PRRI’s 10th annual 2019 American Values Survey released Monday paints a picture of a highly polarized electorate. Though health care is the highest rated issue overall (65 percent), followed by terrorism (54 percent), Democrats and Republicans do not share any of the top policy concerns. “Democrats are most likely to regard health care (77%) as critical. But Democrats rate climate change (72%) and foreign interference in presidential elections (63%) as the next most critical issues. By contrast, Republicans’ top three critical issues are terrorism (63%), immigration (60%), and crime (50%).”

Support for impeachment continues to increase, although the partisan divide is sharp. “Prior to the launch of the House impeachment inquiry, 47% of Americans said that Trump should be impeached and removed from office, compared to a majority (53%) of Americans who disagreed.” While “Republican white evangelical Protestants (99%) and Republicans who say Fox News is their primary source of news (98%) oppose Trump being impeached and removed from office,” an increasing share of Democrats and independents support impeachment and removal.

Trump is an effective party recruiter — for Democrats. “More than one in four (27%) say they have become more likely to think of themselves as Democrats, fewer than one in five (17%) say they have become more likely to think of themselves as independents, and only 13% report they have become more likely to think of themselves as Republicans.”

While Trump’s approval remains underwater, Democrats should exercise caution in their choice of a presidential nominee. “Almost two-thirds (65%) of Americans say they are certain about the candidate they will support in November 2020. Nearly four in ten (37%) say they will support the Democratic candidate over President Donald Trump no matter who the Democrat is, and nearly three in ten (28%) say they will support Donald Trump no matter who becomes the Democratic nominee. Notably, one-third (33%) of Americans say their vote will depend on who wins the Democratic primary.” Moreover, opposition to Trump is more intense and fixed than is his support, “with three in four (75%) saying there is almost nothing Trump could do to win their approval. … Americans who approve of Trump’s job performance are more open to the idea of changing their mind: Two-thirds (66%) say he could do something to lose their approval.”

The good news for Democrats is the high percentage of Americans overall who agree with their progressive policy stances — “making college tuition free at public institutions (68%), making recreational use of marijuana legal (67%), and a ‘Medicare for All’ plan that would replace private health insurance with government-backed health insurance coverage for all Americans (63%). About one in three Americans strongly favor each of these proposals.”

Right now, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) leads the Democratic field in net favorability among Democrats and Democratic leaners with 55 percent. He is followed by former vice president Joe Biden with 46 percent and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) with 43 percent, then Sen. Kamala D. Harris (31 percent).

Whatever the issue (favorability, impeachment, personal conduct, stirring white nationalism), white evangelical Christians remain far more supportive of Trump than any other subset of the electorate. For example, “Nearly two-thirds (63%) of white evangelical Protestants say Trump has not damaged the dignity of the office. Majorities of all other major religious groups agree that Trump has damaged the dignity of the presidency.” Likewise, “Majorities of nearly every demographic group, with the exception of white evangelical Protestants and Republicans, say Trump’s conduct makes them less likely to support him.”

White evangelical Christians are much more likely to reflect male resentment (e.g., society is too feminine, society punishes men for being men) than any other group. In short, Trump (his personality, his prejudices, his anti-immigrant sentiment, his climate change denial, etc.) almost perfectly matches up with white evangelicals but runs counter to other groups in American society (e.g., nonwhites, non-Christians). His cultlike status among these voters contrasts with the animosity he engenders among most other segments of the population.

Opposition to child separation runs high (about 75 percent), although evangelicals are far less averse to it than are other Americans. “Nearly four in ten (39%) white evangelicals support this policy, compared to 57% who oppose this policy. By contrast, only 28% of white mainline Protestants, 22% of Hispanic Protestants and 18% of black Protestants.” A majority of Americans favor more restrictive immigration policies, but “white evangelical Protestants (85%) are more likely than white mainline Protestants (66%) to be in favor of placing restrictions on immigration, and both groups are remarkably more supportive of restrictive policies than are Hispanic Protestants (53%) and black Protestants (45%).” Big majorities think immigrants are hard-working and family-oriented, but white evangelicals are much less likely to believe so.

There are a few takeaways from the survey.

First, Trump (along with those who espouse his brand of right-wing nativism and know-nothingism) is hugely dependent on the overwhelming support of white evangelicals, but in doubling and tripling down on positions and conduct that pleases this core part of his base, he winds up turning off more of the electorate.

Second, that makes evangelicals out of step with the majority of Americans on everything from immigration to climate change to impeachment to beliefs about gender and race. If they feel like a minority on issues ranging from gender to climate change, they are. Their burning resentment toward “elites” masks a more fundamental alienation from a majority of all Americans.

Third, Trump and the GOP’s hyper-dependence on white evangelicals is an electoral problem, given the declining number of white evangelicals who are aging and seeing significant drop off among millennials. Each election it becomes harder to win outside deep red environs.

In sum, we may be “two Americas,” but they are not equal. Trump and Republicans’ segment is smaller than the rest and is shrinking over time. Republicans are playing a losing hand as the electorate as a whole becomes more diverse and identifies with progressives on policy and cultural issues. It turns out, math matters.

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