While observers and media have speculated that evangelical support for Donald Trump may drive out believers, new data tells a different story: Trump’s political presence could be the source of a white evangelical revival in America.
According to the latest figures from the Pew Research Center, between 2016 and 2020, the number of white American adults surveyed who identified themselves as evangelical rose from 25% to 29%, an overall increase of 4%.
While 2% of white American adults who adopted evangelical etiquette in a poll after the 2016 presidential election no longer identify as evangelical after the 2020 election, 6% who did not identify as Evangelicals in 2016 came to identify themselves as such. when they were interviewed again in 2020. That is, more white American adults began to identify as evangelicals during Trump’s presidency than those who stopped.
During the same period, the number of white non-evangelical Protestants fell by 3%.
Pew also reported that 16% of white Americans who did not consider themselves evangelical in 2016 but had warm views towards Trump had, by 2020, adopted the evangelical label or been born again, Pew reported. By comparison, only 1% of white Americans who had âcold or neutral views towards Trumpâ began to identify as evangelicals during the same time period.
“We cannot ascribe causation to the reasons why people who became evangelicals became evangelicals, but we can say that among opponents of Trump almost no one became an evangelist,” said Gregory A. Smith, director research associate at Pew. “I thought it was a very interesting data point.”
Although 12% of white evangelicals âwho have expressed at least some ambivalence about Trumpâ shed the evangelical label between 2016 and 2020, only 7% of consistent Trump supporters have. While this difference is too small to be statistically significant, Pew concludes the report: âThere is no clear evidence that white evangelicals who opposed Trump were more likely than Trump supporters to leave the evangelical fold. “
The study reinforces the increasingly close correlation between white evangelical Protestants and the Republican Party – an affinity that crystallized under Trump’s presidency by evangelical leaders who rallied around him. The former president also had an Evangelical Advisory Board, which included a televangelist and head of a Pentecostal mega-church, the Reverend Paula White.
âWhite Evangelical Protestants have long been one of the most Republican constituencies,â Smith said. âOver the past 25 years, they have become even more Republicans. It is interesting and important that you see this growing correspondence between evangelical identity and political attitudes.
While at first glance the data may suggest that support for Trump is fueling an increase in the number of people identifying as evangelicals, Smith said it could be more white evangelicals joining the Republican Party, as was the case with the unexpected popularity of Mitt Romney among white evangelical Protestants. in 2012.
The survey sample was a subset of a larger group and includes only those who participated in four surveys conducted between 2016 and 2020, but does not include those under the age of 18 in 2016 or 2020. âThe proportion of white Americans who identify as evangelical is greater than the proportion who have stopped identifying as white evangelicals – we can say that with confidence,â said Smith.
He added that it reflects more general religious trends in America. Although the proportion of white Christians, overall, has declined in recent decades – due to the country’s changing demographics as well as the increase in the number of people not affiliated with religion – the number of white evangelicals is maintained, even increasing.
Pew also found that white voters who identified themselves as evangelical in 2016 and 2020 were even more supportive of Trump during his reelection bid than they were when he ran against Hillary Clinton. The increased support within this group, says Pew, “is one of the main reasons” why Trump did better with white evangelical voters in 2020 than he did in 2016.
This likely bodes well for Trump’s electoral prospects in 2024. While Trump has yet to officially announce that he will run for president again, many observers believe he will. Among the signs, in addition to the money he has already raised: Earlier this month, Trump launched a National Faith Advisory Board, which was co-founded by Rev. White.
Looking towards 2024, Smith said, âI can’t speculate on the future. But one thing jumps out at me from the data – there is certainly no indication that Trump lost white evangelical support between 2016 and 2020. If anything, he greceived support within this group during his tenure.