Now that there’s a little bit of breathing room from the 2020 election and all its attendant unpleasantness/attempted insurrections, more research is coming out on exactly what happened. We know President Joe Biden won, and we know it wasn’t particularly close, although it was a good deal closer than many Democrats hoped and pundits predicted. But how exactly did the voting demographics break out last November? A new study from Pew provides some insights.
For all former President Donald Trump’s controversy and scandals, his support among White evangelicals didn’t falter. In fact, it grew. Pew’s 2016 analysis found that 77 percent of White evangelicals supported Trump. By 2020, that number was up to 84 percent. White evangelicals have reliably voted Republican since the Reagan years, but the voting bloc met challenges from within its own party, including vocal Trump critics like Dr. Russell Moore and Beth Moore. However, such criticisms appeared to fall on deaf ears. Pew estimates that without Trump’s White evangelical base, Biden would have walloped Trump by more than 20 points.
But it wasn’t just evangelicals. White Mainline Protestants voted for Trump by a 14-point margin. That’s not nothing, but Biden did take a bite out of Trump’s 2016 White non-evangelical voting group. In 2016, Hillary Clinton got just 37 percent of White non-evangelical Protestants. In 2020, Biden got 43 percent. A fairly modest gain, but Trump’s margin of support razor-thin, and he couldn’t afford to lose much.
However, Black Protestants broke for Biden almost uniformly, with 91 percent supporting the current president.
Biden also had a majority of Americans who consider themselves atheists, agnostics or “nothing in particular” — a growing group of largely younger Americans often referred to as “the Nones.” They make up about 25 percent of voters, a slightly larger piece of the pie than White evangelicals. Without that coalition going for Biden, Pew estimates that Trump would have won by about nine percentage points.
Biden didn’t fare as well with his own religious group. White non-Hispanic Catholics voted for him at a slightly higher rate than they did for Clinton in 2016, with 42 percent supporting the Democratic candidate. Still, Trump captured 57 percent of the White Catholic vote.
The Pew study doesn’t have a lot of surprises in it. White Evangelicals have been the Republican Party’s bedrock for generations, and that won’t change anytime soon. The White Evangelical institutions split between those whose consciences were seared by Trump’s bullying, racial animosity and misogyny, and those who could stomach such behaviors in return for political gains will still have to reckon with what unified way forward is available to them, if any.