75 Percent of White 'Evangelicals' Back Trump, But Don't Get Too Excited
A new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) found that 75 percent of self-identified white evangelicals view President Donald Trump favorably, while only 22 percent view him unfavorably. Only 42 percent of Americans overall view Trump favorably. Even so, Democrats and Republicans should not be too quick to read too much into these numbers.
Trump-supporting evangelicals claim to speak for all evangelical Christians, with First Baptist Dallas Pastor Robert Jeffress declaring that the president was "elected with 81 percent of evangelicals, that's the largest margin in history." Indeed, Jeffress dismissed a recent anti-Trump meeting among evangelicals as doomed to "have very little impact on evangelicalism as a whole."
On the flip side, many on the Left excoriate evangelical Christians as hypocritical supporters of the morally compromised president. The far-Left Southern Poverty Law Center has suggested that politically active conservative Christians are bent on establishing Christian "dominionism" over the federal government.
Trump-supporting evangelicals claim the imprimatur of biblical Christianity for their politics, while those on the Left see Trump as proof that white evangelicals are backward: racist, sexist, anti-LGBT, and generally hateful. Neither of these narratives is correct.
PRRI reported that "white evangelical support for Donald Trump has steadily increased over time." Trump never reached 50 percent favorability among white evangelicals during the 2016 primary season, but by the early fall of 2016, he racked up 61 percent. By the inauguration, 68 percent of white evangelicals viewed him favorably, and that number hit 74 percent in February 2017. Since then, it has not fallen below 65 percent.
The vast majority of white evangelical women (71 percent) view him favorably, while white evangelical men (81 percent) are even more likely to do so, according to PRRI. Even white evangelicals with a college degree favor the president (68 percent), while even more white evangelicals without such a degree (78 percent) view Trump favorably.
These numbers came after longstanding scandals revolving around alleged affairs with porn star Stormy Daniels (Stephanie Clifford) and former Playboy model Karen McDougal. Trump has also notoriously said he has never asked God for forgiveness and his bravado is legendary. Does this evidence prove that biblical Christians are willing to put their politics ahead of their faith and their moral standards?
To some degree, the answer is yes. Another PRRI survey found that white evangelicals were the most likely voting bloc to say that an elected official who makes a moral mistake in his or her private life can still behave ethically in office. In 2011, only 30 percent of white evangelicals said so. In 2016, that number skyrocketed to 72 percent.
After all, 81 percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump in 2016, according to exit polls. Christian Post reporter Napp Nazworth rightly questioned this much-cited statistic, however. Nazworth called this statistic "bogus" because it was "based upon an exit poll and exit polls are some of the least accurate polls," because it "includes only white evangelicals," because it "includes only evangelicals who voted," and because it is "based upon self-identification, not whether the respondent actually holds evangelical beliefs or is active in an evangelical church."