How can we understand the role of religion in Republican Donald Trump’s victory?
One interpretation is that religion heavily influenced the outcome, as Trump won regular churchgoers in spite of his own unchristian rhetoric and actions. After struggling among white Catholics this summer, Trump won this key demographic 60 percent to 37 percent.
And despite strident warnings from a few courageous leaders about Trump’s moral unfitness for office, overwhelming support from white evangelicals handed President-elect Trump a resounding Electoral College victory.
According to exit polls, Trump matched or exceeded George W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney’s impressive vote totals from white Christians.
But that interpretation is flawed. The 2016 election was not primarily a religion story.
Americans voted largely along the lines of race, education, and party identification. Nonwhites strongly preferred Clinton, while whites decisively chose Trump. Compared with past Republicans, the businessman received a stunning surge of votes from non-college-educated white voters.
None of this is surprising.
And yet the result upends so much conventional wisdom. We were told the GOP had to broaden its outreach to nonwhites and support immigration reform. Robert P. Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institute, published a book this year called “The End of White Christian America.”
But with white Christians growing the GOP’s electoral base and turning out to ensure Trump’s election, it’s clear that white Christian America is not dead yet.
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