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White evangelicals, Catholics and Mormons carried Trump

Voters cast their votes during the presidential election in Elyria, Ohio, on Nov. 8, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Aaron Josefczyk/File Photo *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-RELIGION-VOTE, originally transmitted on Nov. 9, 2016.

(RNS) A strong white evangelical, white Catholic and Mormon vote for Donald Trump belied the condemnation many religious leaders had leveled at the tycoon and paved the way for a stunning upset after a long and polarizing campaign.

Preliminary exit polls indicate these religious groups voted for Trump by wide margins — and, in the case of white evangelicals, wider than they had given to GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012.

Christians who described themselves as evangelical and born-again gave Trump 81 percent of their votes, up 3 percentage points from their support for Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP presidential nominee. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton garnered 16 percent of their votes.

“Donald Trump made the most full-throated and aggressive appeal to evangelical voters … since Ronald Reagan spoke to the Religious Roundtable in August of 1980,” Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, said the day after the election (Nov. 9).

“He made these voters of faith a centerpiece of his campaign.”

White evangelical support for Trump surged even as prominent evangelicals, including Southern Baptist Russell Moore, railed against Trump’s behavior toward immigrants, women and other groups as un-Christian.

Trump never cast himself as a particularly religious person. And Hillary Clinton made her commitment to her Methodist faith known on the campaign trail.

But no one should be surprised by evangelicals’ turnout for Trump, said Robert P. Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute.

“White evangelicals in this election aren’t values voters. They’re nostalgia voters,” he said. “Trump’s line — ‘let’s make America great again’ — and his last-minute saying — ‘look folks, I’m your last chance’ — was really powerful for white evangelicals who see their numbers in the general population slipping.

“White Christians are declining every year by a percentage point or more as a proportion of the population,” added Jones, the author of the book “The End of White Christian America.” “So when Trump says, ‘I’m your last chance, folks,’ there’s a real truth to that.”

Scott McConnell, who studies evangelicals as executive director of LifeWay Research, said its pre-election studies showed that economics—not religious belief—was driving evangelical voters.

That research also revealed clear divides along ethnic and party lines within the group: white and Republican evangelicals favored Trump while African-American, Asian and Hispanic evangelicals favored Clinton.

“These divides are powerful in America today, and they are deeply entrenched in the church,” McConnell said. 

Some prominent evangelicals who supported Trump acknowledged that his lifestyle and behavior had given them pause. But he actively sought evangelical votes and proved himself, said Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council.

Tony Perkins, Family Research Council Action, speaks during a press conference in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 9, 2016. RNS photo by Jerome Socolovsky

Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council, speaks during a press conference in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 9, 2016. RNS photo by Jerome Socolovsky

“Donald Trump went out of his way to build a relationship with evangelicals. I’m not saying there’s 100 percent trust, nor embracing what he has done in the past,” Perkins said. “But one thing evangelicals understand is that everybody has a past, but everyone has the promise of a future as well.”

“Once he captured the nomination, he didn’t say ‘well I’ve checked the box with evangelicals, I’m moving on,'” Perkins added. “He continued throughout the course of his campaign and the general election to communicate with, go to events of, and build upon the relationship with social conservatives.”

White Catholics also favored Trump, casting 60 percent of their ballots for him, compared to 37 percent for Clinton.

But it was the reverse for Latino Catholics: 67 percent went for Clinton and 26 for Trump.

Trump had alienated many Latinos during the campaign: lambasting the criminals and “rapists” among Mexican immigrants, promising to force Mexico to pay for a wall he would build on America’s southern border and denigrating a  judge because of his Latino parentage.

Perhaps there was a little more Latino support for Trump than expected, said Greg Smith, associate research director at the Pew Research Center. But otherwise, he said, the divided Catholic vote — between whites and Latinos — split as earlier polls had predicted.

“Talk about a ‘Catholic vote’ as a whole can obscure as much as it reveals because there are identifiable subgroups of Catholics who tend to vote in particular ways, and that is exactly what we saw in this election,” he said.

Catholics overall voted for Trump over Clinton 52 percent to 45 percent. That’s despite Pope Francis and other prominent Catholics’ rebuke of the candidate for railing against minority groups. Earlier this year, the pope had suggested that Trump, who identifies as Presbyterian, was “not a Christian” for his rhetoric about wall building.

Though white Catholics in both 2012 and 2016 went for the GOP candidate, their support for Trump this year was not as strong as the 59 percent they gave to Romney. And while Latino Catholics in both elections threw their support behind the Democrat, their support for Clinton trailed the 75 percent they gave to Obama four years ago.

Mormons nationally, according to exit polls, preferred Trump to Clinton by 61 to 25 percent.

The Mormon vote, key in overwhelmingly Republican Utah — where more than 60 percent of people belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — gave Trump an easy win in the state.

Trump won 46 percent of Utah votes, compared with Clinton’s 27 percent. Independent Evan McMullin won 21 percent.

Prominent Mormon politicians in the state — including Gov. Gary Herbert — had expressed outrage at Trump after a video released last month revealed the candidate’s lewd comments about assaulting women, and pulled their support for him.

“Presidential vote by religious affiliation and race.” Graphic courtesy of Pew Research Center

“Presidential vote by religious affiliation and race.” Graphic courtesy of Pew Research Center

Given Mormons’ reputation for clean living and their embrace of traditional values, there was even some talk in the past few weeks about the red state turning blue, or at least purple.

But the backlash against Trump in Utah did not benefit Clinton. Anti-Trump votes instead seemed to gravitate to McMullin, who is Mormon.

The voting statistics on mainline Protestants make drawing meaningful conclusions difficult. Available exit poll data, compiled by a firm hired by a consortium of major national news organizations, does not break down the group by race — an important factor in analyzing the vote.

The Jewish vote in this presidential election looked much as it did in the past, with overwhelming support for the Democrat: Clinton garnered 71 percent compared with Trump’s 24 percent. That’s not far from the 69 percent for President Obama and 30 percent for Romney in 2012, and the 78 percent for Obama and 21 percent for rival John McCain in 2008.

Do not hold your breath for statistics on the Muslim vote in 2016.

Though the Muslim population of the nation is growing, and despite robust get-out-the-vote efforts among Muslim Americans, they still represent less than 1 percent of the electorate. That’s too little, pollsters say, to collect enough data to draw conclusions about their voting patterns.

But the numbers are in for the religiously unaffiliated, who now account for a quarter of U.S. adults but do not tend to vote as a bloc: 68 percent voted for Clinton and 28 for Trump.

READ: More ‘nones’ than you think, but many won’t show up on Election Day

 (RNS Editor-in-Chief Jerome Socolovsky contributed to this report.)

About the author

Lauren Markoe

Lauren Markoe has been a national reporter for RNS since 2011. Previously she covered government and politics as a daily reporter at the Charlotte Observer and The State (Columbia, S.C.)


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  • “the religiously unaffiliated, who now account for a quarter of U.S. adults but do not tend to vote as a bloc: ” The educated, non-religious group Is growing, as access to information makes believing the ancient stories so much harder. It IS a valid point to note as well that this “group” doesn’t tend to all think the same way or vote the same way. These are rational people who think for themselves, rather than having it spoonfed to them every Sunday. Trump most certainly isn’t religious, but he knew how to play the religious into voting for him anyway.

  • If there truly is an “anti-christ,” these people voted him into the most powerful position on the planet.

  • “Trump most certainly isn’t religious, but he knew how to play the religious into voting for him anyway.”

    Nothing’s changed for thousands of years.

  • In the Mormon section at least, they should also post what percentage voted for McMullin. He got something like 20% of the vote in Utah.

  • White Catholics for Trump – 60% compared to 59% for Romney. Just more of the consistent errors from RNS about the “Francis effect.”

  • Voting for Trump doesn’t say much about Christian notions of morals and ethics either.

    Who needed principles when you have someone pretending to listen to you.

  • Trump doesn’t care about any of those “Christian Values”. He could barely articulate a “pro-life” position without completely messing it up. He obviously didn’t consider it worth his time.

    I have yet to see conservative Christians care about obeying the law or avoiding false witness. The other sections just show you have some bigoted hangups and don’t think well of the civil liberties of others. Doesn’t speak well of your version of Christianity.

  • Which would mean Trump’s margin would have been even wider. He had double of Clinton’s votes in Utah.

  • Hillary lost, Spuds. Attack Christians all you want, but **Hillary lost.**

    YOU may not listen to what Christians are saying, but start watching the Democratic Party from now on. THEY are going to start listening (or pretending to listen) to what Christians are saying.

  • And they were pretty much all Republicans and Independents, Trump actually received more Democratic votes than McMullin did (if only by a percent). I would have been overjoyed if McMullin had carried Utah, but I’ll have to be satisfied with him keeping Trump well below 50%+1.

  • These so called Christians are nothing more than whores. They rail against their fellow Americans because they are: LGBT; non-Christians; Muslim; having the wrong kind of sex; having illegitimate babies; getting abortions; using birth control; voting for the rights of people not like them. Yet, they fall in line behind a man who mocks war veterans, makes fun of handicapped people, incites violence; gropes women; hits on married ladies; insults female newscasters; lies, cheats American businesses and workers; commits adultery; divorces three times, cons poor people by shamming them with his “university”…..Their self righteousness is nauseating. They follow Trump because they think he’ll pass their theocratic agenda to make America “fall in line with Christian morality” – but their front man is one of the most immoral people to ever hold the office of President – and that includes Nixon!

  • You have NOTHING to say to us. You have NO moral ground to stand on. I come out of evangelical Christianity…all I heard about was how other people were sinning and bringing the country down and that “bible-believing Christians” needed to save America from its sins. You have now chosen for your front man a vile example of “morals”. I surmise Trump lied to you like he lied to everyone else all these years and you’ll not get the theocratic legislation you had hoped for. But even if you do: nobody will take you or your religion seriously from now on. You have exposed yourselves for the hypocrites that you are. The Evangelical conservative Christian movement are whores – sold yourselves for power. Trump is Herod. Own it.

  • Republicans vote Republican. Democrats vote Democrat. No surprise there. In the media it has become totally acceptable to bully, hate, and mischaracterize others for the sin of having a difference of political opinion. We are not a kind and tolerant country if we love our neighbor but hate everyone who disagrees with our politics.

  • “In the media it has become totally acceptable to bully, hate, and
    mischaracterize others for the sin of having a difference of political

    That is always the case with politics. It is not a real complaint. The only major difference being that the kind of personal attacks we saw in the election were on an immaturity level not seen since the 19th Century. Most of the blame here rests on the shoulder of the reality TV star/former professional wrestling promoter.

  • CNN, NBC, ABC, USA, all the late night and day time talk shows, Hollywood, and academia, ALL of them have been hating on conservatives for decades. Our popular culture has no problem labeling everyone who is not far left enough as a racist or a bigot. Conservatives are sick and tired of this. Liberals don’t even realize it exists and if they do realize it, they cheer it on. Trump is an oaf. But many Republicans were willing to excuse his horrible immaturity because for once, someone wasn’t attacking them and was willing to bully back. If the party of “tolerance” and the media that overwhelmingly favors Democrats, was even slightly less hateful toward conservatives, there wouldn’t be such a market for Fox News and Trump. I didn’t vote for Trump, but the media is now over-hyping and over-reacting to his election.

  • “Our popular culture has no problem labeling everyone who is not far left enough as a racist or a bigot. ”

    Especially when people advocate treating others badly on the basis of race, gender, orientation and other traits.

    Complaints about being labeled a bigot are ridiculous. They are not refutations that such labels are somehow inappropriate or untrue. You are not saying that being called a bigot is untrue or inappropriate. Just that you do not like it.

    If conservatives are sick of being called bigots maybe they should not embrace bigotry so easily as policy platforms. Maybe they should show more respect for civil liberties and not pretend the law and government is only meant to serve them.

  • Cite each one of those claims with a respected, non-biased source, Diana. I’d wait, but I know you can’t do that because NONE of what you said is true. You’re the typical “soundbites and bumperstickers” liberal who is so angry at their own weakness and laziness that they spew vile lies against another human being who has done NOTHING to hurt and will do a lot to help, even while she’s cursing him. On the other hand, I can go through every single lie you wrote and prove you’re lying or repeating lies.

    President Trump is a reality, my dear, bearded Diana. Stop fighting against what’s right and spend that energy helping others, supporting our president and helping build our country back up again.

  • Hey Diana…..had you been born in 1780 America, would you be saying the same thing? I wonder if you would have moved.

  • It wouldn’t matter. You would still label them as bigots. Mitt Romney is a decent man who was constantly attacked by the left simply because of having an R next to his name. It made no difference what he stood for, you guys have branded Republicans as bigots and nothing they can ever do will change that. You don’t argue against actual Republicans, only against the caricature of them that the liberal media has created. It is not bigoted to want the government to have less control over the taxes and health care of individual citizens, for example.

  • You appear to be under the mistaken impression you are entitled to your own facts.

    ” It is not bigoted to want the government to have less control over the
    taxes and health care of individual citizens, for example.”

    But it is bigoted to use religious belief as an excuse to violate 14th Amendment notions of equal protection under the law. It is also bigoted to attack the ability of people to vote because they are minorities. It is also bigoted to expect government to intervene in the ability for women to make personal decisions. It is also bigoted to claim that the nation and its freedoms belong to only one religious group exclusively. Yet this is the sort of nonsense which is fairly common for conservatives.

    “Mitt Romney is a decent man who was constantly attacked by the left simply because of having an R next to his name.”

    That is a steaming pile of revisionism and skewed perspective. Romney was attacked for being obviously disingenuous and perceived hostile to the concerns of working and middle class. Two fake charitable events and feigned concern after Hurricane Sandy didn’t endear him to a lot of people. Neither did attacking the ACA despite implementing a very similar program when he was governor. His remarks that people who worked for a living weren’t paying enough taxes rankled a lot of people. Romney also appeared to represent the interests of those who tanked the economy in 2008. Then there were the Bible thumpers who would never vote for a Mormon.

    So no, it wasn’t because he ran as a Republican.

    “It is not bigoted to want the government to have less control over the
    taxes and health care of individual citizens, for example.”

    Not sensible either. Taxes are the sole province of government. Its what pays for its maintenance and upkeep. People in the upper strata incomewise are the ones most benefiting from the system, so it is obvious they should be the most responsible for paying taxes.

    At no point is health care in control of individual citizens either before nor after ACA. Our healthcare system is one of the worst in the developed world. ACA was a band-aid. Republicans are not offering any sane alternative. Saying “Repeal Obamacare” is not a solution. Just a way to make 10 million Americans fearful for their continued existence.

    You want a country to use as an example of how a public/private system can work, try Japan. Nobody in their right mind would accuse that nation of being “socialist”. Japanese companies are obligated by law to fully fund health insurance. Single payer which covers everything is also available through the government for those who do not work for one.

  • So its all about trying to use Trump, who clearly used you Christians. Nice. Good luck with that.

    The next time I hear some Christian nabob talk about how morally superior they are to others, I will just use this as one of many examples to tell them to blow it out of their posteriors.

  • I would take criticism about immigration laws seriously if people like yourself showed at least a basic level of knowledge as to how they work. I have yet to see that from your crowd.

    Making claims that “the law is the law” are dangerously silly when one doesn’t know what the laws actually are. In a democracy, laws are not followed in an unquestioned manner. We challenge which are unjust.

    The big problem I have with discussions on immigration policy and law is having to bring up how much of positions like yours are built upon misinformation, bad analogy and lack of understanding of the laws themselves.

    Like it or not, Sanctuary cities are not illegal. It is not the role of state or local officials to enforce immigration laws. Nor are they obligated to do so. That is only the province of the Federal government.

    “Destroying federal property and summoned evidence?”
    cough cough Ryan Bundy cough cough

    “What laws don’t we obey?”

    Anti-discrimination laws come to mind. The 1st Amendment religious freedoms, 14th Amendment….

  • The more you write/type, the more you demonstrate an intellectual ignorance and lack of historical knowledge. BTW: Nixon never mis-used or “carelessly handled” Top Secret (TS) Special Access Program (SAP) info like our girl, Hillary Clinton and her staff, did. Do yourself a favor and read up as to exactly what TS SAP info is.

  • Christians are incompatible w/ Jeebus’ teachings

    I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ – Mahatma Gandhi

  • “But one thing evangelicals understand is that everybody has a past, but everyone has the promise of a future as well.”–Tony Perkins
    Well yes, even Satan has a past. But you’d do well to stay clear of him because Satan will always be Satan. Trump is a con man and unfaithful and he will always be a con man and unfaithful. His record is not hidden. The willfully blind choose not to see it.

  • I’ve never met a Christian in my life either. I suspect the last one died almost two thousand years ago. Mark 16:15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
    16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
    17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;
    18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
    19 So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.
    20 And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.

    But if you claim to be a Christian Mr. Beak, I would be happen to provide the poison for your test. Come on now, are you an eagle of just a chicken?

  • I will never tolerate your ignorance, your selfishness, your bigotry, your cruel spirit, or your immaturity. I am not obligated to tolerate it. Neither will I tolerate your excuse-making. So don’t expect it. You claim you didn’t vote for Trump. I have no way of knowing whether that’s true. But you can be sure that every scandal and misdeed that Trump does in office, I will blame his voter-enablers along with him. There is no longer a Republican Party. It is now the the Trumpublican Party.

  • Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus emigrated illegally into Egypt to escape Herod’s death squads. If you want to be strict about obeying the law, Jesus’ parents were no-good criminals.

  • You do not know me. All that anger. I am not Trump. I actively campaigned against him. Frankly, there would be pretty much the same anger if Kasich or Romney were elected. The anger would be less justified, but it would still be there. That is how it has always been. The only possible way to push Trump into being semi human would be to stop all the ranting and focus on common interests. There actually are some. Barring a strategically placed lightning strike or Trump suddenly being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, he’s going to be come president. I would be relieved if one of those first two things happened, but it’s not likely.

  • The whistle has been blown, and it is just what most Protestants long suspected. The Evangelical movement was created by the same who infiltrated the Protestant main line and have been busy taking it down for six generations. The Evangelical movement is the pen for the main line to be corralled into after they have had enough of what has become of churches in this modern day. We have been manipulated by men, and, we are perilously close to the end of game, not to be confused with the end time.
    When the time comes, the plug will be pulled on the Evangelical movement, just as it was in the infiltrated main line, and there will be only one place to go. The strategy and execution has all been controlled. Religion has been used as a medium, a platform.
    Simply look at an evangelical service. The signs are unmistakeable. The occult, the spiritualism, the politicization. All helplessly being conditioned, softened, fatted, until the New Age is ushered in.
    The New Age, by the way, is going to look an awful lot like the Old Age.
    Seek the Lord, Jesus Christ, as your personal savior. Draw nigh unto God. Repent and be baptized in His name. Trust in the Lord. Beware of false prophets, who come in His name, but inside, are ravenous wolves.

  • 90 Percent of church goers as in those who labeled themselves Christians in Nazi Germany supported Hitler . The so called Bible Belt supported Slavery and were against Civil Rights, no surprise here.

  • It proves that religion does not make you a better person, in fact it makes you a hypocrite instead. Mormons say they value women as precious daughters of God but votes for a man who diminishes the value of women, Mormons preach love and charity but vote for the man who bans immigrants from coming to the wealthiest nation on the planet. America is becoming morally corrupt, lets see how God will deal with us in the next few decades.

  • I agree, It was funny to see the former young women Sister Beck to offer a prayer in one of his campaign meetings. How can she be so delusional that God will actually pay attention to that kind of hypocrisy?