August 4, 2021


EVANGELICALS VOTEEvangelicals broke for Cruz by 12 points over Trump in Iowa, but the tables turned in New Hampshire with Trump prevailing over Cruz by 4 points among evangelical voters (although reports vary). Religion News Service They were followed by Rubio and Kasich who were 10-12 points behind Cruz. Charisma News Notably, Ben Carson – for all his vaunted appeal among evangelicals – did not even place fourth in this bloc in New Hampshire.Several reasons have been put forth to explain Trump’s appeal to evangelicals despite his foul mouth and only recent ‘conversion’ to a pro-life position.

A long article in the American Spectator described how Trump ran an internally-dubbed “Christian values” ad in Iowa, flashing the Bible his mother gave him and promising evangelicals, “I will never let you down.” The ad was deliberately vague and did not mention any hot button issues. In this sense, it was a typical politician’s maneuver of ‘vote for the blank slate’. Thus, evangelicals were able to read into the ad a revolt against secularism. Also, Trump has scored points among evangelicals with his promise to bring back “Merry Christmas”.

Other evangelicals lean toward Trump because, as the analysis goes, he cannot be bought and can get the job done, even if he is a sinner and philanderer. This group is said to like Trump’s bluntness, politically incorrect tough talk, and his willingness to take on the establishment – the same reasons other Trumpsters like him. A Washington Times article suggested evangelicals do not always ‘vote their values’. Instead, they are swayed by job creation, homeland security, immigration issues, and Obamacare, just like other voters. This group is willing to overlook Trump’s past positions. Not even the biggest litmus test of all time – abortion – can dissuade them.

But there is a split among Christian leaders, some going all-in for Trump (Falwell, Jr.) and others not able to abide Trump’s pro-choice past and his failure to defend marriage. Values are still important to these values voters.

Splits among evangelicals are nothing new. In 2008, there was said to be a generational divide among younger and older white evangelicals on such issues as the Iraq war and the environment. The younger ones gravitated towards Obama in significant numbers. (Anonymous, Wall Street Journal, Nov 2008: p. A.22).

In fact, there are evangelicals on the Left, voting their values on income inequality, climate change, Syrian refugees, etc.

All of this raises an obvious question: is there really such a thing as the ‘evangelical vote’?

Be that as it may, born-again or evangelical voters make up two-thirds of the electorate in the South Carolina GOP primary. Evangelicals are expected to be more of a factor going forward than they were in New Hampshire.