NEW YORK — White evangelical support for President Donald Trump has sparked debate for years — particularly this winter, with his impeachment trial looming. But for all the focus it commands, uncertainty continues to surround Trump’s bond with a religious constituency that has long leaned GOP.
Trump won a clear majority of white evangelical Protestant votes in 2016, and about 8 in 10 of that group approved of his job performance in an AP-NORC poll conducted last month. But those evangelicals’ alignment with the Republican Party predated Trump and has risen steadily since 2009, according to data from the nonpartisan Pew Research Center.
Given that Trump has not greatly outperformed his GOP predecessors with white evangelicals, why has his presidency drawn outsize attention to a relatively small religious bloc? It’s partly because conservative evangelical leaders have amassed notable influence in Trump’s administration. But another reason the relationship is scrutinized is that Trump’s political vulnerability could grow if more white evangelicals sour on him over perceived moral missteps.
“Their support for Trump just doesn’t match the story they’ve been telling about themselves since their evolution as a kind of active political group among conservatives,” said Robert Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute, an independent Washington-based nonprofit.