As I watched the election results come in last week, I was in shock. I couldn’t believe it. Everyone had gotten it wrong, from research centers to media polls to political pundits. I thought to myself, how could America elect a man who ran a campaign anchored in so much hateful rhetoric?
So I waited for the election data. And when I saw this article from Pew Research Center, I can’t say I was surprised.
According to Pew, pretty much the only faith group in Trump’s corner were white Christians. Overall, Protestants, Catholics and other Christian faiths supported the Republican candidate, with white Catholics supporting Trump by a margin of 60 percent. All other faith groups supported Hillary Clinton by a large margin.
But what was particularly striking is that white, born-again evangelicals backed Trump in droves, with a whopping 81 percent casting a ballot for the real estate mogul. This was the largest percentage out of any demographic group, and in addition, evangelicals supported Trump by a bigger margin than that of any other recent Republican candidate (Bush and Romney received 78 percent of evangelical support, and McCain received 74 percent.)
So, not only did white, evangelical Christians not care about Trump’s rhetoric and his comments on the campaign trail, but they seemed to like him more than ever. His hostility towards marginalized groups did not seem to bother them.
White evangelical Christians turned out in record numbers for Donald Trump.
I wish I could say I didn’t expect this, but the Religious Right has consistently supported Trump since he triumphed in the primaries, standing by him even when he said we should ban Muslims from entering the United States and when he bragged about committing sexual assault. Trump has surrounded himself with top Religious Right leaders who have worked to downplay the president-elect’s rhetoric.
White evangelical voters came out in droves this election, and they showed us that they still support an agenda that is hostile to the issues that Americans United stands for. They showed us that they support discrimination against the LGBTQ community, that they back limiting women’s right to reproductive healthcare and that they support Islamophobic policies that target Muslims based on their faith. With both houses of Congress is GOP hands, we’re going to have to work harder than ever to fight against these harmful policies.
As I kept scrolling through the data, I noticed something else: The proportion of secular voters this election is the highest it’s been in recent years. Fifteen percent of voters in the 2016 elections identified as religiously unaffiliated, and this number has been steadily increasing since the 2000 election, when only 9 percent of the electorate identified as such.
The secular community is becoming larger and larger, with this demographic starting to make up a much more significant sect of society. What does this mean for the future? My hope is that in future elections, secular voters will be part of a coalition that can make some real headway in combatting the dominating force that is the Religious Right and the right-wing evangelical voting bloc. I also hope that the increasing amount of secular voters are inspired to participate in future elections, particularly local and midterm congressional elections.
More and more Americans are identifying as secular, atheist, agnostic, humanist, “spiritual but not religious,” etc., and I’m personally excited to see the community coming out of the woodwork more and more. If more secular Americans get involved and vote alongside moderate Christians and members of non-Christian faiths, we may see the creation of an effective counter force to the Religious Right. Theocratic zealots may start to lose some of their power to enact policies designed to tear down the protective separation between church and state.
White evangelicals helped put Trump in the White House. But in the future, secular Americans and others who are tired of the hypocrisy and zealotry of the Religious Right may take him out of it.