Evangelical voters, long a key conservative voting bloc, are rallying behind Donald Trump, according to a survey that found 78% of rank-and-file white evangelicals say they plan on voting for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.
The survey, conducted by Pew Research Center from 15-25 June, found that support for Trump among white evangelicals tops even that of 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney, including more than one-third of the demographic that says they “strongly” support his candidacy. Presumptive Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, garnered the support of a mere 17% of white evangelical Protestants, but enjoyed the support of more than two-thirds of religiously unaffiliated registered voters: Clinton leads among voters who expressed no religious preference 67% to Trump’s 23%.
Although white evangelicals have been a key Republican constituency since Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980, its demographic might is being challenged by the so-called “religions nones”, whose numbers swelled as younger Americans have aged into the electorate. Both groups make up roughly one-fifth of all registered voters in the US, with one-third of all Republican voters counting themselves as white evangelicals, and a quarter of Democratic voters being “religious nones”.
White evangelicals prefer Trump to Clinton on nearly every issue, according to the survey, ranking Trump as the candidate who would do a better job of dealing with gun policy (79%), defending against terrorist attacks (78%), dealing with immigration (75%) and selecting supreme court justices (74%). Only when asked which candidate would do the better job of fixing race relations in the US did white evangelicals say that Clinton would come out on top, 46% to Trump’s 44%.
The survey represents good news for Trump, whose policy history, including past embraces of abortion rights, same-sex marriage and religious tests to enter the US, and personal peccadilloes – three marriages and statements referring to avoiding sexually transmitted infections as his “own personal Vietnam” – turned off many evangelical leaders during the Republican primaries.
With the accession of Clinton, who is highly unpopular among white evangelicals, to the Democratic nomination, however, many appear to be holding their noses: 45% of white evangelical Protestants told Pew that their support for Trump is mainly a vote against Clinton, compared to 30% who said they are voting for Trump because they support him.
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