"Trump speaking at the Republican National Convention in 2016" by Voice of America is licensed under Public Domain

Why young white evangelicals aren’t likely to leave the Republican Party

Sep 3, 2019

By Jeremiah J. Castle, Ryan P. Burge, and Paul A. Djupe

In 2020, will white evangelical Christians stick with the Republican Party, where they’ve long been a reliable voting bloc? Evangelicals made up just over one-third of President Trump’s 2016 coalition, and have been among his most loyal supporters. At the same time, researchers and observers have been debating whether the evangelical-Republican coalition can last. In a recent piece for FiveThirtyEight, researcher Dan Cox reports that young white evangelicals are less favorable toward Trump than older evangelicals, due at least in part to differences on immigration, and speculates that generational differences may push young evangelicals out of the GOP. We disagree. Young evangelical whites are likely to remain reliably Republican. Here’s why.

Yes, young evangelicals do have some different opinions than their elders do. But does it influence their votes?

The crux of Cox’s argument is that young evangelicals show signs of discomfort with Trump. Cox finds that just 61 percent of white evangelicals ages 18 to 44 have a favorable opinion toward Trump, compared to about 80 percent of white evangelicals 45 and older. Cox argues that an emerging generational divide between evangelicals on immigration is key to understanding young evangelicals’ relative lack of enthusiasm for Trump.

However, when we look at the trends in survey data, it’s not clear whether young evangelicals’ views on immigration are different from their elders’. The General Social Survey began asking about immigration regularly only in the 2000s. In 2004, 45 percent of white evangelicals ages 18 to 29 said we should reduce the number of immigrants to the United States. That spiked to nearly 62 percent in 2008 during the Great Recession, and declined back to about 45 percent in 2018.

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