Donald Trump’s narrow Electoral College victory came accompanied by a narrow popular vote loss and some worrisome exit polling.
Yes, 60 percent of voters had an “unfavorable” opinion of the President-elect, 63 percent did not deem him “honest and trustworthy,” 60 percent said he’s not “qualified” for the job and 63 percent felt he lacks the needed “temperament,” while 56 percent were either “concerned” or “scared” that he might win. (Hillary Clinton’s numbers were nearly that dismal.)
Religious believers and journalists concerned for their nation should contemplate whether a President has ever entered office with anything like that poor reputation.
Campaign 2016 was the ugliest since -- when? 1824? 1800? It damaged the stature not only of Trump but loser Hillary and husband Bill, the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, even the Libertarians, the FBI and the Department of Justice, the American political system, and -- yes -- religious elements.
Amid the rubble, we also find all those caught-off-guard pundits, mistake-ridden pollsters, and news outlets whose prestige and influence are eroded by sensationalism and partisanship.
Some writers continue to proclaim the imminent demise of the Religious Right, that movement of evangelical Protestants, conservative Catholics, Mormons, some Orthodox Jews and other activists. As with frequent assurances that Trump could not possibly win the nomination or the presidency, that’s wishful thinking. Such efforts will persist as long as the issues do, for instance palpable alarm over religious freedoms.
On that, future Supreme Court appointments were “the most important factor” for 21 percent of U.S. voters but fully 56 percent of Trump voters. The movement is further sobered by the North Carolina and nationwide toilet wars, Colorado’s approval for medically assisted suicide and states’ newly legalized “recreational” marijuana (as opposed to medical uses).
The moralists are morally compromised after a campaign that wallowed to an unprecedented degree in racial enmity and sexual misconduct. A Washington Post headline for a Sarah Pulliam Bailey analysis announced “Why some fear this election’s lasting damage to American Christianity.” The movement is further weakened by a serious gap between anti-Trump leaders in the religious intelligentsia, over against self-identified “evangelical” voters who wanted Trump. That’s an exact parallel with Republican “establishment” figures who either gave Trump limp endorsements or spurned him.
Trump won 81 percent of white evangelicals, only 2 points above what George W. Bush got in 2004 and Mitt Romney in 2012. On the opposite side, those who “never” attend worship (constituting 22 percent of voters) remain a key Democratic bloc and gave Clinton 62 percent support. Religious conservatives by default are wedded to the Republicans unless the Democratic Party -- so dependent upon those non-religious and anti-religious voters -- restores its onetime affinity with churchgoers.
If the “pew gap” persists, so does the marriage gap. Unmarried women went 62 percent for Clinton vs. 33 percent for Trump, while married women were evenly split after a campaign saturated with gender conflict.
Self-identified Catholics as a whole remain an unpredictable swing vote. They backed Trump by a significant 52 percent vs. 45 percent for Clinton, compared with President Barack Obama’s 2-point edge in 2012. So, did Democrats’ attitudes toward believers and their religious-liberty claims play into this? The must-read Cruxnow.com sees a “clear political message” that “people of faith cannot be ignored, disparaged, or taken for granted.”
Crux also noted that numbers from the Public Religion Research Institute (whose CEO wrote a book-length “obituary” for “white Christian America”) gave Clinton a hefty 11 points over Trump among Catholics, which conflicted with the 13-point advantage for Trump in an Investors Business Daily–TIPP survey. Time for some serious higher criticism of polling.