Race Issues Divide Christians’ Views on Trump Presidency

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks before signing a proclamation to honor Martin Luther King Jr. day in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., January 12, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts – RC1E22786E20

A new survey shows a sharp racial and religious divide over whether President Trump’s actions encourage white supremacist organizations.

Three-quarters of black Protestants say Trump’s behavior and decisions are emboldening white supremacists while slightly more than a quarter of white evangelicals agree with that view. Overall, more than half of Americans—54 percent—say this is the case.

The findings, released Oct. 29, are part of Public Religion Research Institute’s 2018 American Values Survey, which addressed views on issues such as the presidency, the #MeToo movement, immigration and police brutality.

The survey comes days after a massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue by a gunman with apparent anti-immigrant animus and a racially motivated shooting in which a white gunman killed two black people at a Kroger supermarket in Jeffersontown, Ky., after trying unsuccessfully to enter a predominantly black church.

Meanwhile, the Defense Department readies for a migrant caravan’s approach toward the U.S.-Mexico border that the president has called an “invasion.”

White evangelicals are outliers
The research institute found majorities of the religiously unaffiliated (69 percent), Hispanic Catholics (68 percent), non-Christians (64 percent) and Hispanic Protestants (63 percent) say the president is encouraging white supremacists, compared with fewer than half of white mainline Protestants and white Catholics (43 percent each). Evangelicals—and, to a lesser degree, white Catholics—voted for Trump by wide margins in 2016 and many continue to support him.

Robert P. Jones, chief executive officer of the Public Religion Research Institute, said white evangelicals also are outliers in their views about whether Trump has damaged the dignity of the presidency with his speech and behavior, with two-thirds or more of every other major religious group in the country saying he has.

“White evangelicals stand alone: They’re a little bit divided but most of them say, no, he has not damaged the dignity of the presidency,” Jones said at a Brookings Institution event at which he discussed the survey’s results.

Majorities of religious groups—with the exception of white evangelical Protestants—also reported having unfavorable views of the president. In contrast, slightly more than two-thirds of white evangelicals (68 percent) said they have a favorable view of the president.University of Pennsylvania political scientist Michele Margolis said the findings reflect the political persuasion of the respondents and the way race and politics are so often linked.

“When you say black Protestant and white evangelical you’re also saying overwhelming Democrat, overwhelmingly Republican, and therefore it’s not surprising that those are the results you see,” said Margolis, author of From Politics to the Pews: How Partisanship and the Political Environment Shape Religious Identity.

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SOURCE: Baptist Standard, Adelle M. Banks