Mar 18, 2019

Ahead of 2020, white evangelicals are sticking with Trump

More than two-thirds of white evangelicals continue to support President Trump, along with almost half of white Catholics and white mainline Protestants, according to a new study released by Pew Research Center.

Reproduced from Pew Research Center; Chart: Axios Visuals

Why it matters: White evangelicals consistently have a disproportionate impact on elections and were key to Trump's 2016 victory. They only made up 15% of the population in 2018, but accounted for more than a quarter of midterm voters, according to Robert Jones, the CEO and founder of the Public Religion Research Institute. Ahead of 2020, Trump remains their favorite candidate.

  • Non-white Protestants and Catholics, as well as the religiously unaffiliated, are overall significantly less likely to support Trump.

Between the lines: Support for Trump has fallen over the past few years among white evangelicals, but they remain the only religious group with a majority that favors Trump. Their support has been bolstered by the willingness of several prominent religious leaders to publicly defend Trump.

  • Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University, even defended Trump's "very fine people" statements on the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville in 2017. He told ABC at the time: "He has inside information that I don't have. I don't know if there were historical purists there who were trying to preserve some statues."
  • Franklin Graham, the son of evangelist Billy Graham, explained to Axios on HBO last fall why the church continues to support Trump despite his immoral behavior: "I never said he was the best example of the Christian faith. He defends the faith. And I appreciate that very much," he said.

The bottom line: U.S. demographics are quickly changing, and the GOP will not always be able to count on the voter groups — such as white evangelicals — that they have long depended on. But as 2016 proved, the white, religious vote still carries a lot of weight.

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