For President Trump, new polling indicates that his support among evangelical Christian voters appears to have grown since the 2016 election, something that will undoubtedly weigh in his favor in 2020.
Now, the the upcoming election drawing ever nearer, Trump and his campaign are looking to bank on Christian votes in key states, and are reportedly hoping to reach around 30 million voters.
While polls indicated that Trump held around 81% of the evangelical vote during the 2016 election, those same voters now poll at around 83% in his favor.
With controversial issues such as late-term abortion at the top of Democrats’ agenda heading into 2020, Trump and Republicans have found growing success with centrist and independent voters, including evangelical Christians.
Evangelical Christians were the backbone of President Trump’s 2016 victory, and he is doing even better among them as he prepares for 2020, according to polling that shows strong support and religious-right leaders who say they are working to translate that into votes.
Ralph Reed, founder and chairman of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, said plans are in the works to register 1 million evangelical voters, knock on 3 million doors and put literature in more than 117,000 churches in key states, with the hopes of contacting roughly 30 million people.
“It’s going to be the most ambitious and far-reaching voter mobilization effort in the history of the conservative faith community, and it’s going to be roughly three times the level of what we did in 2016,” he said.
Mr. Trump won 81% of self-identified evangelicals’ votes in the 2016 election, according to exit polling. A Public Opinion Strategies poll commissioned by Mr. Reed’s group says the president now has a stunning 83% approval rate among that bloc.
That creates a massive pool of people with goodwill toward Mr. Trump — if they can be persuaded to show up on Election Day.
“Obviously, it’s a key support group for him. It is not enough for him to win the election, but it certainly provides a very solid foundation,” said Glen Bolger, co-founder of Public Opinion Strategies.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, backed Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas in the 2016 Republican primary but has been amazed to see a twice-divorced casino mogul and real estate salesman become such an effective messenger for Christian values.
“It’s fascinating to watch,” said Mr. Perkins, who delivered a rousing endorsement of Mr. Trump at the Republican National Convention. “I was in the debate in Las Vegas, sitting in the audience, and I knew when he took on Hillary Clinton on late-term abortion … I remember sitting there thinking, ‘He just sealed the deal with pro-lifers.’”
Mr. Perkins said his group is still working through its election strategy but is convinced that the network of churches will respond next year.
“All of our internal numbers [and] our polling shows that his support has not in any way wavered,” he said.
That’s not to say the president isn’t a divisive figure in the community.
After Mr. Trump made an unscheduled stop to pray at McLean Bible Church in suburban Virginia on a recent weekend afternoon, the pastor of the high-profile evangelical congregation said he had heard from parishioners who felt “hurt” by his decision to welcome the president.
Despite his personal history, Mr. Trump has managed to endear himself to religious conservatives overall with his judicial appointments, his administration’s promotion of pro-life and religious liberty policies and his staunch support of the state of Israel.
“This constituency delivered in a big way in 2016 and frankly in 2018, but I think we’re really going to have a strong wind at our back in 2020 because there is such a deep reservoir of gratitude, appreciation and affection for this president because of the number of commitments and promises he made that he has kept,” Mr. Reed said.
He said when “faithful, frequently Mass-attending Roman Catholics” are added in, conservative religious voters will likely total close to 40% of the electorate next year — larger than the Hispanic, black and union votes combined.
Despite Mr. Trump’s overwhelming support from social conservatives in 2016, there is still room for growth with voters who in 2016 either stayed home or cast protest votes, he said.
“They not only are fully supportive of President Trump; they believe that he’s been as strong or better on the core issues that they care about than anybody they’ve ever supported,” Mr. Reed predicted.
He acknowledged that the choice this time will be different from 2016, when a well-known and unpopular Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, helped push some wavering voters to Mr. Trump. But he said the president’s “stellar and outstanding record” means more enthusiasm.
He also predicted that the increasingly leftward drift of Democrats’ agenda means their presidential nominee “will be so extreme and so out of the mainstream” that religious voters will show up.