Top 10 Stats Explaining the Evangelical Vote for Trump or Clinton

(UPDATED) These surveys suggest how—and why—evangelicals will split more than usual in 2016 election.
Top 10 Stats Explaining the Evangelical Vote for Trump or Clinton
Image: Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Last week, Donald Trump said that if evangelicals vote, he would win the 2016 presidential election. But while he commands a clear lead over Hillary Clinton for their support, surveys also show that American evangelicals are much more divided this year compared to previous elections.

With the election just days away, here are CT’s picks for the recent survey findings that most caught our eye on not only how evangelicals are voting in 2016, but why.

1) How Evangelicals (By Belief) Plan to Vote

Most surveys allow evangelicals to self-identify, which produces consistent majorities for Trump. But surveys that study evangelicals based on their beliefs and actions are much more mixed:

45% of Americans with evangelical beliefs plan to vote for Trump
31% plan to vote for Clinton
23% plan to vote for a third-party candidate, or haven’t decided
[Source: LifeWay Research #1 (links at bottom of page)]

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45% of born-again Americans plan to vote for Trump
37% plan to vote for Clinton
15% plan to vote for a third-party candidate, or not vote at all

48% of born-again Americans who worship weekly plan to vote for Trump
34% plan to vote for Clinton
14% plan to vote for a third-party candidate, or not vote at all
[Reuters #2]

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4 in 10 evangelicals are reluctant to vote for either Trump or Clinton
[Barna Group #3]

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2) How Evangelicals (By Race/Ethnicity) Plan to Vote

65% of white Americans with evangelical beliefs plan to vote for Trump
10% plan to vote for Clinton

62% of African/Hispanic/Asian Americans with evangelical beliefs plan to vote for Clinton
15% plan to vote for Trump

2 in 5 Americans with evangelical beliefs are African American, Hispanic American, Asian American, or another ethnic minority.
[LifeWay Research #1]

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47% of Hispanic evangelicals support Clinton
34% support Trump
[Pew Research Center #4]

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3) How Evangelical Pastors Plan to Vote

44% of evangelical pastors are undecided
38% plan to vote for Trump
9% plan to vote for Clinton
4% plan to vote for Gary Johnson
2% plan to not vote

Most likely to support Trump:
61% of Pentecostal pastors
50% of Church of Christ pastors
46% of Baptist pastors

Most likely to support Clinton:
50% of Presbyterian/Reformed pastors
44% of Methodist pastors

59% of evangelical pastors believe that Christians who vote their conscience will not all vote for the same candidate
63% believe that Christians are not obligated to vote for a candidate with a reasonable chance of winning
[LifeWay Research #5]

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4) The Empathy Gap

47% of Protestants who support Clinton say they “have a hard time respecting” Trump supporters
42% of Protestants who support Trump find it hard to respect Clinton supporters

58% of all Clinton supporters say they “have a hard time respecting” Trump supporters
40% of all Trump supporters find it hard to respect Clinton supporters
[Pew Research Center #6]

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5) Politics & Bedfellows

13% of self-identified white evangelicals have argued with their spouse about the election
87% have not

75% of self-identified white evangelical couples are voting for the same presidential candidate
6% are voting for different candidates

76% of couples who attend church weekly are voting for the same presidential candidate
69% of couples who rarely attend church are doing likewise

78% of Protestant men believe their household is voting for the same presidential candidate
66% of Protestant women believe likewise

69% of Catholic men believe their household is voting for the same candidate
76% of Catholic women believe likewise
[Pew Research Center #7]

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6) Voting For Trump vs. Against Clinton

In October:

45% of white evangelical Trump supporters are voting FOR Trump
51% are voting AGAINST Clinton
[Note: This matches the split among Trump supporters overall.]

37% of white mainline Trump supporters are voting FOR Trump
60% are voting AGAINST Clinton

49% of Catholic Trump supporters are voting FOR Trump
48% are voting AGAINST Clinton

62% of black Protestant Clinton supporters are voting FOR Clinton
36% are voting AGAINST Trump

57% of Protestant Clinton supporters are voting FOR Clinton
42% are voting AGAINST Trump

52% of white mainline Clinton supporters are voting FOR Clinton
45% are voting AGAINST Trump

56% of Catholic Clinton supporters are voting FOR Clinton
43% are voting AGAINST Trump
[Pew Research Center #13]

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In June:

Among white evangelicals planning to vote for Trump:
38% said their vote was for Trump
57% said their vote was against Clinton

Among white evangelicals planning to vote for Clinton:
35% said their vote was for Clinton
59% said their vote was against Trump

Among white evangelical weekly church attenders planning to vote for Trump:
44% support him strongly
53% support him not strongly

Among white evangelical weekly church attenders planning to vote for Clinton:
25% support her strongly
75% support her not strongly
[Pew Research Center #8]

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Among born-against Christians who support Trump:
26% are voting for Trump
41% are voting against Clinton

Among born-again Christians who support Clinton:
43% are voting for Clinton
32% are voting against Trump
[Barna Group #9]

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7) How Evangelicals Feel About Trump

41% of all white evangelicals say Trump is “a good role model”
55% of white evangelicals who support Trump say the same

55% of all white evangelicals say Trump is “hard to like”
46% of white evangelicals who support Trump say the same

67% of all white evangelicals say Trump is honest
81% of white evangelicals who support Trump say the same

58% of all white evangelicals say Trump is well-qualified
77% of white evangelicals who support Trump say the same

For comparison, among black Protestants (two-thirds of whom are evangelicals, according to Pew):

8% of black Protestants say Trump is a good role model
77% say Trump is hard to like
5% say Trump is honest
6% say Trump is well-qualified
[Pew Research Center #6]

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59% of registered voters think Trump has respect for evangelicals
51% think Clinton respects evangelicals also

81% of Clinton supporters think Clinton has respect for evangelicals
37% think Trump respects evangelicals also

85% of Trump supporters think Trump has respect for evangelicals
19% think Clinton respects evangelicals also
[Pew Research Center #13]

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8) Does Trump’s Morality Matter to Evangelicals?

CT asked in 2011 whether marital infidelity should disqualify a candidate for public office. The US religious group that has shifted most since then: self-identified white evangelicals.

Q: Can elected officials behave ethically and fulfill their public duties even if they have committed immoral acts in their personal life?

30% of self-identified white evangelicals said yes in 2011
72% said yes in 2016
[PRRI/Brookings #10]

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56% of white evangelicals are less likely to vote for someone who had an affair
42% don’t care
[Pew Research Center #11]

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44% of self-identified white evangelicals think Trump has strong moral character
49% think Trump does not

18% of white evangelicals think Clinton has strong moral character
79% think Clinton does not
[Washington Post/ABC News #12]

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51% of all white evangelicals say Trump is moral
68% of white evangelicals who support Trump say the same
12% of black Protestants say the same
[Pew Research Center #6]

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9) Does Trump’s Faith Matter to Evangelicals?

Q: Is it very important for a presidential candidate to have strong religious beliefs?

49% of self-identified white evangelicals said yes in 2016
64% said yes in 2011
[PRRI/Brookings #10]

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83% of white evangelicals want their presidential candidate to share their religious faith
72% of black Protestants say the same

49% of white evangelicals think Trump is religious
44% think Trump is not religious
[Pew Research Center #11]

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15% of born-again Christians view Trump as “authentically Christian”
13% view Clinton the same way
4% said they are equally “authentically Christian”
48% said neither is an authentic Christian
20% said they didn’t know
[Barna Group #9]

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10) Which Issues Matter Most to Evangelicals

Evangelical pastors are much more concerned about the personal character of Trump and Clinton, as well as their Supreme Court picks, than the people in their pews.

Among evangelical pastors:
27% said personal character was the most important issue to vote on
20% said Supreme Court nominees
12% said religious freedom
10% said abortion
6% said the economy
5% said national security
2% said immigration
13% said none of these

Among Americans with evangelical beliefs:
26% said improving the economy was the most important issue to vote on
22% said national security
15% said personal character
10% said Supreme Court nominees
7% said religious freedom
5% said immigration
4% said abortion

44% of evangelical pastors (a plurality) were undecided on Trump vs. Clinton
36% said personal character would be the top determiner of their vote
14% said Supreme Court nominees
[LifeWay Research #1 and #5]

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Abortion ranks low among white evangelicals’ top election concerns (% saying each issue is “very important” in deciding who to vote for):

89% terrorism
87% economy
78% immigration
78% foreign policy
77% gun policy
70% Supreme Court appointments
70% health care
70% Social Security
62% trade policy
59% education
52% abortion
51% treatment of racial/ethnic minorities
34% environment
29% treatment of LGBT community
[Pew Research Center #8]

Sources:

1. LifeWay Research survey of 1,000 respondents from Sept. 27 to Oct. 1 (evangelicals based on four core beliefs)

2. Reuters polling 5-day rolling average as of Nov. 1 (respondents self-identified as “born again” and self-reported worship attendance from 2-3 times per month to more than weekly)

3. Barna Group survey of 1,023 adults from Sept. 12-19 (evangelicals defined by eight conditions)

4. Pew Research Center survey of 1,500 adults from Aug. 23 to Sept. 21 (evangelicals based on denomination or self-identity)

5. LifeWay Research survey of 1,000 Protestant senior pastors from Aug. 22 to Sept. 16

6. Pew Research Center survey from Oct. 20-25

7. Pew Research Center survey of 4,000 respondents from Sept. 27 and Oct. 10

8. Pew Research Center survey of 1,655 voters from June 15-26

9. Barna Group survey of 1,023 adults from Sept. 12-19 (evangelicals defined by eight conditions)

10. PRRI/Brookings survey from October

11. Pew Research Center survey from Jan. 7-14

12. Washington Post-ABC News poll from Oct. 10-13

13. Pew Research Center survey from Oct. 20-25

[Donald Trump image courtesy of Gage Skidmore – Flickr]

[Hillary Clinton image courtesy of Gage Skidmore – Flickr]

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