Social scientists been analyzing data in effort to figure out exactly how President Trump captured the votes of 80 percent of white evangelical Protestants in the 2016 election, which was far more than the support he received from any other religious demographic.
President Trump, despite all of the unsavory scandals, still enjoys approval of approximately 78 percent of white evangelical Americans, according to a Pew Research Center survey.
Since Trump’s 2016 election win, some researchers have theorized that working class “economic anxiety” may explain the Trump support, while others had very different ideas about what exactly possessed a group that typically votes pursuant to their moral votes to vote for, well, Donald Trump.
In a recently published study by Oxford Academic, a team of sociologists claims there is a common thread that could explain why so manyevangelicals are willing to overlook Trump’s appalling behavior.
The study, Make America Christian Again: Christian Nationalism and Voting for Donald Trump in the 2016 Presidential Election, is outlined as followed:
“Why did Americans vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 Presidential election? Social scientists have proposed a variety of explanations, including economic dissatisfaction, sexism, racism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia. The current study establishes that, independent of these influences, voting for Trump was, at least for many Americans, a symbolic defense of the United States’ perceived Christian heritage. Data from a national probability sample of Americans surveyed soon after the 2016 election shows that greater adherence to Christian nationalist ideology was a robust predictor of voting for Trump, even after controlling for economic dissatisfaction, sexism, anti-black prejudice, anti-Muslim refugee attitudes, and anti-immigrant sentiment, as well as measures of religion, sociodemographics, and political identity more generally. These findings indicate that Christian nationalist ideology—although correlated with a variety of class-based, sexist, racist, and ethnocentric views—is not synonymous with, reducible to, or strictly epiphenomenal of such views. Rather, Christian nationalism operates as a unique and independent ideology that can influence political actions by calling forth a defense of mythological narratives about America’s distinctively Christian heritage and future.”
Andrew Whitehead, a sociologist at Clemson University, says the net result is an ideology called Christian Nationalism. This combines the religion with a protective sort of nationalism and seems to be defensible, to those who believe it, because of a strange sort of pragmatism.
In other words, it doesn’t really matter whether Trump’s words and actions are a horrible representation of Christianity — it only matters that he should be perceived as a Christian — in order to advance the narrative that the U.S. is fundamentally a Christian nation.