Evangelical Christians are a major part of the Republican voting base and I was curious about how they felt about Donald Trump, since he does not seem to be particularly religious. At least, he does not talk about god at every opportunity. Sarah Posner writes that Trump has split the evangelicals along unusual lines, with so-called ‘born again’ Christians being less favorable to him, and those evangelicals who do like him being those who care more about projections of American machismo than they do about religion.
But Reuters/Ipsos polling gives us a tiny and interesting window in its ongoing survey of respondents’ views on the presidential candidates. In that polling, there’s some evidence that “born-again” (that’s Reuters/Ipsos’s classification) Republicans who attend church frequently don’t like Trump as much as other Republicans do.
For example, as of last weekend, Trump was polling among Republicans at 24.9. percent, with Ben Carson in second place at 10.3 percent. But when you look at only born-again Republicans, Trump’s support drops to 19 percent and Carson’s rises to 15 percent, with Mike Huckabee coming in third with 12 percent. If you further winnow that to born-again Republican respondents who attend church nearly weekly or more, Trump’s support dips again, down to 13 percent (tied with Huckabee), behind Ben Carson’s 22 percent by nine points.
Trump is the first Republican presidential candidate in the post-Reagan era to pin his campaign on a macho, chest-beating, self-aggrandizing view of what America is without invoking either his own salvation testimony or a paean to America as a Christian nation. For Trump, America is Trumpnation, not a Christian nation. What’s appealing to Christian nation diehards is often not the notion of America as a pious nation, but rather the affirmation that America is strong, brave, or just generally the best. For Trump, America risks not being the best anymore not because of the decline of religion (typically the heart of Christian nation ideology), but because of the rise of immigration.
Trump is opening up many fault lines in what had been a fairly solid Republican party base and it is clear that it is causing some consternation.