The top favorites among the white evangelical Christians are Trump (27 percent), Carson (14 percent), Cruz (12 percent), Bush (10 percent) and Huckabee (9 percent).
At 27 percent, Trump nearly doubles his closest rival, Ben Carson. This popularity among evangelicals is quite surprising in light of Trump’s stated views on abortion. Trump has said in recent days that he is open to continue some federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Moreover, Trump says that he favors the so-called “health” exception that makes abortion-on-demand legal throughout all nine months of pregnancy. Even though he says he’s prolife, these two statements are substantively pro-abortion rights.
So Trump is not exactly your typical evangelical pick for president. So what gives? Are evangelicals selling out their prolife priorities for a celebrity candidate? Maybe not.
The support from evangelicals who regularly attend church is less than half that of “evangelicals” broadly defined. According to Reuters, Trump’s support is only 11% among those who describe themselves as regular, church-going born-again Christians (HT: Jacob Lupfer).
I still think it’s difficult to explain why even 11% would support a candidate whose position on abortion is indistinguishable from your average pro-choicer. Perhaps there wouldn’t even be 11% if Trump’s views on abortion were more widely known. In any case, support among those who are Evangelicals by conviction is much lower than those who are Evangelicals in name only. And that is important.