If the election were held today, 78 percent of white evangelicals say they would support Donald Trump, just as 73 percent said in June 2012 that they would vote for Republican nominee Mitt Romney. Among non-religious voters, 67 percent say they would vote for Hillary Clinton, as 68 percent said they would vote for Barack Obama.
These bastions of support for both candidates are key: White evangelicals and non-religious people each make up about a fifth of the electorate, Pew said.
“The religious contours of this election season and this campaign look an awful lot like what we saw in 2012, which in turn looked an awful lot like 2008 and 2004,” said Greg Smith, one of the lead researchers who conducted the poll. “We saw a lot more continuity than we see change.”
Overall, the poll found Clinton ahead, 51 to 42 percent.
Earlier polls of evangelical Christians had suggested that the most devout — those who attend church every week — were less likely to support Trump in the Republican primary. This poll shows a different dynamic in the general election, finding that evangelicals are just as likely to vote for Trump regardless of how often they attend services.
That’s not to say they necessarily approve of Trump. Forty-five percent of them said their vote was mainly a vote against Clinton, while 30 percent said it was mainly a vote for Trump.
But that’s not unusual either — even fewer of the same voters, just 23 percent, said in June 2012 that they were affirmatively supporting Romney, who was the first Mormon presidential nominee. About the same number of white evangelicals, 44 percent, said they were voting to vote against Obama.
“There were many evangelical leaders throughout the course of the primaries and even up to today who have raised concerns about Trump and raised questions about how he reflects Christian values,” Smith said. “I wouldn’t necessarily say it means evangelical voters are not listening to evangelical leaders. The commitment of evangelical voters to the Republican party is quite strong.”
One difference from 2012: Trump enjoys significantly more enthusiasm among white evangelicals — 36 percent say their support for him is strong, compared with 26 percent who felt strongly in favor of Romney in 2012.
Clinton, by contrast, lacks that sort of support within her most favorable religious demographic. Twenty-six percent of non-religious adults say they are strongly backing her, compared with 37 percent who felt strongly in favor of Obama in June 2012.
Pew also found that voters across religious groups, especially “nones” who don’t believe in a religion, are more engaged in this campaign than they were in the last. Ninety percent of nones, compared with 61 percent in 2012, say they’re following the election closely. In 2012, the nones, who tend to be younger than most Americans, were the very least likely religious group to say they were following the campaign, lagging at least 9 points behind all other groups.
If that spike in interest translates to more non-religious voters showing up at the polls, it could be a boon for Clinton.
The study also attempted to answer concerns about whether Democrats who wanted Bernie Sanders nominated instead of Clinton would come around to vote for Clinton, and the answer seemed to be a very clear “yes” for most of them. Of non-religious voters who wanted Sanders to win the nomination, 87 percent told Pew they would vote for Clinton and 7 percent said they would vote for Trump.
The study found that black Protestants strongly support Clinton — 89 percent of them — and white mainline Protestants are more evenly split, with 50 percent saying they support Trump and 39 percent saying they support Clinton.
Hispanic Catholics are highly likely to vote for Clinton — 77 percent say they plan to — while white Catholics are split, 50 percent for Trump and 46 percent for Clinton, Pew said.
Smith said the pollsters’ phone interviews with 2,245 adults reached fewer than 100 Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Mormons or Orthodox Christians, so the study was only able to examine the preferences of Catholics, Protestants and non-religious people.
Scott Clement contributed to this report.
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