Evangelicals Still Support Trump, Not Only Because of Abortion
A report from 2016 showed that 81 percent of white evangelical Christians voted for Trump.
The chaos and spectacle of President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign has sometimes made it difficult to understand the driving logic of his messaging.
As we get closer to election day, and Trump tries to find a path to victory through the conservative voting base of the battleground states, he’s increasingly returning to themes that worked for him in 2016.
“I grew up going to church with my family in New York City. My parents taught me the importance of faith and prayer from a young age … During the unprecedented COVID-19 outbreak, I turned into several virtual church services and know that millions of Americans did the same.”Donald Trump, US President
Trump’s Religious Support Has Barely Slipped
White Protestants (58 percent) and white Catholics (60 percent) also voted for Trump over Clinton in a campaign defined by Trump’s racist and insensitive comments toward Mexicans and Muslims, as well as his poor treatment of women. Despite four years of a presidency defined by Trump’s unprincipled behaviour – not to mention over 228,000 deaths from the COVID pandemic – white religious support for Trump has slipped only slightly.
Among other religious groups, Trump’s support is much lower. He trails his Biden among Jewish voters (70-27 percent), Hispanic Catholics (67-26 percent) and importantly, Black Protestants (90-9 percent).
The question persists then why, despite Trump’s many moral failings, he has maintained such strong support from white evangelicals.
Religion, Political Power and Identity
A key part of the answer relies upon how you frame religion and its relationship with political power.
It overlooks the fact that many religious voters interpret the Bible literally. For them, gaining political power is key to shaping the world around them in line with their principles.
In the US, many Christian groups firmly believe they face an existential struggle for the future of their faith – and America itself as a white Christian nation.
“Today’s Evangelicals also view themselves as confronted by an unspeakable and demonic foe.”
This foe is not Islam or Catholicism, but secularism. To this end, evangelicals have organised politically.
In her on the history of evangelical movement, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Frances FitzGerald says that the Christian right has evolved from a mere movement into an organised faction within the Republican Party, and as a result, political power now “trumps” moral indiscretions among politicians.
As a politician, Trump has cloaked himself in religion from the outset. He relies upon the that while he is an imperfect and flawed human, he is delivering favourable political outcomes for conservative Christians.
Another key political motivation for the Christian right has long been overturning , the Supreme Court ruling that legalised abortion. Trump when he nominated conservative judge Amy Coney Barrett to the court last month.
However, according to one study on the issues that are important to evangelical voters, immigration has emerged as an even more pressing matter – more so than abortion or other issues like gun control and gay marriage.
My research in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, supports this. Luzerne County, which is in the working-class northeastern part of the state, played a key role in the 2016 election, after supporting Democratic presidential candidates for decades.
The white and Hispanic residents in the town share the same Christian faith. However, far from acting as a bridge between the communities, there is a lingering resentment among white residents that Hispanics have “taken over” formerly European Christian churches.
Can Biden Win Back Catholics?
Trump has labelled Biden as “against God” and “against the Bible”. He also claims Democrats opposing his nomination of Barrett to the Supreme Court demonstrated an anti-Catholic bias.
Compared to Trump’s transactional approach with religious voters, Biden faces a more challenging task trying to balance his Catholicism and white working-class roots with the more progressive policies of his party.
While he is unlikely to best Trump with white Christians in next week’s election, Biden may narrow the gap just enough.
(This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article here.)
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