Allen S. Maller

Donald Trump’s religious supporters are…

Most Americans are religious, and according to the latest Pew survey, 83% of white evangelical Americans support Trump for reelection (62% strongly) although that is only 2 points above the percentage that voted for him in 2016, and given how much he’s delivered for them, one would think he should be doing even better.

But four years ago, Trump won a bigger proportion of white evangelical votes than any Republican presidential candidate in history, and he will win by an even greater proportion in this election because the number of white evangelicals have been in steady decline for the last 15 years, and that is why many white evangelical voters are sympathetic to anti-foreigner white supremest groups.

The Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, claimed 14.8 million members in 2018, down by a million and a half since it peaked at 16.3 million in 2006.

In Pew Research Center telephone surveys conducted in 2018 and 2019, 65% of American adults describe themselves as Christians when asked about their religion, down 12 percentage points over the past decade. Meanwhile, the religiously unaffiliated share of the population, consisting of people who describe their religious identity as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular,” now stands at 26%, up nine points from 17% in 2009 and most of these people are political liberals.

Fifty-nine percent of white Catholics voted for Trump in 2016 and 59% still support him over (white Catholic) Biden today. But Trump supporters have risen from fewer than a quarter of Latino Catholics who voted for Trump in 2016, to one-third of them who back him now.

I cannot explain this.

No religious group has in recent decades been more Republican than the Latter-day Saints, but Mormon support for Trump in 2016 was relatively weak and has only slightly increased since 2016. Then, 56% of them cast their ballots for him. This year, according to a survey published in January, 58% support him over Biden.

Trump’s support has declined by three points in two large religious groups. While only 8% of Black Protestants, the most Democratic religious group in the country, voted for Trump in 2016, now just 5% support him.

And where 62% of non-evangelical whites — mainline Protestants — voted for Trump in 2016, now 59% prefer him to Biden; and suburban women account for most of that loss of support.

Jews are a very strong Democratic voter group. But Orthodox Jews, who are only 10% of the American Jewish population, have moved strongly in Trump’s direction especially after Trump’s daughter converted to Orthodox Judaism.

In 2016, only 28% of all Jews voted for Trump, while 37% say they’d vote for him now. Not since 1980 has a Republican presidential candidate received such a large proportion of Jewish support.

Then, Ronald Reagan’s 39% was at least in part the result of the Jewish community’s sense that Jimmy Carter was not a friend of Israel. That Trump is doing so well today is the result of his moving the US embassy to Jerusalem.

A poll, conducted by Garin-Hart-Yang Research Associates that took place in February 2020 of 1,001 self-identified Jewish voters found that US Jewish voters remain highly supportive of the Israel’s right to exist and defend itself: 91% said they were generally pro-Israel.

However, 56% [and even higher for Reform Jews] identified themselves as “critical” of the Netanyahu government which has given in to Ultra-Orthodox anti Reform Judaism demands on several occasions.

While a large majority of US Jewish voters disapprove of Trump’s performance on domestic policy issues — from taxes to healthcare and reproductive rights, only a slim majority approves his management of US-Israel relations. Fifty-one percent of Jews said they supported Trump’s Israel policies; 39% said they didn’t.

The US Jewish community was much more evenly divided on Trump’s decision to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Whereas 45% approved of the move, 42% said they were opposed to it. Orthodox Jews (the President’s daughter and son-in-law are Orthodox Jews) were much more supportive of the move, while Reform and Conservative Jews were more opposed.

About the Author
Rabbi Allen S. Maller has published over 850 articles on Jewish values in over a dozen Christian, Jewish, and Muslim magazines and web sites. Rabbi Maller is the author of "Tikunay Nefashot," a spiritually meaningful High Holy Day Machzor, two books of children's short stories, and a popular account of Jewish Mysticism entitled, "God, Sex and Kabbalah." His most recent books are "Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms' and "Which Religion Is Right For You?: A 21st Century Kuzari" both available on Amazon.
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