Matt Archbold graduated from Saint Joseph’s University in 1995. He is a former journalist who left the newspaper business to raise his five children. He writes for the Creative Minority Report.
Evangelical approval of Trump remains high, according to new polling from Pew Research Center, but other religious groups, such as Catholics aren't as supportive. Why? That's a question worth asking but first let's delve into the numbers a bit.
About 70 percent of white evangelical Protestants say they approve of the way Trump is handling his job. That number is actually a bit of a dip from his high earlier in his presidency but still very strong.
Trump's approval among Catholics is starkly different and is now at 36 percent. But to be fair, let's compare apples to apples. Trump's presidency has seen a great deal of racial and ethnic lines being drawn and his approval numbers are a great deal lower among black Protestants than among white Protestants. So when we compare the white Catholic numbers to the white Protestant numbers, we see that currently 44% of white Catholics approve of Trump's presidency. That's still a huge difference from about 70 percent of white Protestants. So why is it so different?
Well, when we compare the white Catholic approval numbers to the white mainline Protestants approval numbers, those numbers track fairly closely. White mainline Protestant have a 48 percent approval rate of Trump. That's pretty close to the Catholic numbers. So we drill down a bit further for more clarity. Among those white Catholics who attend Mass weekly, Trump's approval rate is a bit higher at 52 percent whereas those white Catholics who attend Mass less than weekly have a 45% approval of Trump. It seems that more frequent church attendance correlates with more support for Trump. Some would roll their eyes at that, I know. Newsweek, with their clickbaity headline, summed it up by saying, "Trump Approval Poll Shows More Church Equals More MAGA." That's more than a bit unfair. The truth is that those who attend Mass are likely to be more concerned about the cultural issues than others. And perhaps they're willing to overlook the silly Twitter rants and even the dalliances with porn stars because he nominated Gorsuch and Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court or because he has stood strong for religious freedom. Those who are less intensely focused on issues such as abortion and religious freedom might not be as supportive of Trump.
In short, it's difficult to say exactly why the disparity exists between evangelical and Catholic support for Trump but it's existed for quite some time now. In fact, Trump, according to Pew, was the first Republican to win over Catholics since Bush defeated Kerry in 2004. In 2016, Trump won the Catholic vote with 52%. Barack Obama won the Catholic vote twice. Al Gore won the Catholic vote. So we really can't Trump's poor showing in current polls is a Trump thing. Obviously at some level it is, but Catholics don't typically support the Republican like evangelicals do. The startling fact to me is that a majority of Catholics did support Trump. The question still remains why.
One could argue that evangelicals are simply more interested in putting the brakes on the progressive agenda. One could also say that a great many Catholics live in blue states such as New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts and are influenced by the culture there. One should also take into account that people living in such blue states are a bit more hesitant to voice their support of Trump and that could skew poll numbers as they did in 2016 when just about every pollster predicted a Hillary Clinton victory. Then there is the issue of who identifies as an evangelical or as a Catholic. An evangelical doesn't typically call themselves an evangelical unless they are serious about their faith at some level. Many baptized Catholics consider themselves Catholic no matter what, even when they haven't been to Mass in years.
In the end, the one side calls those who support Trump "hypocrites" for supporting a multi-divorced narcissistic politician who cheated on his wife with a porn star. The other side can't understand how some Catholics vote in favor of pro-abortion candidates. Insert into that conversation accusations of "SJW's" and one side mocking the "seamless garment" while the other mocks for talking about "subsidiarity" and you pretty much have our national conversation for the past decade.
We are at a crossroads in this country as the polls are showing. They call it red vs. blue but I think it goes deeper than that. It's deeper than Donald Trump. He's a symptom, not the cause. The Catholic split in voting has been consistent with a few percentage points swinging one way or another. But both sides are... entrenched. We are no longer really one country. We are a populace of allies and enemies. I fear that this ends only one way. I think in the end, this is a struggle not just for the soul of our country but our understanding of our faith.