The latest Christianity Today has an interesting article that dives deep into the 81% of white evangelical voters who voted for Trump (that for some reason I can’t find online). It’s based on polling done by the Billy Graham Center Institute at Wheaton College and LifeWay research and is meant to debunk the idea that white evangelicals are all in for Trumpism. It partly does that, but honestly, it leaves me a little more disturbed also.
– The 81% doesn’t reflect enthusiasm for Trump. The Pew Research Center found that 45% were mainly voting against Clinton, only 30% were voting for Trump himself.
– Only half of evangelicals said they were voting for a candidate. Many vote for an issue, platform, or party.
– The 81% was not primarily about abortion or the Supreme Court. When asked the single most important factor in their vote, the top 4 for evangelicals were the economy (17%), healthcare (11%), immigration (10%) and national security (9%). These were the same top four when evangelicals were asked to list any of the factors that influenced their vote – it’s the economy (62%), healthcare (55%), national security (51%) and immigration (49%).
– It appears that a majority of evangelicals were taking the long view, looking at the long-term conservatives goals that could be achieved through a Trump presidency over the short-term harm.
– 3 out of 4 evangelicals agree that a political leader’s personal life does not need to line up with Christian teaching in order for Christians to benefit.
I think the article successfully shows that many or most evangelicals aren’t enthusiastic about Trump. But man, there’s a lot there that disturbs me. That the Supreme Court and abortion were not the primary drivers of their vote is one of them. Because while I personally disagree with being a one-issue voter, even on something as significant as abortion, I can at least respect someone who adopts that stance. But most evangelical Trump voters say that’s not what drove their vote. And their reasons strike me as crazy. On the economy, Trump shows a lack of understanding on basic concepts (e.g. whether a strong dollar is good or bad), and he deviates from some fundamental and traditional conservative values like free trade. The same is basically true on healthcare. On national security, Trump sidles up to authoritarian anti-democratic leaders and antagonizes our allies. On immigration, Trump’s stance is flatly anti-Christian. And yet, on these issues, the ones that influenced their vote most, evangelicals preferred Trump. That’s crazy.
That evangelicals are also willing to overlook their political leader’s personal behavior is also depressing. For one, it’s a huge shift from how evangelicals used to think (and what I still believe). The article points out that it is unsurprising that non-evangelicals, when asked what characteristics describe evangelical Christians, most frequently cite: hypocritical. We now live in a world where secular liberals hold their political leaders to a higher standard of personal morality than evangelicals. That’s a sad witness.