Much has been made of the purportedly prominent role evangelicals played in the 2016 presidential campaign, though a new poll offers some electoral surprises when taking a deeper dive into how Bible-minded voters behaved at the polls.
The key take-away in the new Barna Group survey? Notional Christians — a collective people “who consider themselves to be Christian, typically attend a Christian church, but are not born again” — were the “game-changer for the Republicans” during last month’s election, not evangelicals as some have assumed.
As it turns out, evangelical Christians brought in an estimated 10 million votes this past election cycle, while notional Christians garnered 58 million. And here’s why that matters: Typically, the majority of notional Christians (58 percent on average) choose the Democratic candidate; they’ve done so in every presidential election since 1996 — until this year.
For the first time, more notional Christians in 2016 opted for Trump (49 percent) than Democrat Hillary Clinton (47 percent). This clearly made a difference, though that’s not to say evangelicals didn’t come out strong for Trump; it wasn’t a historic showing.
While 79 percent of evangelicals voted for Trump, that proportion was actually down from any other Republican since Bob Dole back in 1996; it was even down from the 81 percent who opted for Mitt Romney in 2012.
That said, a larger share of evangelicals (61 percent) did show up at the polls in 2016 when compared to 59 percent of evangelicals who voted in the 2012 race. Meanwhile, 58 percent of non-evangelical born again Christians and 59 percent of notional Christians turned out in 2016; those proportions in 2012 were 60 percent and 55 percent, respectively.
Interestingly, Christians as a whole had a slightly higher rate of turning up to the polls in 2016, as just 57 percent of people or non-Christian faiths of no faith showing up to vote. And the least likely to show? Those who are atheist, agnostic or have no faith, as only 40 percent voted, according to the Barna Group.
“Compared to the 2012 election, the aggregate born again population produced eight million fewer votes in 2016 despite having a slightly higher turnout rate and the national population having expanded by about five million people,” reads the Barna report.
And that’s not all. Barna continued, “The number of votes from citizens who did not associate with Christianity skyrocketed from 20 million in 2012 to 35 million in 2016.”
The polling firm also reported that the voting-eligible born-again adult proportion dropped from 37 percent to 31 percent, and those who don’t associate with Christianity grew from 20 to 24 percent.
Read the entire report here.
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