Why Are Evangelicals Who Voted For Clinton Leaving Their Faith?

MARC NOZELL is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Politics and religion are two divisive elements of society that are becoming more intertwined according to recent studies and researcher speculation.

According to the Democracy Fund’s Voter Study Group, evangelicals who voted for the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, were far more likely to not consider themselves evangelicals following the 2016 presidential election than their Republican counterparts. Roughly 16% of Democrat-registered evangelicals shed their religious designation between the outset and conclusion of the voter survey. This number is compared with a mere 9% of voters for the Republican party, leading the researchers to conjecture about this disparity, an apparent self-inflicted loss of religious identification following the election. 

Unwelcome Ideologies

The marriage between political and religious ideologies is partly to blame for the Clinton voters leaving behind their evangelical nature. Religious and political views are becoming conflated, with many religious voters using their faith as a moral compass for deciding whom to support during election cycles. However, not all individuals who identified as evangelical agreed with using their faith as the deciding factor in their political votes.

Some researchers believe that the Democratic evangelicals were less likely to follow the political doctrine implied or stated by their churches, many of which thought that Donald Trump, while not perfect, was palatable to their sensibilities. Believing that their viewpoints on political elements were not welcome in such church environments, evangelicals began to leave their churches in apparent droves, accounting for much of the 16% of voters who dropped the religious classification.  

What About The Other Side?

As previously mentioned, not all people who voted for Donald Trump continued to identify as evangelicals. However, significantly more stayed the course, apparently due to fear of the future. Some researchers claim that the reason that more Republican evangelicals remained was that their political and religious views aligned.

Recent years under President Obama had seen the rise of pro-gay sentiments and laws and came with a sneaking suspicion that the president was not a Christian. Donald Trump represented the ability to halt the frightening vision of the future and to restore a sense of normalcy as advocated by the church. Several evangelical denominations were sure that they had been under attack for the past eight years, and could not allow such strikes against their faith remain unanswered by supporting Hillary Clinton. Thus, researchers believe evangelical groups threw their significant numbers into support for Donald Trump hoping that his administration would fight back against the tyranny they saw in the unfamiliar political landscape. 

Aside from that idea that the Democratic evangelicals felt as though their political values were under attack, others found the ongoing blend of religion and politics forced them to draw a line between what was considered acceptable for a candidate’s behavior. Democratic candidates who left their evangelical lives behind them after the vote had to choose to between two individuals representing apparent polar opposites in terms of temperament and beliefs.

In the end, the Republican evangelicals were far more concerned with having their needs as religious individuals met than having a candidate that falls in line with their values. As long as Donald Trump’s administration supports evangelical ideologies, then the morality of Trump as an individual does not matter. In the case of evangelical support, as in many other aspects of life, the ends justify the means.  

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