In what felt like an election night full of unexpected surprises, one thing was a constant: White evangelical voters voted the same as they always do.
Exit polls from last night’s election show 81 percent of white evangelicals supported Trump, as opposed to 16 percent who voted for Clinton. This is nearly identical to statistics in the 2012 election (79 percent Romney to 20 percent Obama), the 2004 election (79 percent Bush to 21 percent Kerry) and higher than the 2008 election (73 percent McCain to 26 percent Obama). The McCain dip is telling. Despite being highly qualified in foreign policy and economically conservative, McCain’s history of being socially moderate failed to rally the white evangelical vote.
In contrast, Trump’s lack of foreign policy experience and conflicting history of political views took a backdrop to his pledge to fight for the unborn, for Christian religious freedom and to nominate a Christian Supreme Court. All this leads to a completely predictable conclusion: White evangelicals are still largely single (or in this case double)-issue voters. What has shifted in the intervening years is the non-white contingent of evangelical Christians who are far more nuanced in their political views.
While the current available breakdown of voters doesn’t show how the evangelical vote separated by race, there’s little doubt minority candidates voted significantly different from their white evangelical counterparts. According to a Lifeway poll leading up to the election, 62 percent of minority evangelical voters supported Clinton, and while Clinton failed to mobilized the Latino and black community the way Obama did, she still carried the overwhelming majority of those who voted.
This is significant for the American evangelical church which is mirroring the country in its growing ethnic diversity. According to the Pew Research Center, there was a sizable growth in the Latino segment of the evangelical community between 2007 and 2014, and there is every reason to assume that trend is still happening. The problem with this is Latino and Hispanic voters overwhelmingly rejected Trump’s presidential bid due to Trump’s repeatedly divisive statements regarding immigration and Mexico.
In other words, the presidential choice of white evangelicals may have won, but the fight for racial unity in the American church is far from over.