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Election Post-Mortem: Biblical Christians Didn't Propel Trump to Victory

Trump Meets Evangelical Leaders

Contrary to many reports, born-again evangelical Christians did not make the difference in Donald Trump's presidential election, a post-mortem study revealed. Rather, Christians who do not consider themselves "born again" — those dubbed "notional Christians" — pushed the Republican candidate over the edge in key states. In fact, Trump won a smaller percentage of born-again evangelical Christians than George W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney!

"While the media have made a big deal about the prolific level of evangelical support won by Trump, the real story may be elsewhere," a Barna Group study reported. "Barna's research indicated that perhaps the most significant faith group in relation to the Trump triumph was notional Christians."

Barna described notional Christians as people "who consider themselves to be Christian, typically attend a Christian church, but are not born again." These people have not made "a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today," and they do not believe that "when they die they will go to Heaven because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior."

In other words, these are people who consider themselves Christians and act like Christians but do not believe the key biblical doctrines of salvation. Some might call them "Christians in name only."

According to Barna, this group has supported the Democratic candidate in every presidential election since 1996. On average, "notional Christians" have given the Democrat 58 percent of their votes. This year, Trump won this group with 49 percent, beating Clinton narrowly (she took 47 percent).

This is significant because notional Christians were the largest faith group in the electorate, providing 58 million votes. Born-again evangelical voters (who fit nine specific criteria) provided 10 million votes, while non-evangelical born-again Christians brought 33 million votes to the table. Adults representing non-Christian faiths cast 7 million ballots, while "skeptics" — atheists, agnostics, and the unaffiliated — cast 28 million votes.

Trump won in every single Christian demographic. The Republican took a solid 79 percent of born-again evangelicals, while 18 percent favored the Democrat. Trump won 56 percent of non-evangelical born-again Christians, while Clinton took 35 percent.

Clinton won every non-Christian demographic. A full 71 percent of voters with a non-Christian faith chose the Democrat, with only 20 percent favoring the Republican. Skeptics also broke for Clinton, giving her 60 percent to Trump's 27 percent.

When the Christians were broken up by denomination, Protestants voted for Trump (58 percent to 36 percent), and Catholics split evenly, giving both candidates 48 percent. According to Barna, this is the first election in the last 20 years in which the Catholic vote was not won by the Democratic candidate.

In short, Trump won largely because of notional Christians and born-again non-evangelicals, not born-again evangelical Christians.

In fact, the 79 percent evangelical vote which Trump won is the lowest level of evangelical support for a Republican since 1996, when Bob Dole only took 74 percent. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney won 81 percent of evangelicals in 2012 — which itself was smaller than President George W. Bush's victories and Senator John McCain's loss in 2008.

Certain issues also propelled Trump and Clinton voters. Forty-four percent of voters identified themselves as "pro-life advocates," and they broke heavily for Trump (64 percent to 29 percent). Thirty percent said they were "theological conservatives" and they also favored the Republican (71 percent to 23 percent). Twenty-one percent described themselves as Tea Party supporters, and they also heavily favored Trump (85 percent to 15 percent).

It should come as no surprise that liberal activists favored Clinton. 40 percent of voters surveyed called themselves environmentalists, and went for the Democrat (52 percent to 38 percent). Forty-one percent of voters said they were advocates of "LGBT rights" and swung heavily for Clinton (63 percent to 28 percent).

Meanwhile, more than half of voters (52 percent) said they "believe absolute moral truth exists," and favored Trump (53 percent to 34 percent). Surprisingly, a whopping 71 percent of voters said they "support traditional moral values," and they also favored Trump (53 percent to 35 percent). This is particularly interesting — as there must have been significant crossover between those who "support traditional moral values" and "LGBT rights" at the same time.

Next Page: What does this mean for future elections?