President Donald Trump remains the favorite candidate of White Christians for the November presidential election, but support among voters has dropped since August, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.
By contrast, Democratic candidate Joe Biden is the favorite presidential candidate among every other religious group, including Black Protestants, Hispanic Catholics, Jews and the religiously unaffiliated, according to the poll.
White Christians are a key segment of the electorate because they make up roughly 44% of US registered voters. About 7% of registered voters are Black Protestants, 5% are Hispanic Catholics, 2% are Jewish and 28% are religiously unaffiliated.
Three major branches are to be taken into consideration when speaking about the White Christian voter audience: White Catholics, White Protestants who are not Evangelical and White Evangelical Protestants.
Among White Catholic voters, Trump is ahead of Biden by eight percentage points, with 52% of voters in this group saying they would vote for Trump if the election were held today. In contrast, 44% of this group said they are in favor of Biden. This gap has narrowed significantly as Trump was 19 points ahead of Biden (59% to 40%) in a poll conducted in early August.
Among White Protestants who do not consider themselves to be Evangelical, the percentage of voters in favor of Trump dropped similarly, with 53% in favor of Trump if the election were today, against 59% in August.
Even among White Evangelical Protestants, support for Trump has slightly decreased, with 78% who intend to cast ballots for Trump, compared with 83% who did in August.
Biden, meanwhile, has not faced any change in his voters' support between both surveys. He is currently favored by 90% of Black Protestant registered voters, 70% of Jews and 67% of Hispanic Catholics. Among people without a religious affiliation, Biden is the preferred candidate for 83% of atheists and agnostics, and 62% of people who describe their religion as “nothing in particular.”
Statistically speaking, while support for Trump has dropped among all three groups of White Christians analyzed in the survey, support for Biden did not see a corresponding jump.
One partial factor in Trump’s declining support from White Christians might be that the new survey, for the first time, gave respondents the option of saying they would vote for Libertarian candidate Jo Jorgensen or Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins. Only Trump and Biden were listed by name in the August survey.
Overall, 6% of registered voters in the new survey say they would vote for Jorgensen (4%), Hawkins (1%), or some other candidate or none of the candidates listed (1%). By comparison, 2% of registered voters in the summer poll indicated they would vote for someone other than Trump or Biden, or that they would vote for neither candidate.
The survey’s findings about 2020 voting intentions are in line with long-term trends in party identification.
White Evangelical Protestants, considered Trump’s strongest supporters, are the most solidly and consistently Republican among major religious groups in the electorate, and they have grown even more uniformly Republican in recent decades.
White Catholics and White Protestants who are not evangelical also have shifted in a Republican direction in recent years. By contrast, Black Protestants, religiously unaffiliated voters, Jews and Hispanic Catholics have long been solidly Democratic and Trump has always received his lowest approval ratings from them all.
The survey was conducted days after the candidates held their first presidential debate on September 29. On the morning of Oct. 2, Trump announced that he had tested positive for the coronavirus, and that evening he was hospitalized at Walter Reed Medical Center for treatment.
The poll of 10,543 US registered voters nationwide was conducted September 30 to October 5, as Trump spent four days in the hospital amid a White House COVID-19 outbreak.