Most white evangelical Protestants – one of President Donald Trump’s most important electoral blocs – have a positive assessment of his administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic so far, Pew Research Center reports.
Pew said its findings are based on research conducted between March 10-16. This was after the nation’s first coronavirus death, but during which Trump declared a national state of emergency on March 13. The period preceded his initial proposal for an unprecedented economic relief package, which has ballooned to $1 trillion, and which Congress is working on to finalize and approve.
More than three-quarters (77 percent) of white evangelicals say they “are at least somewhat confident” in Trump’s response to the outbreak. The World Health Organization declared the crisis a pandemic on March 11.
Almost half (49 percent) of those white evangelicals say they are “very confident,” and majorities of that group say Trump has “assessed the risks of the situation correctly (64 percent), and that “the crisis has been blown out of proportion by the media (76 percent).”
Pew’s findings reveal gaps in the opinions of white evangelicals as compared to Americans overall.
For instance, less than a quarter (24 percent) of white evangelicals say the president hasn’t taken “seriously enough” the risks associated with the coronavirus. But more than half of Americans in general (52 percent) say he “has underplayed the risks.” Those who hold this opinion include majorities of the religiously unaffiliated (64 percent), black Protestants (67 percent) and Jews (73 percent).
Pew found that white Christians other than evangelicals also are “fairly confident” in how Trump is handling the pandemic. However, these groups express a range of support for Trump’s performance.
Roughly six-in-ten Protestants who don’t identify as evangelical (62 percent), and white Catholics (59 percent) say they are “at least somewhat confident that Trump is doing a good job.” However, four-in-ten in these groups – less than half – say Trump “hasn’t taken seriously enough” the risks of the pandemic.
Pew said that variations in the survey’s results among the religious groups “echo differences by party affiliation.”
For instance, Pew said, almost eight-in-ten Democrats and others leaning toward the party’s policies and views (79 percent) express the opinion that Trump “hasn’t taken seriously enough the coronavirus risks.”
Pew said that fully half – 50 percent – of this group expressed the opinion that “he hasn’t taken the risks seriously at all.”
Among Republicans and GOP “leaners,” Pew said, 68 percent say they think Trump has “assessed the risks correctly.” Many less “(22 percent) in this group say he hasn’t taken them seriously enough,” Pew said.
In research on religious affiliation and political party loyalty, Pew said its past surveys have found that those not affiliated with a faith group, black Protestants and Jews “are more likely to identify as Democrats than Republicans, while the reverse is true for white evangelical Protestants.”
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Tim Tune is a freelance journalist based in Fort Worth, Texas. His work has been published by Baptist Press, as well as the Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth Business Press, Arlington Today magazine and other North Texas publications.