In a previous essay I demonstrated that Democrats have been consistently losing ground with both people of color and people of faith in virtually every midterm and general election cycle after 2008. Republicans, meanwhile, have seen consistent gains with many constituencies. What occurred in 2016, therefore, was not an aberration – but the culmination of long-running electoral trends.
Following the emergence of Trump on the political scene, however, there was a bifurcation in the racial trends: white people grew increasingly alienated from the GOP, beginning in the 2016 Republican primaries and persisting through the 2020 election eve polling. Meanwhile, Republicans continued to make gains among people of color throughout the Trump Administration. Indeed, Edison exit polls, AP VoteCast, the American Election Eve Poll, and precinct voting data all seem to tell the same story: Trump did worse with whites than he did in 2016, and better with black, Hispanic and Asian voters.
A good deal of attention has been paid to these racial trends – but how did Trump fare with religious voters?
Analyses have often focused narrowly on groups where Democrats have seen gains, and states where that might have mattered. For instance, many have flagged apparent Democratic gains with white evangelicals in particular, and how it could have influenced the outcome in Georgia (again, Democrats significantly increased their vote share with whites overall). These insights are interesting and valuable. However, it is also productive to zoom out at the broader picture of the U.S. religious landscape and how it has evolved over the Trump years. That is, not just looking at white evangelicals, but Protestants overall. And not just looking at Protestants and Catholics, but also Mormons, Muslims, Jews and other believers.
To do this, I charted the margins between Democrats and Republicans among religious voters from 2016 through 2020 (more info on the data available here). What we see is that the GOP continued to gain — and Democrats continued to lose ground – with people of faith virtually across the board. There were, however, two notable exceptions: non-religious Americans and Catholics.