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Does Religious Participation Moderate Trump Voters' Attitudes about Diversity?

Sun, September 1, 8:00 to 9:30am, Hilton, Gunston East


Numerous studies have sought to explain the surprising rise of Donald Trump. However, Trump’s success among white evangelical Christians is particularly puzzling and remains unresolved. Trump’s explicit infidelity, lack of familiarity with Christian discourse (e.g. “two Corinthians”), and his refusal to engage in common Christian liturgy such as asking for forgiveness, would ostensibly disqualify him among devout Protestant voters. Yet, as Exit Polls have shown, Trump garnered 81% of the white evangelical Christian vote. Some scholars argue this is not surprising because they contend white Christians are more concerned with status defense than religious doctrine. However, white Christians vary significantly in the extent to which they actively participate in their faith. In this paper, I demonstrate that Trump voters who attend church weekly or more are significantly more likely than Trump voters who never or only rarely attend church to have favorable feelings toward African Americans, Latinos, Asians, Jewish people, Muslim people, and immigrants. These findings persist even when accounting for demographic factors such as education and income in regression models. Churchgoing Trump voters also take more liberal positions on a variety of issues compared to their nonreligious co-partisans. Churchgoers are less likely to support a border wall and are more likely to care about racial equality and poverty, and to support a pathway to citizenship. I then discuss several explanations about why churchgoing Trump voters are less likely to support the president’s key policy agenda. I examine how churchgoers having higher levels of social capital, greater satisfaction with personal relationships, frequent exposure to religious doctrine that preaches universal love, and the fact that they are less likely to define their identity in terms of race, may moderate attitudes.