White Americans increasingly identified as ‘evangelical’ during Trump's term: Pew

Evangelical supporters of Donald Trump praying at a rally in Florida in this undated photo.
Evangelical supporters of Donald Trump praying at a rally in Florida in this undated photo. | (Photo: Reuters/Carlo Allegri)

The percentage of white Americans who identified as “born-again” or “evangelical” during the Trump administration increased rather than declined, according to a new report by Pew Research Center.

In recent years, some speculated that the support many evangelical leaders gave to President Donald Trump during his campaign and term of office would lead large numbers of Americans to ditch the evangelical label.

However, according to a report by Pew that was published last week, more white Americans adopted the terms evangelical Protestant or born-again between 2016 and 2020.

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Using Pew’s American Trends Panel (ATP), it was found that while 25% of white adults surveyed identified as evangelical or born-again in 2016, 29% identified themselves as such in 2020.

The survey found that while 2% of surveyed white adults had stopped identifying as evangelical from 2016 to 2020, 6% of surveyed white adults had begun identifying as evangelical during the same time period.

Pew also found that white Americans who held a positive opinion of Trump anytime between 2016 and 2020 were the most likely to adopt the evangelical label, with 16% starting to identify as evangelical between 2016 and 2020.

Among surveyed non-white adults, Pew found that the percentage of respondents who identified as evangelical or born-again had remained basically the same between 2016 and 2020.

According to Pew, 26% of non-white Americans identified as born-again/evangelical Protestants in 2016, while 25% identified this way in 2020. About 7% of non-whites surveyed had reported dropping the term, however, a near equal percentage reported adopting the term.

“Contrary to what some may have expected, a new analysis of Pew Research Center survey data finds that there has been no large-scale departure from evangelicalism among white Americans,” wrote Gregory A. Smith, an associate director of research at the Pew Research Center.

“Additionally, the surveys do not clearly show that white evangelicals who opposed Trump were significantly more likely than Trump supporters to drop the evangelical label.”

Since 2016, many have warned that the strong support for Trump found among evangelical leaders and churches threatened to harm the witness of the Church overall.

Russell Moore, who in 2016 was president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, believed that evangelical support for Trump was going to have lasting damage.

“The damage done to the gospel this year, by so-called evangelicals, will take longer to recover from than the '80s TV evangelist scandals,” tweeted Moore at the time.

In July, the Public Religion Research Institute released a report claiming that white evangelical Protestants had declined from 23% of the American population in 2006 to 14% by 2020. Many believe that the poll was inaccurate. 

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