July 23, 2018 – A new poll confirms that white evangelical Christians have very different views from just about everyone else on the state of America – which makes the influence they’re trying to exert over policy decisions in our federal and state governments all the more alarming.
“White evangelical Protestants are sitting in their own unique space in the religious landscape on a whole range of issues,” Robert Jones, the CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), said in a recent Religion News Service story.
The poll, conducted by PRRI and The Atlantic, found that 61 percent of white evangelicals believe the United States is heading in the right direction. They’re the only religious group in the survey who felt that way – a majority of every other religious group broken down by the survey (white mainline Protestants, nonwhite Protestants, Catholics and people described as religiously unaffiliated) feel the that the country has gone “pretty seriously off on the wrong track.” The latter view was held by 64 percent of overall respondents.
The surveyors noted that within about 25 years, people of color will represent the majority of the population. When asked whether this demographic shift was viewed positively or negatively, the majority of people overall and the majority of most religious groups all responded that this was a positive development – except for white evangelicals, 52 percent of whom said the U.S. becoming a majority nonwhite population was a bad thing .
A third category in which responses were broken down by religious groups involved support for President Donald Trump. It likely won’t surprise anyone that more than three-quarters of white evangelical Christians said they have a favorable view of Trump – that’s similar to the percentage of evangelicals who voted for him two years ago.
Once again, the white evangelicals were outliers in the survey. Just over 60 percent of overall respondents had an unfavorable view of Trump. White mainline Protestants and white Catholics were split down the middle, while a vast majority of nonwhite Protestants and religiously unaffiliated Americans have an unfavorable view of the president.
The poll was conducted in June, which means the so-called “family values” evangelical voters were voicing their support for Trump amidst the implementation of his policy to separate immigrant children from their parents at the southern border, as he continued to split up American Muslim families with his Muslim ban and as reports continued to swirl around his alleged affair with and hush money payout to actress Stormy Daniels.
Religious Right leaders have said they’re willing to give Trump a “mulligan” on his transgressions so long as he continues to deliver on policies they care about, including nominating conservative Supreme Court justices like Neil Gorsuch and now Brett Kavanaugh; advancing an anti-women, anti-LGBTQ agenda; and pushing for the repeal of the Johnson Amendment so houses of worship can endorse political candidates.
At the same time, through the Project Blitz campaign, white evangelical Christians are trying to advance an agenda that undermines church-state separation at the state level – pushing legislation that would allow the promotion of religion in public schools and religion to be used to discriminate against women, LGBTQ people, religious minorities and others.
The Religious Right’s continued attempts to infuse religion and politics to the detriment of so many is alarming, but there is a bright side to the PRRI’s poll: While white evangelical Christians have very different views on the direction our country should take, they are in the minority. The majority of people are rejecting Trump and his white Christian nationalist rhetoric.
Americans United, representing people who practice a variety of religions and the nonreligious, will continue to work to ensure that America remains a place where religious freedom is for all of us, not just some of us. I hope you’ll join us.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State is a nonpartisan educational and advocacy organization dedicated to advancing the constitutional principle of church-state separation as the only way to ensure freedom of religion, including the right to believe and not believe, for all Americans. www.au.org