Some White Christians Abandoning Trump, Pew Survey Finds

Researchers noted a decline in support for Trump among white Christians did not necessarily indicate a significant boost for Democratic candidate Joe Biden.

President Donald Trump holds a Bible outside St. John’s Church across Lafayette Park from the White House on June 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

(CN) — White Christians, a backbone of President Donald Trump’s support in the electorate, still back the Republican incumbent in large numbers but that support has slipped in recent weeks, the Pew Research Center reported Tuesday.

The finding comes from a survey of 10,543 registered voters the nonpartisan polling and research center conducted at the end of September and the early part of October, as Trump came off the chaotic first presidential debate and announced he had contracted Covid-19.

The president still enjoys strong support from white Evangelical protestants, white non-evangelical protestants and white Catholics, according to Pew. While 42% of all the registered voters surveyed by Pew would have cast ballots for the sitting president if the election were held the day they were asked between Sept. 30 and Oct. 5, 78% of white evangelical protestants would have voted to reelect Trump. Similarly, 53% of white, non-evangelical protestants and 52% of white Catholics supported Trump at the beginning of October.

But the poll also signals a drop in support. When Pew asked voters similar questions in late July and early August, 83% of white evangelicals said they backed Trump, which was 5 percentage points high than the latest survey.

While 59% of white, non-evangelical protestants told researchers they backed Trump in the August survey, support for the president’s reelection dropped 6 points with that group when the question was asked at the beginning of October. Similarly, Trump saw a 7-point drop in support among white Catholics from when 59% supported him in Pew’s August survey.

However, Pew researchers noted a decline in support for Trump among white Christians did not necessarily indicate a significant boost for former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic challenger.  

“Some of it went to Biden, although it was not a statistically significant increase in support for Biden,” Greg Smith, associate director of research at Pew, told Courthouse News in an interview. “Some of it went to third-party candidates. And it’s impossible to know for sure but part of that could simply reflect the fact that we changed the way we asked the questions.”

In August, Smith said, Pew asked respondents about their support for just Biden and Trump. In the October survey, Pew queried respondents about their support for Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins and the Libertarian Party’s Jo Jorgenson as well.

The survey comes at a time when the Trump campaign continues to target Christians, particularly evangelicals, in its outreach. It hosts weekly prayer calls and Trump’s personal pastor is scheduled to appear at an event in Cleveland, Ohio, on Tuesday evening.

Meanwhile, a newly formed political action committee, Not Our Faith, is attempting to undercut that support. The bipartisan group released an ad it hopes will resonate with Christian voters in Pennsylvania and Michigan, according to an Associated Press report.

“Christians don’t need Trump to save them,” the one-minute, 10-second ad said. “The truth is that Trump needs Christians to save his flailing campaign.”

The October survey, Smith said, relied on respondents self-identifying as evangelical or born-again.

While the survey’s methodology overall had a margin of error of 1.5 percentage points, Smith said the margin of error for white evangelical respondents alone was 3.4 percentage points. The margin of error for non-evangelical white protestants and white Catholics was 3.6%.

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