Evangelicals Rally to Trump, Religious ‘Nones’ Back Clinton
Evangelical voters are rallying strongly in favor of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Indeed, the latest Pew Research Center survey finds that despite the professed wariness toward Trump among many high-profile evangelical Christian leaders, evangelicals as a whole are, if anything, even more strongly supportive of Trump than they were of Mitt Romney at a similar point in the 2012 campaign. At that time, nearly three-quarters of white evangelical Protestant registered voters said they planned to vote for Romney, including one-quarter who “strongly” supported him.1 Now, fully 78% of white evangelical voters say they would vote for Trump if the election were held today, including about a third who “strongly” back his campaign.
Meanwhile, religiously unaffiliated voters – those who describe their religion as “atheist,” “agnostic” or “nothing in particular” – are lining up behind Hillary Clinton over Trump, much as they supported Barack Obama over Romney in 2012. Two-thirds of religiously unaffiliated registered voters say they would vote for Clinton if the election were held today, just as two-thirds intended to vote for Obama at a similar point in the 2012 campaign.2 Religious “nones” are, however, somewhat less enthusiastic about Clinton’s candidacy (26% now strongly support her) than they were about Obama in June 2012 (37%).
Considering both groups are quite large, the votes of white evangelical Protestants and religious “nones” could be important to the outcome of the 2016 election. White evangelical Protestants make up one-fifth of all registered voters in the U.S. and roughly one-third of all voters who say they identify with or lean toward the Republican Party. Religious “nones,” who have been growing rapidly as a share of the U.S. population, now constitute one-fifth of all registered voters and more than a quarter of Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters.3
Both groups, furthermore, have leaned firmly toward one side or the other in recent elections. Nearly eight-in-ten white evangelical voters ultimately cast ballots for Romney over Obama in 2012, according to exit polls, despite some questions about whether Romney’s Mormon identity would raise concerns among evangelicals. Seven-in-ten religious “nones” voted for Obama.