Trump loses ground with white Catholics, doubles support from non-white Catholics

President Donald Trump, with first lady Melania Trump and Reverend Bruce McPherson, waves to media as they arrive to attend service at St. John's Church in Washington March 17. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

About one-third of U.S. Catholics approve of President Trump’s job performance, a percentage that has remained stable since the start of his presidency a little more than two years ago. But a new report from the Pew Research Center finds that the president is losing support from white Catholics—and gaining ground with non-white Catholics.

According to a report published on Monday, 36 percent of U.S. Catholics “approve of the way Donald Trump is handling his job as President,” the same percentage that was reported in February 2017, shortly after Mr. Trump took office.

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When broken down by white and non-white Catholics, the numbers tell a different story.

The latest survey, conducted in January, found that 44 percent of white Catholics approve of Mr. Trump’s job performance.

Support for Mr. Trump among white Catholics has generally hovered around 50 percent since the early days of his presidency, according to Pew, with a high of 55 percent in April 2017 and again in May 2018 and a low of 36 percent in December 2017. Greg Smith, associate director of research at Pew Research Center, told America that support for Mr. Trump from white Catholics has been “pretty consistently within that band.”

The latest survey, conducted in January, found that 44 percent of white Catholics approve of Mr. Trump’s job performance.

Mr. Trump’s support among non-white Catholics is far lower compared to white Catholics.

The January survey found that 26 percent of non-white Catholics approve of the president’s job performance, up from 13 percent in February 2017.

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In recent months, the president has boasted that his support from Hispanic Americans has been growing, crediting his continued efforts to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Experts have cast doubt on that claim, but they say that his support continues to hover around the 29 percent of the Hispanic vote that Mr. Trump won in the 2016 election.

According to Pew, the survey was conducted between Jan. 9-14, 2019, with a sample of 1,505 adults from all 50 states and Washington, D.C. The survey, which has a margin of error of three points, was conducted during a partial government shutdown that lasted more than a month, the longest in U.S. history. Following the shutdown, some of Mr. Trump’s base complained that he opened the government without securing funding for his proposed border wall. The survey also took place before the State of the Union, on Feb. 5, a speech that drew praise from some of the president’s strongest pro-life supporters.

Mr. Smith said the “most striking” finding in the January survey was that Christians who attend religious services more often support Mr. Trump at higher rates than those who attend less frequently.

Catholics who attend Mass weekly, a group that tends to oppose abortion and same-sex marriage at higher rates than Catholics overall, are about split when it comes to support for the president.

Fifty-two percent of Catholics who attend Mass weekly approve of the president’s job performance, down eight points from a high of 60 percent in the first half of 2017.

“What you see reflected in these evaluations of Trump is partisanship.”

Among Catholics who attend church “less often,” 45 percent approve of the president’s job performance, down from 48 percent two years ago.

While Catholics appear split, white Evangelicals continue overwhelmingly to approve of the president—even if his standing has taken something of a hit.

According to the report, 69 percent of white Evangelicals approve of the president, down nine points from February 2017.

Black Protestants consistently give the president the lowest marks among Christian groups, with approval hovering around 12 percent in June 2018. Support among white mainline Protestants has also remained more or less stable during the past two years, with 48 percent approving of the president in this report compared to 49 percent in 2017.

Mr. Smith said that beyond individual data points, trends show that all religious groups, like society in general, have become more partisan.

“What you see reflected in these evaluations of Trump is partisanship,” he said.

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Gabriel Marcella
6 months ago

Polling is a very inexact science, and the variables will change by 2020. We don't know what percentage of white and non-white Catholics will actually vote, nor do we know how attractive to those Catholics would be the opposing candidate to Trump in 2020. Moreover, there is always the unpredictable wild card that may come into play. Recall the 2016 election.

Maxwell Anderson
6 months ago

It's rather disturbing that 36% of U.S. Catholics approve of the president's job performance while 52% of those who attend Mass weekly do. It raises the question, does Mass attendance convince people to support this type of leadership? If not, does it mean people who crave "big man" leadership regardless of ethics are attracted to, and find it in, both the church and Mr. Trump?

Nora Bolcon
6 months ago

I agree. It is really creepy and telling as well. When I ask myself who now is the most likely group to elect someone like Hitler, what is shockingly clear is the answer is white Roman Catholics who attend Mass weekly like myself. It makes you take a real second look around the church on Sunday.

Good comment Maxwell.

Jayne Chandler
6 months ago

I agree with you, Nora!

Tatiana Durbak
6 months ago

If the results of this poll are to be taken at face value, I think that it is incredibly disturbing that people who atten Mass more frequently are more likely to support a man who lacks personal morals, who demonizes immigrants and who dehumanizes women.

Nora Bolcon
6 months ago

I agree but you need to remember that our sexist ordination practices are absolute proof that our church deems women not worthy of any voice in our church governance, and that women are born not as sacred as men and therefore are not worthy of same treatment , respect, opportunities, sacraments and ordination as their brothers.

The dehumanizing of women is spawned in religion and effects the secular world by giving us the Trump's of the world. If you want to see sexism leave the secular world, you must demand it be taken out of religion. Jesus commanded against treating any person or group of people less than another so why is it so many of us continue to put up with this hateful bias in our church?

Jayne Chandler
6 months ago

Agree with you, again, Nora!

kevin davitt
6 months ago

I think the high number of support for Trump among weekly mass-goers is a reflection of the number of "conservative" Catholics. I, myself, attend weekly, sometimes daily.
But. I abhor the man. However, I may be the exception to the rule.
His Holiness, Pope Francis has said about Trump and his policies, "A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel."

Todd Witherell
6 months ago

https://www.boredpanda.com/donald-trump-pope-francis-memes/?media_id=819147&utm_source=google&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=organic

A picture is indeed at times worth a thousand words.

Rosemarie Zagarri
6 months ago

What does it mean that Trump's support among non-white Catholics has doubled? Surely Hispanic Catholics can't be growing in their approval of his racist, bigoted policies and false promises?

Gabriel Marcella
6 months ago

I had the same concern. Perhaps the polling was defective--always a possibility because it's a very fallible art. It's also meaningless if the number approving Trump doubled from, let's say, 5 to 10.

FRAN ABBOTT
6 months ago

I am amazed that even one Catholic would support Trump.

Gabriel Marcella
6 months ago

Agreed. A good number of conservative Catholics support Trump, just like authoritarian Protestant fundamentalists do. Psychologists argue that conservative religion and authoritarianism make a good combination. There are plenty of examples of this in history, unfortunately.

FRAN ABBOTT
6 months ago

There is virtually nothing about Trump or Trumpism that converges with Catholicism/Christianity as I know it. Even his pro-life stance, which I see -- along with everything else he espouses -- as driven by political expediency.

Martha Murray
6 months ago

So what is the alternative? Vote for the democrats that advocate for late term abortion and use social justice issues to divide, distract and confuse the faithful? Sign up for the party that took God out of their platform? I attend Mass and voted for Trump. Most of my many Catholic friends also voted for Trump but would never admit this to a pollster.
If immoral behavior truely mattered in politics there would be no one to vote for because we are all sinners. Unfortunately the Church is tarnished too.
The economy is improving which means more jobs and a path out of poverty for many more under President Trump. Like it or not the President is trying to take steps to improve safety and security for the country.
Instead of the constant badgering and judgement, why not pray for the President ?

Vincent Gaglione
6 months ago

I would venture to speculate that the statistics speak more to the quality of catechetics and the issues emphasis of sermons and homilies, as well as the character and personality predilections of too many Bishops and clergy, than any other factors that make Mass-going Catholics to be supportive of Trump. One would be hard pressed in many parishes to know that Pope Francis leads this Church.

Mark Chandler
6 months ago

The data presented here indicate that Catholics who attend Mass more regularly have much lower morals than those who attend less. This may need to be addressed in sermons and programs. The Catholic Church seems to be poised over the pit of immorality that the Evangelicals have already fallen in to,

James Schwarzwalder
6 months ago

I recently read a book on Harry Truman. All polls, newspapers, magazines, media etc., had Truman projected to be defeated decisively by Dewey in 1948. Truman campaigned by "whistle stop" train all over the country to small and large enthusiastic crowds. Truman won in a stunning "upset" of all predictions. Trump uses a plane to campaign, but otherwise has taken his candidacy face to face to the people. Look at the location of states that have recently passed laws protecting unborn babies that have a heartbeat. Where are they located? What no one wants to talk about is that abortion is the second national sin, following the "original sin" of slavery. 60 or more million dead and counting. Both issues share or shared the intellectual underpinning that slaves and the unborn were or are "property" rather than human beings. But no, some folks get exercised about Stormy Daniels.

J Cosgrove
6 months ago

Rhode Island, supposedly the most Catholic state in the US, has a bill to ok abortion at the moment before birth. Essentially infanticide.

Jean Miller
6 months ago

Utterly shameful! It reveals the church has failed totally to teach Jesus.

FRAN ABBOTT
6 months ago

The Church is good at teaching faith, but not necessarily morals. I can’t remember the last sermon I heard that addressed right and wrong. Or even the things that are going on in the world today. Sometimes it feels like we are praying in a vacuum, without real life getting in.

Frank Elliott, Jr.
6 months ago

JPII and BXVI drove most of the liberals away from the Catholic Church. It should surprise no on that Catholics who attend Mass regularly support our fascist president.

J Cosgrove
6 months ago

You are saying that liberals did not have a good reason to be Catholic to begin with. Interesting insight. You might want to ask why one should be a Catholic? Then teach that to liberals.

Frank Elliott, Jr.
6 months ago

JPII and BXVI drove most of the liberals away from the Catholic Church. It should surprise no on that Catholics who attend Mass regularly support our fascist president.

Laura Gonzalez
5 months 4 weeks ago

The Hispanic community is not monolith. If we were to break it down even more, my guess is that most support would come from Cubans, who tend to be much more conservative. And who see no irony in supporting a man who thinks seeking asylum should be illegal and that people need to present themselves at an established port of entry, not just anywhere. *cough*

I find it disturbing that so many Catholics support a thrice-married philanderer who had an affair with a porn star soon after his third wife gave birth to their son. I won't even go into his nationalistic, xenophobi and violence inducing/condoning comments.

Casey Stanton
5 months 4 weeks ago

The headline here is misleading.

Keith Kurak
5 months 4 weeks ago

My primary reaction to this polling is... maybe it's not very useful? It's not done all that frequently, so I can't tie it back that well to what in particular the president is doing at the time (at least without a lot of legwork). In the fine print it notes that sometimes they weren't even enough results for a particular subgroup to form a meaningful analysis. If non-white Catholics were at 13% and immediately jumped to 26% ,where it is today, I guess that means technically their support increased, but practically speaking, their supports is basically flat since shortly after the start of the administration. At least with a poll aggregator like FiveThirtyEight I can tell that Trump's support craters among independents when there's bad Trump news, and it creeps back up once that news passes, probably because the economy is doing alright. About all this polling tells me is that whites like Trump a lot more than non-whites.

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