If the election were held today, 86% of SAGE Cons – the spiritually active, governance engaged conservatives who represent about one out of every eight likely voters – would cast their ballot for Donald Trump. That’s a far cry from the one out of ten who made the New York businessman their top choice in the early GOP primaries. It’s especially impressive given that most of those voters are not enamored with the Republican candidate and maintain serious reservations about either his character or his policy positions – or both! However, his unwavering backing from this influential segment of voters stems from their deeply rooted distrust for and disagreement with Hillary Clinton.
A new national survey among this segment of Christian conservatives, conducted by the American Culture and Faith Institute (ACFI), reveals some of the telling differences between the 86% who have decided to support the real estate tycoon in comparison to the 14% who have other plans for their vote. (The 14% is comprised of 6% who are undecided, 5% who will vote for a third-party or independent candidate, and 3% who will vote in November, but not for a presidential candidate. Less than 1% plan to vote for Hillary Clinton.)
The SAGE Cons who back Mr. Trump generally feel a deeper sense of concern and urgency about America’s future than do the Christian conservatives who do not plan to vote for him. For instance, Trump voters are more likely to feel angry about the state of the country (89% of his backers feel this way, compared to 73% among those who will not vote for him); feel worried about the future (66% of the pro-Trump group versus 58% of the anti-Trump niche); are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the US (84% vs. 69%, respectively); feel proud to be an American (87% vs. 72%); and believe they are worse off now than they were before (44% vs. 34%).
The less firmly conservative a SAGE Con is, the more likely they are to seek an alternative to Mr. Trump. For instance, SAGE Cons who are strong fiscal conservatives were more likely to back Mr. Trump than those who are not (80% vs. 59%) and strong social conservatives followed suit (93% vs. 85%, respectively). Christian conservatives who were both strong fiscal and social conservatives prefer Mr. Trump to all other options (78% vs. 56%).
Perspectives related to the election also vary across the two groups of SAGE Cons. For instance, among the SAGE Cons planning to support Mr. Trump, 94% voted for Mitt Romney in 2012. Among the SAGE Cons who will not vote for Mr. Trump, just 77% backed the 2012 GOP candidate.
Overall, nearly three-quarters of the Trump contingent (72%) believe this election will make a big difference in their lives. Among those who plan to vote otherwise, less than half (41%) argue that the election will have a big effect on their lives.
Not surprisingly, those who will pull the lever for Mr. Trump are more likely to believe that he will have a positive impact on the political system. About six out of ten (61%) expect there to be less partisanship in the federal legislature if he is elected, although just 13% of those who will not vote for him concur. Similarly, almost six out of ten Trump supporters (57%) believe legislative gridlock will diminish under his presidency, a view shared by only 12% of those who do not plan to vote for him.
The survey found that Trump voters are more positive about the performance of their state’s governor and state legislature than are those who will not support Mr. Trump. And while neither segment appreciates the performance of President Obama, those who refuse to vote for Mr. Trump show a higher likelihood of approving his performance than do Trump voters. (Less than 1% of the SAGE Cons supporting Mr. Trump give Mr. Obama a very favorable approval rating.)
Several other distinctions between Christian conservative voters who are pro-Trump and anti-Trump emerged from the research. Those included the following:
- Among Trump voters, 63% own a gun. Among SAGE Cons voting otherwise, just 48% possess a firearm.
- One out of every five Trump supporters (20%) is or has been in the military. Only one out of seven Christian conservatives voting against Mr. Trump (14%) has served in the military.
- The GOP candidate fares worse with single adults than do the competing options. Specifically, among those voting against Mr. Trump 22% will be single, while 16% of his votes will come from unmarried Christian conservatives.
- The presence of children under 18 living in the voter’s home makes a big difference. Less than one out of five of the Trump votes from SAGE Cons (18%) will be from voters with children at home. In contrast, twice as many of the non-Trump SAGE Con votes (37%) will be from homes with children.
- The Trump campaign thrives on older religious conservatives. Almost half of the Trump vote (46%) comes from SAGE Cons who are 65 or older. That is double the proportion within the non-Trump SAGE Con constituency (23%).
- Geographically, Mr. Trump struggles in his home region, the Northeast, even among the Christian conservatives there. Only 10% of his support within the SAGE Con world is from the Northeast, while residents of the area constitute nearly double the proportion of the anti-Trump vote (18%). The Republican fares better in the South (41% of his Christian conservative vote is from there) than do the alternatives to a Trump presidency (34%).
Some Things Have No Effect
The survey identified a series of factors that showed no relationship to a person’s presidential preference. Surprisingly, SAGE Cons who are regular Wal-Mart shoppers were no more likely than those who are not consistent customers of the retailer to support Mr. Trump. Similarly, being a lover of NASCAR bore no connection to one’s presidential choice.
A few other factors that had no apparent relationship to a SAGE Con’s candidate choice included being a self-identified “model citizen”; being deeply committed to practicing their religious faith; their assessment of the performance of both the US Senate and House of Representatives; and the person’s levels of education and income.
About the Research
The research described in this report is part of the RightView™ longitudinal survey, a national study undertaken among spiritually active, governance engaged conservatives who are registered voters – a segment known as SAGE Cons. The survey undertaken for this report had sample size of 1,500 qualified adults and was conducted online by the American Culture & Faith Institute during mid-September of 2016.
In RightView™ studies SAGE Cons are identified as adults who are registered voters; conservative on political matters; have accepted Jesus Christ as their savior; are active in pursuing their Christian faith; and are actively engaged in politics and government. They represent about 12% of the national adult population, which constitutes a segment of approximately 30 million individuals.
The American Culture & Faith Institute is a division of United in Purpose, a non-partisan, non-profit organization. The mission of United in Purpose is to educate, motivate and activate conservative Christians related to the political process. The organization does not support or promote individual candidates or political parties.
Additional information about this and related research is accessible on the American Culture & Faith Institute website, located at www.culturefaith.com.