Trump Can Afford to Slip Among White Evangelicals, But Not White Catholics

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In the presidential race against Joe Biden, Catholics have emerged as a swing vote.

While white evangelicals remain a core voting bloc for President Donald Trump, in the 2020 race against Joe Biden white Catholics are expected to be a crucial demographic.

Data indicates that Biden—a lifelong member of the Catholic church—may shift the white Catholic vote away from the Republican leanings it held for the past four presidential elections and make it a true swing vote going forward.

Even small changes among Catholics could affect the electoral outcome, particularly in swing states. In 2016, Donald Trump won Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Florida by narrow margins of 1 percent to 1.2 percent of the votes cast.

Despite all the chatter around the strong support that Trump received from white Christians and white evangelicals last election, their voting patterns in 2016 were relatively consistent with elections going back to 2008.

Across Christian traditions, white voters have been relatively stable but have slowly drifted toward the Republican Party by 3–4 percentage points in eight years. (Nonwhite Christians, particularly black Protestants, have historically favored the Democratic Party by strong margins and are expected to continue to do so this year.)

For instance, in the 2008 presidential matchup, 78 percent of white evangelicals cast their ballots for Barack Obama’s Republican challenger, John McCain. Trump did just a few points better in 2016, with 81 percent.

The partisan split among white Catholics and white mainline Protestants mostly held steady as well. In both 2008 and 2012, 56 percent of white Catholics voted for the GOP, and that nudged up just slightly to 59 percent in 2016.

For mainline Protestants, the vote in 2008 was nearly evenly split, with John McCain receiving a slim majority …

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