Recent polling suggests that support for the impeachment inquiry to determine if President Trump committed high crimes and misdemeanors in his conversations with the president of the Ukraine is high enough, even among his core supporters, to cause the White House some real concern. Given the president’s consistent low approval with a majority of Americans, any indication that he is losing support among his base could be detrimental to his reelection plans.
According to a Fox News poll released Wednesday, 51 percent of Americans want Trump impeached and removed from office — including nearly 3 in 10 white evangelicals. The poll shows that fewer than 70 percent of white evangelicals want Trump in office. Support for Trump among this group of voters has been largely unmovable through ethics scandals, to include paying off women with whom the president allegedly had affairs, and such policies as the administration’s reductions in refugee admissions, notably those fleeing religious persecution. But the number of evangelicals who want Trump to exit the Oval Office due to concerns about his ethics is not insignificant.
The majority of white evangelicals — 71 percent — continue to support Trump, according to the poll, but that’s 10 points lower than the 81 percent that backed him over Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Alan Noble, editor of Christ and Pop Culture, a magazine covering Christian culture, said it is possible that some evangelical supporters of Trump are exhausted by the daily grind of this presidency and would welcome an off-ramp.
“My guess is that there have always been a nontrivial number of uncomfortable Trump supporters — evangelicals who tend to feel exhausted by politics and who held their nose to vote for Trump in 2016,” he told The Fix. “Evangelicals who love Trump’s [Supreme Court] appointments but cringe at his rhetoric. For people in that space, they might just need a serious enough event to push them from indifferent and begrudging support for Trump to private support for impeachment.”
Other white evangelicals — including some of the president’s most vocal supporters — have taken to airing their disapproval of Trump’s most recent foreign policy solution: abandoning the United States’ Kurdish allies in Syria.
Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network, took to his television program to criticize Trump’s move as going against Scripture.
“I believe . . . the president of the United States is in danger of losing the mandate of heaven if he permits this to happen,” Robertson said during the Monday episode of his CBN show, “The 700 Club.”
Franklin Graham, one of Trump’s key advisers, took to social media to get Trump’s attention — a method many close to the president have said is an effective way to influence him.
“The Kurds are the ones who have been leading the fight against ISIS in Syria,” he tweeted, referring to the Islamic State militant group. “Also pray for the Christians who the Kurds have been protecting. They could be annihilated. Would you pray w/me that Pres. @realDonaldTrump will reconsider? Thousands of lives hang in the balance.”
The reaction has surprised even some within evangelicalism, considering how supportive many within the group are of the president.
“Syria has been striking because the response has been overwhelmingly negative,” Noble, a professor at Oklahoma Baptist University, told The Fix. “It’s hard to think of an action by this administration that has almost no support at all.”
“If Turkey continues their invasion and citizens — especially Christians — continue to be killed, I would not be surprised to see even more white evangelicals sour on the president,” he added.
It’s a long time — 13 months — until Trump will need to call on that support for his reelection, and it’s entirely possible that what we have seen this week will just be a blip. But this week has to have people in his camp on their toes.