Every four years, evangelical Christians support the Republican nominee for president, and every four years, the legacy media acts surprised and outraged. Yet according to a new study, the most Spiritually Active and Governance Engaged conservative Christians (SAGE Cons) supported Donald Trump reluctantly in 2016 and are far more enthusiastic about pulling the lever for him this year. A whopping 96 percent of SAGE Cons plan to vote for Trump, while only 0.5 percent will vote for Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
“The 2020 election is not about personalities, parties, or even politics. It is an election to determine the dominant worldview in America,” Dr. George Barna, director of research at Arizona Christian University’s Cultural Research Center (CRC), said in a statement.
CRC conducted a study commissioned by the Family Research Council (FRC) in order to determine where SAGE Cons stand in the 2020 election. In 2016, a whopping 91 percent of SAGE Cons voted, and 93 percent of those who voted cast their ballots for Trump. The study predicted that the president will improve on this margin in 2020.
While SAGE Cons only represent about 9 percent of the U.S. population, they are expected to have a strong impact on the election. Slightly less politically and spiritually active conservative Christians (termed “almost SAGE Cons” or ASC) make up about 10 to 12 percent of the U.S. population, and their attitudes mirror those of SAGE Cons.
In the past four years, SAGE Cons have grown to trust and admire Trump, for whom they begrudgingly voted in 2016. In 2016, only 19 percent of them described Trump as “trustworthy,” while 63 percent described him that way this year. More SAGE Cons also describe Trump as smart (35 percent in 2016 and 76 percent in 2020), presidential (15 percent in 2016, 53 percent in 2020), and a strong leader (54 percent in 2016 and 89 percent in 2020). These Christians considered Trump “arrogant” in 2016 (59 percent), but far fewer consider him arrogant this year (33 percent).
What explains this shift? The president has a strong record on the issues SAGE Cons care about most. These Christians say that five issues most drive their votes: abortion and reproductive rights (52 percent), religious freedom in the U.S. (43 percent), federal court nominations (43 percent), crime control/law and order (26 percent), and economic growth/stability (24 percent). These evangelical Christians prioritized the same issues in 2016, and Trump has proven himself on these issues.
This bloc of evangelical Christians and those like them have extremely different views of Trump and Biden.
SAGE Cons overwhelmingly describe Trump as a “patriot” (89 percent), a “strong leader” (89 percent), “smart” (76 percent), “trustworthy” (63 percent), and “presidential” (53 percent). Almost SAGE Cons also describe Trump in such terms. Meanwhile, very few of these evangelical Christians say the same about Biden.
By contrast, more SAGE Cons describe Biden as “polarizing” (40 percent) rather than Trump (27 percent). A whopping 85 percent describe Biden as “incompetent” and 75 percent call him “mentally unstable.” Majorities also call the Democrat “too old” (60 percent), “senile” (74 percent), and a “political hack” (61 percent). Almost none of them described Trump with those terms.
Almost SAGE Cons also describe Biden in these terms, not applying them to Trump. About a third (32 percent) of SAGE Cons say Biden is “racist,” while only 1 percent said the same of Trump.
Many of these attitudes make sense. While Biden is only a few years older than Trump, the president has jetted across the country, hosting 4, 5, or 6 rallies a day, and Biden has spent many days at home, even in the critical lead-up to Election Day. Biden has also made repeated gaffes, most notoriously seeming to invent a word by slurring: “Trunalimunumaprzure.”
Biden has expressed hostility to religious freedom protections and embraced radical positions on abortion and LGBT issues. It stands to reason that evangelical Christians consider his positions radical, divisive, and not trustworthy.
Evangelical Christians may still hold some reservations about Trump’s moral character, although it seems he has not engaged in sexual misconduct in the White House (unlike Bill Clinton and John F. Kennedy). Yet Joe Biden is also morally compromised by a sexual assault claim, lying about the man who got into an accident with Biden’s late wife, and his shiftiness on evidence-based claims that he was personally involved with Hunter Biden’s business deals in China.
Evangelical Christians shocked the legacy media by turning out in large numbers for Trump in 2016, helping the Republican win a close race. This year, it seems they’re likely to turn out in even greater numbers.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.