Imagine this scenario: You voted for Trump in 2016. You held your nose, decided that taking the least-bad option would be better than failing your responsibility to participate as a citizen, and you marked your ballot to elect the lecherous, foul-mouthed phony who at least promised to support some worthwhile policies. You became a Trump Voter.
Now people you love and respect continually badger you, demanding to know how a moral follower of Jesus could ever become a Trump Voter. In their eyes, you are always and forever and only A Trump Voter. Trump Voter.
For you, that label makes no sense. You don’t want anything to do with white racists. You have no sympathy for payoffs to porn stars. Your God doesn’t love his children differently based on the color of their skin, the flag they were born under, or the language they speak. That meaning of “Trump Voter” simply doesn’t apply to you—and yet, people keep trying to box you in that category.
If this describes you or someone you love, you’re not alone.
A new study by Emily Ekins of the libertarian think tank, Cato Institute, explains how distinctions within Trump’s coalition stem from important moral and religious divides between voters. Even Ekins’s eye-catching title, “The Liberalism of the Religious Right,” gets directly to her counter-intuitive point: Religious voters do not embrace the hate.
Ekins reports that first and foremost, Trump Voters are not all alike. The voices of the nasty and the hateful get the headlines but they do not speak for everyone – and definitely not for the faithful. Religious Trump voters tend to be much more compassionate and accepting than secular ones.
I found that religious conservatives are far more supportive of diversity and immigration than secular conservatives. Religion appears to actually be moderating conservative attitudes, particularly on some of the most polarizing issues of our time: race, immigration and identity.
Churchgoing Trump voters have more favorable feelings toward African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Jews, Muslims and immigrants compared with nonreligious Trump voters. This holds up even while accounting for demographic factors like education and race.
Those voters tend to care for their neighbors and for the “strangers” among us.
Churchgoing Trump voters care far more . . . about racial equality . . . and reducing poverty. . . . Trump’s most religiously observant voters are three times as likely as secular Trump voters to volunteer — and not just with their own church. . . .
The more frequently Trump voters attend church, the more they support offering citizenship to unauthorized immigrants and making the immigration process easier, and the more opposed they become to the border wall.
The very nature of the church community, Ekins explains, encourages members to value our common humanity – and the common good.
Religious institutions also provide communities and identities that aren’t based upon immutable traits such as race or country of birth. Research suggests that identities that transcend race or nationality may lead people to feel more favorably toward racial and religious minorities.
She concludes by noting that although some observers believe religious belief fosters intolerance, the facts indicate that churches can bring people of differing views toward meeting in a “compassionate middle.”
This election season, Vote Common Good is reaching out to the Trump Voter who wants to see more compassion in our public life. The vote can send a message calling for adherence to the values that Jesus taught and that we find so often actually reflected in our church communities.
If you are that Trump Voter, or love that Trump Voter, draw upon what we know are the real values of America’s religious people, and make the Common Good a part of your voting record.