White House press secretary Sarah Sanders kicked up a bit of dust recently when she told the Christian television network CBN that she believed that God wanted Donald Trump to be president.
“I think God calls all of us to fill different roles at different times,” she said, “and I think that he wanted Donald Trump to become president, and that’s why he’s there. And I think he has done a tremendous job in supporting a lot of the things that people of faith really care about.”
It’s an argument that much of the country would seemingly disagree with, given that Trump’s job approval numbers remain low and that he lost the popular vote in 2016. But Sanders was probably expressing a view with which many, if not most, of those watching CBN agreed.
We can say that because Fox News included a question echoing Sanders’s sentiment in its most recent poll. (To be clear, this is not a poll conducted among Fox New viewers but a standard, live-caller political poll.) The pollsters asked Americans whether they believed that God wanted Trump to be president. Most said they didn’t — but a quarter of the country agreed with Sanders.
Diving a bit deeper into the poll numbers, though, an interesting pattern develops.
Unsurprisingly, groups that more strongly support the president were more likely to believe that he has, if not a mandate, then at least the imprimatur of a higher power.
Nearly half of Republicans, 45 percent, believe that God wanted Trump to be president, with another 18 percent indicating that they weren’t sure. More than half of white evangelical Protestants — 55 percent — said that God endorsed Trump. Only 3 in 10 evangelicals said categorically that they didn’t think Trump had God’s explicit support in the election.
There’s been a remarkable surge in the partisan divide among evangelicals over the past decade. In 2009, Pew Research Center found that 63 percent of evangelicals identified as Republican, about 35 percentage points more than the number that identified as Democrat. From 1994 to 2009, the average gap in party identification was about 31 points.
After 2009, that gap widened significantly. Now, 77 percent of evangelicals identify as Republican, a gap of 59 points from those who identify as Democrats.
In Pew’s polling, that makes evangelicals one of the most fervently partisan demographic groups.
The Fox poll suggests something else about Trump’s presidency, as noted on Twitter by Bloomberg News’s Steven Dennis: It’s hard to see how Trump could ever lose the support of the quarter of Americans who believe he was chosen by God to serve in his position. Trump’s political base is larger than 25 percent, but that 25 percent — those 45 percent of Republicans — seem unlikely to withdraw their support.
It’s worth highlighting, too, that last part of Sanders’s comments, that Trump “has done a tremendous job in supporting a lot of the things that people of faith really care about.” This is true: Trump has put a pointed focus on issues of importance to the evangelical community, explicitly to cement their political support.
The Fox poll suggests that this strategy has been effective.