Evangelicals and White Conservative Identity

Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church in Houston, shown during service on Feb. 27, 2011, seats 17,000. Its church service is broadcast to more than 7 million weekly.
Robert Seale/USA Today Network

Sobering facts. For the United States, Vox finds that a large majority of the population is still white (Non-Hispanic). According to Pew, the percentage of Protestant evangelical white voters has bumped up from 25 to 29 and Trump’s vote among white evangelicals bumped up significantly from 77% to 84%. Among more mainstream Americans, there was some expectation that the evangelical population would either decrease or become less committed to Trump once they realized how “vile” or “disgusting” he was. But the opposite occurred. Although 2% of evangelical voters did defect from that type of Christianity but more than enough 2016 Trump voters became evangelicals to more than make up for the defections.

Basic implications. Trumpism coalesced around white evangelicals and evangelicals further coalesced around Trump. Given that the proportion of the white evangelical population is declining slowly and white evangelicals are about 20% of the whole (according to these Pew numbers), there’s going to be no dramatic demographic shift allowing the Democrats to count on a stable majority. If the Democrats want to win elections, expand their House and Senate majorities, and turn the five big purple states of Arizona, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas blue, they have to fight and scrap at every turn.

More Positive Indications. But Biden did win the election and increased his vote shares in the suburbs, among white non-college voters, and white college voters. Black primary voters defined the basic Democratic strategy of securing the urban multicultural center-left base while appealing to white suburban voters by avoiding positions that could be smeared by Republicans. That’s a strategy that has a great deal of power in a large nation that’s still urbanizing and the Democrats should build from there.

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