Date
11 December 2016
Even Donald Trump himself doesn't seem to know why he is so popular among southern white evangelicals. Photo: Reuters
Even Donald Trump himself doesn't seem to know why he is so popular among southern white evangelicals. Photo: Reuters

Here’s why Donald Trump commands the white evangelical vote

Even though Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has recently been plagued by sex scandals and is lagging behind Hillary Clinton in every major poll, he remains highly popular among white evangelical voters in southern states.

In fact, Trump was already popular among evangelicals in the south during the Republican primaries and his popularity continued to soar after he received his party’s nomination, despite repeated concerns by some prominent religious leaders about whether he truly shares their Christian values.

That raises an interesting question: Why would the religious right in the US who stress family values, personal virtues, humility and working-class industriousness align themselves with a flamboyant, brash and womanizing casino magnate who is anything but religious and humble?

Ironically, even Donald Trump himself doesn’t seem to have a clue why he is so popular among southern white evangelicals.

Nor are many political pundits in the US able to explain why he could manage to beat his religious opponents like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz in the primaries by a significant margin in evangelical strongholds like South Carolina.

Perhaps Stephen Prothero, a professor in Boston University, has the answer.

Prothero said the percentage of population in the US who identify themselves as religious have continued to decline in recent years.

Even among many evangelicals in the south, religious values are no longer their overriding concern when it comes to choosing their president.

Many of them are drawn to Donald Trump because they are disappointed with the Republican establishment.

For decades, white evangelicals have been the most steadfast and faithful supporters of the Republican Party.

However, in recent years, many have been increasingly frustrated as the party repeatedly failed to deliver on its promises.

In the meantime, they are also dismayed at the growing influence of immigrants, blacks and other ethnic minorities, as well as the LGBT community, whom they think pose an enormous threat to their conservative values.

As a result, many of them are looking to someone to stem the tide and reestablish white conservative supremacy in the country. Donald Trump strikes them as the kind of leader they are looking for.

On the other hand, many evangelicals have become radicalized by controversial issues such as anti-terrorism, gun control, abortion and same-sex marriage.

They are fed up with the obsession of mainstream politicians with political correctness and are looking to some one-of-a-kind figure like Donald Trump who is not afraid to offend people for a change.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct. 27

Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Associate professor and director of Global Studies Programme, Faculty of Social Science, at the Chinese University of Hong Kong; Lead Writer (Global) at the Hong Kong Economic Journal

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