A new study from the Public Religion Research Institute finds that yet again, white evangelicals remain a distinct and vital outlier in President Donald Trump’s approval rating. While only 39 percent of Americans give Trump a good approval rating, 75 percent of white evangelicals say they approve of him and, what’s more, 31 percent of that group say there’s “almost nothing” Trump could do to lose their support.
No other religious subgroup, Christian or otherwise, showed nearly as much support for the President. About half of white mainline Protestants approve of Trump, compared to just 14 percent of black Protestants. 86 percent of black Protestants disapprove of Trump, 67 percent of which say there’s almost nothing Trump could do at this point to change their minds.
33 percent of Hispanic Protestants approve of Trump, along with 41 percent of Catholics. And after that, things get dire for Trump indeed, with just 27 percent of all non-Christian religious Americans giving him their approval.
Things get even more interesting when you dig into opinions about Trump’s character. 73 percent of all Americans say they wish Trump would act more like past Presidents in terms of his “speech and behavior” — sort of a veiled reference to, well, you know. A slender majority of white evangelicals agree, with 48 percent saying they don’t wish that Trump’s speech and behavior were more in line with past presidents.
47 percent of white evangelicals say Trump’s behavior doesn’t really affect their support of him one way or the other, and 16 percent actually say his behaviors make them more likely to support him. Here again, white evangelicals diverge widely from other religious groups. 54 percent of white mainline Protestants and a striking 80 percent of black Protestants say Trump’s behavior makes them less likely to support him. All told, 62 percent of Americans say Trump’s behavior makes them less likely to support him.
There were also some interesting questions about whether or not Trump’s behaviors and language have emboldened white supremacists. Here again, white evangelicals were on their own, with 70 percent saying his words haven’t had an impact of white supremacy either way (6 percent say he’s discouraged white supremacists).
Meanwhile, 78 percent of black Protestants and 66 percent of Hispanic protestants say Trump has encouraged white supremacist groups, along with 56 percent of Catholics.
All this points to something virtually every poll since 2016 has confirmed: white evangelicals are the key demographic for Trump and will remain so in 2020, even as their support may not be quite as rock steady as it was in the last election. Trump’s surprise decision to withdraw troops from Syria has been met with significant backlash from white evangelical leaders, and could cost him dearly in an upcoming election in which he can afford very few errors.
“This is a danger zone for this administration when it comes to evangelicals,” a source described as a “longtime Trump friend” told Politico. “They see religious persecution, Iran gaining a foothold, Israel facing threats and the possibility of ISIS re-emerging, and what Trump keeps talking about is the land, and the money, and the deal-making. The moral compass is missing, and he’s off-balance here with evangelicals.”