As recently as a week ago, there were headlines about how Joe Biden might be peeling away support from the one voting bloc Donald Trump can’t afford to lose: white evangelicals. The pathetic photo op in front of a church that was preceded by the tear-gassing of protesters was seen as a kind of tipping point for when evangelicals would move away from him.
Roughly 81% of them voted for Trump in 2016, and with a number that high, it can really only go down. And given Trump’s thin margins of victory in a handful of swing states, a small drop-off could be disastrous for his re-election efforts (which would be fantastic news for everyone else).
This time around, those white evangelicals will have to weigh their support for Trump’s unrelenting stream of anti-abortion judicial nominees and constant lip service to their faith with… well, *gesturing wildly in all directions*. Would the pandemic, or the story about Trump ignoring the Russian bounty on American troops, or a faltering economy do anything to push those conservative Christians in Biden’s direction?
Now we know.
They’re not budging.
According to a new survey from the Pew Research Center taken just two weeks ago — after the tear-gassing and Bible photo-op — Trump’s approval rating among white evangelicals may have fallen, but they all still plan to vote for him.
Consider this: 72% of white evangelicals currently say they approve of Trump’s job performance, which makes no sense to me whatsoever… That’s a small drop from the 77% support they gave him at the beginning of the year, but it’s still ridiculously high. No other group even comes close. (By way of comparison, Trump has a 15% approval from atheists/agnostics… and a 12% approval from Black Protestants.)
If Trump only received 72% of white evangelical votes (all other things considered), he would almost certainly lose the election. He needs those votes. He can’t afford to siphon off that many voters from his base to Biden.
But then the Pew researchers asked a more important question: If the election were today, who would you vote for?
And suddenly those white evangelicals are right back to rock bottom. 82% of them say they would vote for Trump.
They haven’t moved an inch since 2016; if anything, they’re even more in Trump’s camp now than ever before.
Trump’s continued support among white evangelical Protestants — a group that is highly religious and overwhelmingly Republican — is matched by their dislike of the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee, Joe Biden. A large majority of white evangelical Protestants say Biden would make a “poor” (26%) or even “terrible” (49%) president, while 16% say he would make an “average” president.
Give atheists/agnostics some credit, though. When it comes to Trump performance as president, 80% of us say he’s been poor or terrible, higher than any other group, including Black Protestants (79%).
I suppose these results aren’t too surprising. Even in 2016, white evangelicals weren’t thrilled about voting for Trump, but they were so brainwashed when it came to Hillary Clinton — believing all kinds of wild conspiracy theories about her and her alleged agenda — that no amount of pussy-grabbing from Trump was going to shake their support of the Republican nominee.
Between now and the election, you can bet his administration will continue to pander to white evangelicals while ratcheting up talk about the fears inherent in a Biden presidency. Hey, they’re used to being lied to. How would this be any different? Believing a Democratic president would take away their Bibles if elected? Sure, 30% of evangelicals have already fallen for that.
If you’re like me, then you hope Biden’s team has at least learned from Clinton’s campaign with regard to religious outreach. Evangelical voters shouldn’t be ignored and it’s at least possible for Biden to say, “We may disagree on some issues like abortion rights, but we share common values of decency, hard work, and religious freedom for everyone.” There’s reason to think this is happening. His campaign holds weekly calls with (presumably progressive) religious leaders. He’s also planning sit-down interviews with places like the Christian Broadcasting Network.
It’s also not too late for Biden’s people to make sure non-Christians who don’t typically vote are engaged and ready to do so. They ought to also do outreach specifically to Secular Americans — not because we’ll suddenly run over to Trump but because some of us may not vote at all.
But it’s still disappointing, though hardly surprising, that white evangelicals still don’t care about the utter chaos our country is in because of the incompetence of the GOP. They didn’t believe liberals who warned them before 2016. And they just don’t care after years of watching the world burn.
Somehow, despite years of pastors warning them to fight evil, sinners, and immorality, they can’t even recognize it when it’s staring them in the face.
(Image via Shutterstock. Portions of this article were published earlier)