Trump held on to the vote amongst believers – it was the non-religious vote that he misplaced in 2020 – Bible Type

Trump held on to the vote amongst believers – it was the non-religious vote that he misplaced in 2020

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(Photo: Sky News)

Despite all the predictions and talk of a collapse in support among evangelicals, Donald Trump's loss of the election does not appear to have been caused by religious voters.

As a religious data analyst, I have compiled the data released in March 2021, which breaks down the results of the 2020 US presidential election by faith. And, by and large, there were little notable changes in religious group choice between 2016 and 2020 – in fact, support for Trump rose slightly for most faiths. Instead, Trump saw a noticeable decline among those who did not identify with any religion.

Although the baseline survey data initially suggests a decline in white evangelical support for Trump in 2020, the latest data shows that it is not. The data is based on the Cooperative Election Study, which has become the gold standard for judging voting decisions because of its sample size and ability to accurately represent the United States' electoral population.

With 80% of white evangelicals supporting Trump in 2020, support rose from 78% who voted for him four years earlier. Trump also saw the vote of non-white evangelicals, white Catholics, black Protestants and Jews increase by two points compared to four years ago.

These differences are not statistically significant and, as such, it would be wrong to say that they definitely show Trump won among religious groups. However, it shows that among the largest religious groups in the US, voting patterns appeared to be largely constant at the November 2020 vote, four years earlier. Trump failed to win much larger stocks, and winner Joe Biden was also unable to pull religious voters away from the Trump coalition.

Lose the non-religious

However, there are some interesting and statistically significant trends if you break down the data further. Non-white Catholics have moved four points towards Donald Trump. This fits in with what we've seen in places like heavily Hispanic and Catholic Miami-Dade County, Florida, where Trump's vote share improved from 35% to 46% between 2016 and 2020.

Trump also managed to collect 15 percentage points in the Mormon vote. At first glance, this seems like a big leap. But it makes sense, given that around 15% of the Mormon vote in 2016 went to Utah-born and Mormon compatriot Evan McMullin, who ran as a third-party candidate in this year's election. Without McMullin in 2020, Trump accepted Mormon voters – as did Joe Biden, who did slightly better than Hillary Clinton among Mormons.

There is also some weak evidence that the Republican candidate has found support from smaller religious groups in the US such as Hindus and Buddhists. Trump increased his share in these two groups by four percentage points each. It is important to note, however, that these two groups combined make up only about 1.5% of the American population. In this respect, an increase of four points means only a very small fraction of the total referendum.

What is clear is that Trump has lost a lot of ground among the religiously unaffiliated. Trump's share of atheist voting fell from 14% in 2016 to just 11% in 2020; The decline in agnostics was somewhat greater, from 23% to 18%.

Additionally, those who identify themselves as "nothing special" – a group that makes up 21% of the total US population – did not support Trump in his re-election as much. His share of the vote in this group fell by three percentage points, while Biden's rose by more than seven points, with the Democrat winning many of the "nothing in particular" that supported third-party candidates in the 2016 election.

Generally speaking, Trump performed slightly better among Christians and other smaller religious groups in the United States, but lost ground among the religiously unaffiliated. What these results cannot explain, however, is the record turnout. Nearly 22 million more votes were cast in 2020 than in 2016. While the proportions of votes may not have changed that much, the number of votes cast has helped to speed up the election for the Democratic candidate. A more detailed breakdown of voter turnout is due to be released in July 2021 by the team managing the cooperative election study. that will bring the image of religion and the 2020 vote more clearly into focus.

Ryan Burge is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Eastern Illinois University. This article is republished by The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

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