Until recently, President Trump's most adamant supporters have been white evangelical Christians. However, new data suggests that while a majority still support him that percentage is slipping. Given Trump's tight win in 2016, if these loyalists waver in 2020, then the president's reelection prospects are in peril. Daniel Cox is a research fellow for polling and public opinion at the American Enterprise Institute. This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
White evangelical Protestants have been President Donald Trump's most vocal and committed supporters throughout his presidency. They were critical to his election in 2016, accounting for one-third of his voters, and may determine whether he serves a second term. But a new poll suggests that some of Trump's most devoted followers may not stick with him. At this stage in his 2016 campaign, Trump was leading his opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, by a considerable margin among white evangelical voters — according to a poll by the Pew Research Center in July 2016 Trump had the support of 78% of the group — even as a substantial number still expressed reservations about his candidacy. A new survey conducted by AEI finds that only 69% of white evangelical Protestant voters support Trump at this stage in the 2020 campaign. This is largely consistent with other recent polls that show Trump's slipping support among white evangelical Protestants. Crisis struggles It seems clear that Trump's response to the COVID-19 crisis has hurt him politically. The AEI survey finds that the public has become increasingly critical of Trump's response to the pandemic, even among his most loyal supporters. In a late March survey, nearly two-thirds (65%) of white evangelicals said Trump was handling the coronavirus very well, the new survey, conducted in late May to early June, reveals that only 44%of white evangelicals now judge his response very positively. It's true that a majority of white evangelical Protestants still approve of Trump's response to the coronavirus outbreak, but fewer are enthusiastic about his performance. Another reason for Trump's softening support among white evangelicals is that he continues to struggle with women voters and this weakness is showing up consistently across the electorate. A recent New York Times/Siena College poll shows Biden expanding on his lead with women voters, which now stands at 19-points advantage. The AEI survey reveals a sizable gender gap in the vote preferences of white evangelical Protestants as well. Among registered voters more than three-quarters (76%) of white evangelical men say they are supporting Trump compared to 63%of white evangelical women.There is another possible explanation that is not about Trump at all. Evidence suggests that Joe Biden does not scare conservatives the way other Democratic candidates do. And it's not simply his politics. Adam Serwer argues in The Atlantic that Biden presents a unique challenge to Trump because he does not arouse the ire of conservative white Christians in the same way that Clinton and Obama did. "Biden's electability pitch was not just about being moderate relative to the rest of the primary field, but also about being a straight, Christian, white man, one whom Republicans would find difficult to paint as a dire threat to America as conservative white voters understand it," Serwer wrote. A recent Fox News poll finds that more than one-in-three (36%) white evangelical Protestants report having a favorable view of Joe Biden. In contrast, only 12% of white evangelical Protestants expressed a positive view of Clinton in 2016. Presidential elections have traditionally been understood to be referendums on the incumbent's performance; however, in this case, the fact that white evangelical Protestants dislike Joe Biden far less than Hillary Clinton could prove to be significant. Throughout his presidency, Trump has effectively portrayed a diversifying Democratic Party as an existential threat to conservative Christian culture. And in Trump white evangelical Protestants have seen an advocate and ally for their cause. A recent Pew Research Center survey found that most white evangelical Protestants believe that the Trump administration is actively representing their interests. Perhaps more importantly white evangelical Protestants, who have suffered a series of setbacks in the broader culture war, believe that their side finally has the advantage. White evangelical Protestants believe much of American culture is overtly hostile to their values. They see religion in decline and widespread discrimination against Christians. But under Trump a majority of white evangelicals now believe that "their side" is winning, a dramatic shift over the last couple years. No one should expect white evangelicals to wholesale abandon Trump. White evangelical Protestants are a dedicated Republican constituency and have remained fiercely loyal to Trump. In fact, over the last 10 years they have become much more Republican in their partisan attachments. But clearly enthusiasm for Trump has ebbed. If many wavering white evangelical voters end up supporting Trump in the end, his overall level of support in 2020 may not look that different from 2016, but if Trump's most loyal supporters are not completely committed to his reelection, he is almost certainly in a perilous position. Daniel Cox is a research fellow for polling and public opinion at the American Enterprise Institute.SEE ALSO: The GOP's stupid crusade against Obamacare Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: A cleaning expert reveals her 3-step method for cleaning your entire home quickly
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Summary List Placement President Donald Trump's reelection campaign fears that the president will lose to Joe...Summary List Placement President Donald Trump's reelection campaign fears that the president will lose to Joe Biden because of his insistence of repeating attack lines that he used against Hillary Clinton in 2016, according to multiple reports. News reports over the weekend added to the growing list of worries for the Trump campaign, with 17 million voters having already submitted their ballots, and 15 days until in-person voting. Much polling data shows showing Biden leading Trump: An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted between October 9 and October 12 found Biden leading Trump 53% to 42%, and a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted between October 13 and October 15 found Biden ahead 45% to 36%. As Business Insider previously reported, such results match with other recent polls that show Trump behind Biden by 10 points or more. Doubt persists in Trump's own campaign that they are taking the most effective approach, much of it aimed at the president himself, sources told The New York Times and The Associated Press. Four campaign officials and Republicans close to the White House told the AP that many worry that Trump's campaign is proving ineffective because has struggled to define Biden and is relying on old talking points, like the Russia probe. The AP noted that Trump's attempts to re-use the attacks that he used against Clinton in the last election haven't been seen to damage Biden. Brendan Buck, a former adviser to Republican House Speakers Paul Ryan and John Boehner, told the AP that Trump is being misled by an "echo chamber" of advisors and cheering crowds. The Times reported that his choice to target Biden's son, Hunter, will likely not connect beyond his already-enthusiastic base. As Business Insider's Tom Porter reported last week, multiple reports had already pointed to growing fears within both the White House and the Republican party of a Biden victory. Those fears were reportedly deepened by Trump's performance in his debate with Biden and his coronavirus diagnosis. The Times noted that Trump's team are telling Republicans that they expect to do better than the polls suggest.Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Why some Hong Kong skyscrapers have gaping holes
Summary List Placement Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden maintains a sizable but steady lead over President...Summary List Placement Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden maintains a sizable but steady lead over President Donald Trump in the 2020 election, according to two national polls released on Sunday. Among likely voters, a New York Times/Siena College poll showed Biden leading Trump 49%-41%, while a Washington Post/ABC Poll found Biden ahead 54%-44%. The Times/Siena College poll, with a 3.5% margin of error and conducted from Sept. 22-24, after the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, revealed that voters would prefer the winner of the presidential election to choose Ginsburg's replacement by a 56%-41% margin. On Saturday, President Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative 48-year-old judge on the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, to replace Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. Democrats are firmly opposed to the pick, not only because they fear that the Affordable Care Act and abortion rights would be a risk with a Barrett appointment, but they're still seething over the refusal of Senate Republicans to consider Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court in 2016, a presidential election year. "More striking, the voters Mr. Trump and endangered Senate Republicans must reclaim to close the gap in the polls are even more opposed to a hasty pick: 62 percent of women, 63 percent of independents and 60 percent of college-educated white voters said they wanted the winner of the campaign to fill the seat," The Times reported. Some other key findings from the Times/Siena College poll: Sixty percent (60%) of voters said abortion "should be legal all or some of the time," compared to 33% who want to ban or severely curtail the procedure. Biden and Trump are both tied with men at 45%, but Biden has a 16% lead with women (53%-37%). Biden has a narrow lead (48%-45%) with seniors over 65, a group that Democrats haven't won in a presidential election since Al Gore in 2000. The Washington Post/ABC poll, with a 3.5% margin of error and conducted from Sept. 21-24, showed a massive gender gap which would likely be historic if the results hold true on Election Day. "Trump has a lead of 55 percent to 42 percent among male likely voters, but Biden has an even larger 65 percent to 34 percent advantage among female likely voters," the Post reported. "Trump's lead among men is about the same as his margin over Hillary Clinton in 2016, but Biden's lead among women is more than twice as large as Clinton's was then." Some other key findings from the Washington Post/ABC poll: A clear majority of voters (57%) believe the winner of the presidential election should fill Ginsburg's seat, with 38% saying that Trump should nominate a new justice. Roughly 70% of Biden supporters feel that a Trump reelection would represent a crisis, opposed to 59% of Trump voters who feel the same way about Biden. Trump is still seen positively when it comes to the economy, with 52% of likely voters approving of his performance on the issue. Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: A cleaning expert reveals her 3-step method for cleaning your entire home quickly