For some time now there has been a coalition of evangelical Protestants, Catholics, and Mormons, joining forces to advance conservative causes, especially around opposition to abortion, pornography, and equal rights for the LGBT community. This alliance has provided a reliable voting bloc for the Republican party too.
But Neil J. Young writes that the coalition may be fraying because of the candidacy of Donald Trump. In a recent poll, Catholics were found to favor Hillary Clinton by a margin of 55-32%.
As early as August 2015, the independent Catholic news site Crux noted that Trump’s aggressive anti-immigration stance put him at odds with Catholic bishops who were lobbying Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Writing in National Review earlier this summer, the political scientist Michael J. New commented that Trump’s “Catholic problem” likely stemmed from Trump’s harsh rhetoric on Latino immigrants who many American Catholics see positively as the future of their church, but also because of Trump’s attacks on Pope Francis.
McKay Coppins said that Mormons also don’t generally approve of Trump’s hardline stances against immigrants
On immigration, for example, the hard-line proposals that have rallied Trump’s fans — like building a massive wall along the country’s southern border to keep immigrants out — are considerably less likely to fire up conservative Latter-day Saints. The LDS church has spent years lobbying for “compassionate” immigration reform. In 2011, church leaders offered a full-throated endorsement of “the Utah Compact,” a state legislative initiative that discouraged deporting otherwise law-abiding undocumented immigrants and offered a path to residency for families that would be separated by deportation. These pro-immigrant attitudes are common among rank-and-file believers, many of whom have served missions in Latin American countries. Mormons are more than twice as likely as evangelicals to say they support “more immigration” to the United States, according to Notre Dame political scientist David Campbell. And a 2012 Pew survey found Mormons were more likely to say immigrants “strengthen” the country than they were to call immigrants an overall “burden.”
Of course, Mormons comprise less than 2% of the total population and only Utah’s electoral votes are highly dependent on them and it is still tilting his favor. Catholics make up 25% of the population.
But Trump’s support among evangelicals remains strong and maybe even stronger than for previous Republican nominees, compensating for his losses elsewhere. As Young writes, “evangelicals’ overwhelming support for Trump offers damning evidence that they care more about political power than principles in this election cycle.” But I think that evangelical commitment to power over principles has been in evidence for much longer than this cycle. It is just that Trump’s candidacy has made that preference more manifest.