As progressive Americans continue to express bewilderment about white evangelical Protestants’ support of President Donald Trump, a new Pew Research Center survey offers findings that help explain this important electoral community’s commitment.
As the 2020 presidential election cycle accelerates, Pew released results Thursday about its recent research which explores the links between religion and politics, including perceptions of evangelical Protestants and other faith groups’ views of Trump.
“White evangelicals largely see Trump as fighting for their beliefs and advancing their interests ...,” the Pew report said, “... and they feel their side generally has been winning recently on political matters important to them.”
However, the report continued, “when it comes to Trump’s personal qualities and conduct, many express mixed feelings.” Most of those “among this strongly supportive constituency ... do not view Trump as a very religious, honest or morally upstanding person (though many white evangelicals say he is somewhat religious, fairly honest or fairly morally upstanding).”
Overall, Pew said it found that “Americans care more about having a president who stands up for their religious beliefs than having one who personally shares those beliefs.” Almost seven out of ten “say it is either very (38 percent) or somewhat (31 percent) important to have a president who stands up for people with their religious beliefs.”
White evangelical Protestants are especially prone to hold this opinion, according to Pew’s survey, which found that “Two-thirds of white evangelicals say it is very important to have a president who stands up for their religious beliefs, about double the share who say it is very important for a president to have strong religious beliefs.”
And, the survey found, “white evangelicals say Trump fits the bill: Fully eight-in-ten white evangelical Protestants say that the phrase ‘fights for what I believe in’ describes Trump ‘very well’ or ‘fairly well,’ including roughly half who say this describes him ‘very well.’”
Additionally, Pew reports that 59 percent of white evangelical Protestants “overwhelmingly feel that the Trump administration has helped,” while only 7 percent feel that Trump has hurt “the interests of evangelical Christians. And three-quarters of white evangelicals say they agree with the president on ‘many,’ ‘nearly all’ or ‘all’ important issues facing the country.”
Despite feeling the president stands up for them, white evangelical Protestants say, “they are less convinced that he personally lives a moral and ethical life or conducts himself admirably,” Pew reports. “Just 15 percent of white evangelicals say the phrase ‘morally upstanding’ describes Trump very well, and about a quarter say ‘honest’ is a very good descriptor of the president (23 percent). About one-third of white evangelicals (31 percent) say they like the way Trump conducts himself as president (aside from his positions on the issues). Fully two-thirds either have ‘mixed feelings’ about his conduct (44 percent) or say they don’t like it (22 percent). And only about one-in-eight white evangelicals (12 percent) think Trump is a very religious person.”
Although relatively few white evangelicals say they wouldn’t describe the president as “morally upstanding” and “honest,” Pew said, most say the descriptions define Trump “at least fairly well.”
Pew said its survey generally “finds that U.S. adults prize a president who lives a moral and ethical life more than they care about having one who is religious. More than six-in-ten Americans say it is ‘very important’ to them to have a president who personally lives a moral and ethical life.”
That contrasts with one-in-five American adults who “say it is very important for a president to have strong religious beliefs,” Pew reported, and “even fewer respondents think it is vital for the president to share their own religious beliefs.”
Photo courtesy: Getty Images/Tasos Katopodis/Stringer
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.