Annexation? Most U.S. Evangelicals Have Other Things on Their Mind Right Now

WASHINGTON – The streets of the capital saw many protests over the past week, and most of them were larger and noisier than the one that took place between Capitol Hill and the White House on Sunday afternoon. Yet despite the fact that this particular demonstration attracted only about 1,000 people, in terms of political significance it could turn out to be just as important.

What stood out about this particular demonstration was that its organizers and most participants were evangelical Christians – a group that is usually associated with the right wing in U.S. politics. These evangelicals, however, were protesting against police violence and carrying “Black Lives Matter” placards.

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They were joined briefly by Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, the only Republican lawmaker in Washington today who has consistently challenged President Donald Trump. In some evangelical churches, Romney would probably be treated as a pariah for standing up to the president. Among the marchers on Sunday, he was welcomed as a hero.

The demonstration was a reminder that evangelicals, who make up some 25 percent of the U.S. electorate, are not a uniform group. The vast majority support Trump and the Republican Party, as evidenced by the 2016 presidential election and 2018 midterm elections, when approximately 80 percent of them supported Trump and Republican candidates.

But precisely because of how large their representation is among American voters, even small shifts of opinion among evangelicals could have dramatic consequences for the U.S. political landscape. This is especially true for Trump, who will likely need to receive the same amount of support among evangelicals as in 2016 to secure reelection in November.

A recent poll by the Pew Research Center, conducted before the current wave of protests, showed that Trump has reason to worry. The survey showed that evangelical Christians give him the highest marks among all U.S. religious and demographic groups for his handling of the coronavirus crisis, but that even among this supportive group, small cracks are forming. In the poll from mid-May, 75 percent of white evangelicals gave the president good marks for his handling of the crisis. However, in an earlier poll from mid-March, the number was 81 percent.

“Trump has almost no wiggle room when it comes to evangelical support for him,” says Prof. Darrell Bock, a New Testament scholar who is himself an evangelical Christian. He he also conducted opinion polls to gauge views within the evangelical community.