The dominant media narrative is that Donald Trump continues to win the evangelical vote, and this storyline persists despite strong evidence to the contrary. Perhaps the intense media focus on evangelical leaders who support Trump, such as Jerry Falwell Jr., helps sustain this misleading account in spite of the fact that more mainstream evangelical leaders, such as Russell Moore and Max Lucado, have denounced Donald Trump. Regardless of the stance of evangelical leaders, what are “rank and file” evangelicals actually doing once they enter the voting booth?
In the March 1 “Super Tuesday” races, Trump failed to win a majority of evangelicals in any southern state and lost more than half of evangelicals, on average, overall. A look at the second Super Tuesday from March 15 reveals similar results with a couple of surprises. The bottom line is that a majority of evangelicals are still backing candidates other than Trump. In Missouri, the most religiously active voters are supporting non-Trump alternatives with numbers as high as 70 percent.
March 15 did see Trump carry an impressive 49 percent plurality of evangelicals in Florida, but that was the only state where he was able to perform that feat. Even those results seem tempered when, by comparison, Trump carried 50 percent of the Catholic vote there as well.
Still, even in Florida, Trump only garnered 19 percent of votes from those who chose their candidate based on “shared values.” This includes both Catholics and evangelicals. This hardly supports a conclusion that “values voters” are in Trump’s back pocket. In contrast, Cruz carried pluralities of evangelicals in Missouri (46 percent), North Carolina (43 percent), and Illinois ...1