A new survey shows evangelicals and atheists are sharply divided over which presidential candidate to support in 2016. The Pew Research Center study released last week finds that nearly four out of five evangelicals back Donald Trump, while two-thirds of atheists and agnostics plan to support Hillary Clinton. Each constituency makes up about 20 percent of the voting population.
Ken Blackwell, a senior fellow at the Family Research Council, said the data suggest the political parties are becoming increasingly polarized on religious grounds. He attributed the phenomenon to the Obama Administration’s effort to drive faith from the public square, drawing a backlash from evangelicals with a broader view of what religious liberty entails.
“I think without question the Obama Administration has been very aggressive in trying to relegate the practice of religion to the four corners of houses of worship,” Mr. Blackwell said. “Therefore, the resistance to that sort of narrowing of the concept of religious freedom has grown more intense on the other side.”
Nearly half of white evangelicals report that it has become more difficult to live their faith in the last several years. And 82 percent of white evangelicals who say it’s harder to be an evangelical today support Mr. Trump. Meanwhile, 66 percent of atheists and agnostics said they’re backing Clinton, which is consistent with the number of secular voters who supported President Obama in 2012.
Despite questions about the billionaire businessman’s biblical acumen and concerns over his multiple divorces, evangelicals appear to be backing Mr. Trump in greater numbers than they did Mitt Romney, a devout Mormon.
Although Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton have both said their favorite book is the Bible, the need for religious pandering from the chief executive may be drawing to an end. Just 62 percent of Americans said having a president with strong religious beliefs is important to them, the survey found, down from 67 percent in 2012 and 72 percent in 2008.
Clearly, President Obama’s tenure has coincided with the secularization of America.
While those who hold to a strict belief in salvation by faith in Christ alone are strongly unified behind Trump, and those who question God’s existence are squarely in Clinton’s corner, race remains a far more reliable predictor of one’s political views. White Protestants overwhelmingly back Trump, while 89 percent of black Protestants support Clinton, along with 77 percent of Hispanic Catholics.
About the Author
Bradford Richardson is a contributing writer to The Washington Times. He writes a daily column focused on religion, culture, and ethics.