White Trump supporters are now 'more likely' to identify as 'evangelical': report

White Trump supporters are now 'more likely' to identify as 'evangelical': report

Among churchgoing critics of former President Donald Trump, it isn't hard to find mainline Protestants who flatly reject being called "evangelical" — stressing that as Lutherans, Episcopalians, Methodists or Presbyterians, they had nothing to do with the far-right white evangelical movement and Christian nationalism. But among Trump supporters, it's a different story. According to Pew Research, Protestant Trump supporters are now more likely to identify as evangelical than they were five or six years ago.

Pew Research's Gregory A. Smith reports, "Contrary to what some may have expected, a new analysis of Pew Research Center survey data finds that there has been no large-scale departure from evangelicalism among White Americans. In fact, there is solid evidence that White Americans who viewed Trump favorably and did not identify as evangelicals in 2016 were much more likely than White Trump skeptics to begin identifying as born-again or evangelical Protestants by 2020."

Smith continues, "Additionally, the surveys do not clearly show that White evangelicals who opposed Trump were significantly more likely than Trump supporters to drop the evangelical label. The data also shows that Trump's electoral performance among White evangelicals was even stronger in 2020 than in 2016, partially due to increased support among White voters who described themselves as evangelicals throughout this period."

The far-right Christian nationalist movement is by no means universally loved with Christianity, and some of Trump's outspoken critics in the Democratic Party are churchgoing Protestants — including the Rev. Raphael Warnock (now a U.S. senator via Georgia), Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg (who is Episcopalian) and MSNBC's the Rev. Al Sharpton. Former Philadelphia Mayor John Street is a Seventh Day Adventist. President Joe Biden, meanwhile, is known for being a devout Catholic.

According to Pew, whether the word "evangelical" has a positive or negative connotation can have a lot to do with that person's view of Trumpism.

"Between 2016 and 2020," Smith explains, "White Americans with warm views toward Trump were far more likely than those with less favorable views of the former president to begin identifying as born-again/evangelical Protestants, perhaps reflecting the strong association between Trump's political movement and the evangelical religious label."

Smith adds, "Among white respondents, including both voters and nonvoters, who did not identify as evangelicals in 2016 and who expressed a warm view of Trump at some point during the timespan of this study, 16% began describing themselves as born-again or evangelical Protestants by 2020. In stark contrast, almost no White respondents — just 1% — who expressed consistently cold or neutral views toward Trump adopted the born-again/evangelical label for themselves between 2016 and 2020."

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