exit polls

Some matters religious Americans, and journalists, might ponder as Trump era begins

Some matters religious Americans, and journalists, might ponder as Trump era begins

Donald Trump’s narrow Electoral College victory came accompanied by a narrow popular vote loss and some worrisome exit polling.

Yes, 60 percent of voters had an “unfavorable” opinion of the President-elect, 63 percent did not deem him “honest and trustworthy,” 60 percent said he’s not “qualified” for the job and 63 percent felt he lacks the needed “temperament,” while 56 percent were either “concerned” or “scared” that he might win. (Hillary Clinton’s numbers were nearly that dismal.)

Religious believers and journalists concerned for their nation should  contemplate whether a President has ever entered office with anything like that poor reputation.

Campaign 2016 was the ugliest since -- when? 1824? 1800? It damaged the stature not only of Trump but loser Hillary and husband Bill, the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, even the Libertarians, the FBI and the Department of Justice, the American political system, and -- yes -- religious elements.

Amid the rubble, we also find all those caught-off-guard pundits, mistake-ridden pollsters, and news outlets whose prestige and influence are eroded by sensationalism and partisanship.

Some writers continue to proclaim the imminent demise of the Religious Right, that movement of evangelical Protestants, conservative Catholics, Mormons, some Orthodox Jews and other activists. As with frequent assurances that Trump could not possibly win the nomination or the presidency, that’s wishful thinking. Such efforts will persist as long as the issues do, for instance palpable alarm over religious freedoms.

On that, future  Supreme Court appointments were “the most important factor” for 21 percent of U.S. voters but fully 56 percent of Trump voters.

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Weekend think pieces: Concerning 'evangelicals' and the quest for better exit polls

Weekend think pieces: Concerning 'evangelicals' and the quest for better exit polls

If you have been on Planet Earth in recent months, and have the slightest interest in (a) religion, (b) politics or (c) both, then you know that the rise of Citizen Donald Trump has raised lots of questions about religion, politics and exit polls.

To be specific, the press has been obsessed with the idea that evangelical Protestants have fallen in love with Trump.

Sure enough, some evangelicals are quite fond of Trump, especially those who -- in the words of historian Paul Matzko of Pennsylvania State University -- are "cultural" evangelicals, as opposed to folks who frequent church pews once or more a week. You may want to check out this academic paper by Matzko: "What Evangelical Support for Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Donald Trump Suggests About the Future of American Evangelicalism."

But forget Trump for a moment. The most interesting concepts in Matzko's paper concern the fault line between evangelicals who backed Rubio and those who support Cruz. Here is a chunk of my "On Religion" column from this week:

"... White collar" evangelical elites have appeared to favor Rubio while "evangelical workers" may appreciate Cruz's hard-line stance on illegal immigration. 

However, Matzko believes a deeper, more complex split is emerging, one rooted in history. 

On one side, he wrote, are "18th Century evangelicals -- a "persecuted religious minority" in American culture that yearned for the "liberty to practice their faith free from State interference. To that end, they allied with freethinkers like Thomas Jefferson. … They had little interest in fomenting sweeping social change, in using State power to make America more pious, holy or Christian. They asked only for the freedom to be left alone."  
On the other side, Matzko argued, are "19th Century evangelicals" who, by the end of that century, had begun to gain cultural influence and political power. This would eventually lead to talk of a "Moral Majority." 

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Same as it ever was: Is Donald Trump beating the pope and winning GOP 'Catholic' voters?

Same as it ever was: Is Donald Trump beating the pope and winning GOP 'Catholic' voters?

The GOP establishment panic continues, with the political powers that be desperately working to kick their #NeverTrump campaign into a higher gear.

What remains interesting to me (click here for previous post), is the degree to which the stop-Donald Trump movement appears, in mainstream media coverage, to be totally secular -- as in this new Washington Post feature -- while the TV chatter on primary nights almost always involves talk about crucial groups of voters who are defined, in part, by religion.

Yes, I am talking about the old, old "Trump is winning the 'evangelical' vote" story that has been popular since the start of the White House campaign.

But there is more to this emerging religion-angle story than that. The other day, a prominent pack of 40 Catholic conservatives opened fire on Citizen Trump in a letter published by National Review. The Religion News Service story on this development reported:

Robert P. George, of Princeton University and George Weigel, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, headed the charge, and the appeal was also signed by opinion leaders from academia and religious media.
The letter denounces Trump for “vulgarity, oafishness, shocking ignorance, and -- we do not hesitate to use the word -- demagoguery.” Worse, they wrote, he’s the opposite of what Catholics should seek in a leader.

Later in this piece there was some crucial information that would appear to link this "Catholic voter" issue with the gaping hole in much of the mainstream press of the "evangelical voters." Only this time around, Trump numbers are even larger.

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