President Donald Trump made another appeal to his white evangelical fan base on Monday, suggesting to a crowd of supporters that Democrats aren’t religious.
Speaking at a rally for the GOP congressional candidate in North Carolina’s special election, Trump warned that Democrats want to “dismantle” the achievements of his presidency.
“Our evangelicals are here tonight,” Trump said, pausing as he drew roaring applause from the crowd in Fayetteville, North Carolina. “What we’ve done for them and for religion is so important.”
Roughly 70% of white evangelical Protestants approve of the way Trump is handling his job as president, according to the Pew Research Center survey from January. The president has delivered on several key goals of this religious group, including advancing an anti-abortion agenda and stacking the federal judiciary with conservatives.
Trump mocked some Democrats’ recent attempts to appeal to religious voters.
“The other side, I don’t think they’re big believers. They’re not big believers in religion, that I can tell you,” Trump said. “You listen to some of them, they’re trying, they’re trying to put out little statements. They’re not working too well. Those statements are a little bit sort of not too good.”
Several Democratic presidential candidates, including former Vice President Joe Biden; South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg; and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, have spoken openly about how faith influences their politics.
Despite Trump’s suggestion, research has shown that religious beliefs are quite strong among most Democrats. Eighty-six percent of Democrats and those who lean Democratic say they believe in God, a higher power or a spiritual force, according to a 2018 Pew Research Center survey. Sixty-eight percent of the group said they try to talk to God, and 71% said they believed God has protected them in the past.
One of the biggest differences Pew researchers discovered between the parties on this question is what kind of god Democrats and Republicans believed in. While 70% of Republicans said they believe in God as described in the Bible, only 45% of Democrats said the same.
This reflects the fact that white Christians, particularly white evangelicals, are a dominant force in the GOP. Though about 73% of Republicans are white Christians, this demographic has slowly become a minority in the Democratic Party. Only 29% of Democrats today are white Christians, compared with 50% a decade ago, according to a 2017 survey from the Public Religion Research Institute.
There’s also a good deal of racial and religious diversity among Democrats, according to PRRI. The party tends to draw nonwhite Christians as well as a significant number of Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus.
And although religiously unaffiliated Americans are more likely to identify as Democrats than as Republicans, studies show that the vast majority of religious “nones” also say they believe in God or a higher power of some kind.
As Democrats’ religious affiliations shift, faith is still an important factor for many in the party.
“The religious, including those identifying as Christian, are still a major force in the party,” Washington Post reporter Eugene Scott wrote in an analysis this week. “One that no one seeking the White House thinks they can afford to alienate.”
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