Poll: White evangelicals are outliers on nearly every issue of concern to voters

Fran Flynn (C) prays during the 'Evangelicals for Trump' campaign event held at the King Jesus International Ministry as they await the arrival of President Donald Trump on January 3, 2020, in Miami, Florida. | Getty Images/Joe Raedle

A new poll finds that white evangelicals, an important voting bloc in American politics, are outliers on nearly every issue of concern to the American public.

The Public Religion Research Institute’s 11th annual American Values Survey was released Monday. It surveyed a random sample of 2,538 adults between Sept. 9 and Sept. 22, asking for their thoughts on topics related to issues of concern facing the country ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

Respondents were broken down by political party as well as religious affiliation and race. The religious subgroups included in the survey were white evangelical Protestants, white mainline Protestants, white Catholics, black Protestants, Hispanic Protestants, other Christians, non-Christians and the religiously unaffiliated.

The survey asked respondents what they saw as the top three critical issues facing the country. Coronavirus was in the top three issues of concern for all religious groups, except for white evangelicals.

Among that group, 63% of respondents cited abortion as their most critical issue, followed by the fairness of presidential elections (62%) and terrorism (57%). Only 35% of white evangelical Protestants see coronavirus as a critical issue.

White evangelical Protestants are also outliers on the issue of abortion, with just 22% believing that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Besides Hispanic Protestants, 48% of whom believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, a majority of respondents in all other religious groups think abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

On the issue of LGBTQ rights, white evangelical Protestants once again find themselves at odds with their counterparts in other religious groups. Thirty-four percent of white evangelical Protestants believe that same-sex couples should be able to marry while 63% do not. A majority of adherents to the other religious groups support same-sex marriage.

When asked to share their thoughts about gender roles and societal norms, 53% of white evangelicals believe that society punishes men for being men and 56% believe that American society has become too feminine. No other religious group had a majority of adherents who felt the same way, although 50% of white mainline Protestants agreed that society punishes men for being men.

White evangelical Protestants are the only group that believes the country is moving in the right direction, with 59% of respondents expressing confidence about the current trajectory of the U.S. That’s compared to 40% of white mainline Protestants, 39% of white Catholics, 40% of Hispanic Protestants, 28% of Hispanic Catholics, 26% of other Christians, 24% of non-Christians, 18% of religiously unaffiliated Americans and 15% of black Protestants.

While every other religious group believes that President Donald Trump has damaged the dignity of the presidency, just 36% of white evangelicals agree with that statement.

However, a majority of white evangelicals (55%) say that they wish Trump behaved like his predecessors and 28% of white evangelicals believe that the U.S. does not set a good example for other countries around the world.

On both of the aforementioned issues, white evangelicals’ responses were more similar to those of their peers in other religious groups.  

White evangelical Protestants also have a much higher approval rating of Trump compared to their counterparts in other religious groups, with 76% of them approving of Trump’s job performance. 

Majorities of Hispanic Protestants (57%) and white mainline Protestants (52%) approve of Trump’s job performance while 49% of white Catholics expressed approval for the president. Support is much lower for the president among other Christians (42%), non-Christians (30%), Hispanic Catholics (27%), religiously unaffiliated Americans (23%) and black Protestants (15%).

While majorities of all other religious groups believe that the coronavirus outbreak could have been controlled better, just 44% of white evangelical Protestants agree. Among the American public as a whole, 69% believe that the outbreak could have been controlled better.

White evangelicals, who comprised 26% of the American electorate in the 2016 presidential election, according to CNN exit polling, backed Trump over Hillary Clinton by a 5-1 margin. While a poll conducted by PRRI earlier this year showed Trump’s support slipping with this group, a Pew study found that 82% of white evangelicals plan to support Trump’s reelection bid this fall despite any misgivings they may have about him.

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