'In need of redemption': Evangelicals sour on Trump as 2024 run looms
Donald Trump (Photo by Robyn Beck for AFP).

Support for former President Donald Trump is waning among some key constituencies, including women, recent studies and analyses show. Trump's unorthodox behavior may also cause a rift between Americans who identify as evangelical and the Republican Party — a more serious shift that could have long-term implications for the party.

"In the wake of Donald Trump's presidency, strains within the evangelical community, especially among people of color, have resulted in significant numbers of people defecting from the right and opening themselves to social justice stances on issues of race, immigration, climate and economic fairness," Common Dreams' Paul Engler wrote last week. "Should the trend escalate, it could send tremors that extend well beyond the religious community and reverberate throughout U.S. politics."

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"While the future of evangelical politics remains uncertain, the divisions forming in religious spaces are creating significant opportunities for those interested in promoting progressive change," Engler notes. "Moreover, organizing among evangelical dissenters is providing important lessons in how those working on social justice issues might find fertile ground in communities outside their circles of usual suspects—provided they can relate with people who do not identify as belonging on either side of the traditional divide between the political right and left."

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A 2016 survey by a private religious university, Wheaton College, estimated that 90 to 100 million Americans identify as evangelical. In the same year, 80 percent of white evangelicals supported Donald Trump, "with two-thirds of self-identified evangelicals saying their faith influences their political beliefs."

While evangelicals have largely supported Republican candidates over the last two decades, the affinity for the party is relatively new.

"As recently as the early 1970s, evangelicals were considered a largely apolitical group," Engler notes. "To the extent they formed a voting bloc, they were considered divided and persuadable—a constituency that could be won over by Democratic politicians such as Jimmy Carter. Indeed, since Carter was himself a born-again Christian, Newsweek magazine dubbed 1976, the year of his election, the 'Year of the Evangelical.'"

The Jan. 6 hearings are also having deleterious effects on Trump's support. Prior to the hearings, just one-third of Republicans believed Trump was at least partly to blame for the Capitol attacks. More recently, that number has climbed to four in ten.

In a recent video produced by the Economist, one evangelical described her journey away from the Republican Party because of Donald Trump.

"I did feel that the Republican Party was a place where I could best express my values," she added. "Now, I don't identify as much, especially with the candidate we have now who takes open shots at people who can't defend themselves."

"Donald Trump is a person in need of grace and is in need of redemption," she added.

While Trump's installation of solidly conservative and pro-religious justices on the Supreme Court has earned him some kudos among his party's faithful, the increased polarization of the electorate may have unexpected effects.

"Even as many supporters grow more passionately partisan, others will start to become alienated," notes Engler. "When forcing people to take sides, you may draw many into your fold; however, you risk losing a fraction who are turned off and unwilling to make the leap. Signs of such a backlash can currently be seen among evangelicals—particularly people of color.

"Even if only a limited fraction of evangelicals are moved to embrace more progressive stances, the impact on the electorate as a whole could be profound."

You can read Engler's in-depth analysis here.