the pretty obvious fact that you found racism in this article where none existed, but when another commenter calls Hispanic Christians untermenschen, you’re strangely silent. Tell us, oh wise one, what’s the difference?

  • I don’t read all the comments. That’s the difference. Deal with it, gracefully, quietly, in a spirit of happy sacrifice, giving it a good intention.

  • Not at all. Your lack of examples from the article is telling here. I find nothing to support your claims here.

    The outright appropriation of white supremacist rhetoric, terminology, agenda and outright propaganda (retweeted by Trump regularly) by conservatives is too obvious to be ignored.

  • The liberal disease…speaking for others. It’s really worse than that..it’s hoping to speak for others.

  • You not only have nothing, you are flinging poo like a chimpanzee who was given coffee ice cream .

  • And this sort of profanation of yours is one more sign of the interior corruption that has occurred. Charlie Brown’s Pigpen character in real life, soiling as he prowls about the seeking the ruin of souls. See the dust fall from my sandals.

  • Still have no example to prove your point. Now you are tone trolling. Oh well.

    It’s not like you wanted to be taken seriously anyway.

  • True. Just like surveying landlines doesn’t provide a representative sample of America, or even American voters. Which is what the articles point out about why Rasmussen is consistently skewed in their results.

  • Breathlessly awaiting your explanation of how complaining about Pew justifies the proven bias and faulty methodology of Rasmussen. Or were you just trying to change the subject as usual? LOL

  • Brian, you’ve got nothing every time you post.

    And it never slows you down.

    Let’s take a good look at your “evidence”:

    https://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/04/rasmussen-polls-were-biased-and-inaccurate-quinnipiac-surveyusa-performed-strongly/

    Eight years old.

    In the week leading up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the FiveThirtyEight team predicted that Hillary Clinton had a 64.5% chance of winning the election. Their final prediction on November 8, 2016, gave Clinton a 71% chance to win the 2016 United States presidential election. Donald Trump won the election.

    And we should care what Nate Silver thought eight years ago because ….?

    http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1946935,00.html

    And the Pew organization is left leaning. The issue was reliability, not preferences.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/13/upshot/democrats-are-seeing-more-daylight-in-path-to-senate-control.html

    Nate Cohn, a graduate of Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington – wow! – is a reporter, not a statistician. Mr. Cohn’s

    “Rasmussen is a firm with a record of relying on dubious sampling and weighting techniques.”

    arrives sans any support at all.

    What are the facts?

    http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/political_commentary/commentary_by_richard_baris/results_matter_if_rasmussen_is_republican_leaning_what_does_that_make_everyone_else

    Rasmussen Reports edges out UPI/CVOTER, CBS/New York Times, Politico/Morning Consult, McClatchy/Marist, Bloomberg/Selzer, Reuters/Ipsos, Fox News, and Boston Herald/Franklin Pierce/RKM for accuracy.

    https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/rasmussen-reports/

    “In review, Rasmussen Reports has received praise for accuracy in the past. They have also been criticized for having a right leaning bias. Some of those who have called Rasmussen Reports right leaning are: FiveThirtyEight, New Republic, Time, Center for Public Integrity, CNN, and the Washington Post. “

    So, Rasmussen Reports is accurate, but the left leaning organizations call it right leaning.

    So, you had nothing. Again. Noted!

    https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/dreamworks/images/9/96/Rocky_The_Flying_Squirrel_The_End.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20151017192812

2019 NewsMatch Campaign: This Story Can't Wait! Donate.

ADVERTISEMENTs