Trump, Evangelicals, and the Elephant in the Room

Who are evangelicals and who are they really voting for?

Do evangelicals support Donald Trump for president, or do they not? It depends on who you ask, and what you ask them. It also depends on who is an evanglical. Or who says “I’m an evangelical.”

It can be rather tricky.

There are some evangelicals who say, “The only evangelicals who are voting for Donald Trump are inactive evangelicals.” And that’s actually a bit of a myth. I think it’s a way for evangelicals who don’t like Trump to assert that people from their tribe aren’t voting for him.

There’s been a bit of a disappointment among some evangelicals seeing this reported support. Some seem to be coming up with any reason as to why Donald Trump must not really have this kind of support. Well, he really is—depending on what an “evangelical” is.

The Church Attendance Argument

When you look at it, there is what we call a correlation. The more you go to church as an evangelical, the less likely you are to vote for Donald Trump. In South Carolina, for instance, much was made over the 34% of self-identified evangelicals who voted for Trump. Somehow overlooked is the corresponding fact that ~66% didn’t vote for him.

Doctoral candidate Matthew MacWilliams has written on the subject of support for Trump among voters he classifies as “authoritarian.” But, among those he might expect to find as Trump supporters there is a clear “soft spot”:

Regular, weekly church attendance—as measured by a standard Pew Research question included in my survey—predicted a statistically significant and substantive opposition to Trump.

However, that’s not the whole story.


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