A plurality of evangelical Christian voters does not believe that President Donald Trump is “religious” and is in agreement with over half of all registered American voters despite the president’s attempts to appeal to people of faith, a new survey suggests.
Following Trump’s controversial photo session at St. John’s Episcopal Church near the White House in Washington, D.C., early this month, 1,992 registered voters were surveyed between June 6 and 7 about their thoughts on the president’s spirituality for a poll released by Politico and Morning Consult.
“Even after nearly 3 in 4 voters saw coverage of President Trump’s photo-op at St. John’s Episcopal Church last week, only about 1 in 4 believe he’s religious,” Morning Consult Vice President Tyler Sinclair told Politico.
According to the survey, only 27% of registered voters agreed with the statement that “Trump is religious.” About 10% “strongly agree” and 17% “somewhat agree.” Meanwhile, 16% “somewhat disagree” and 41% “strongly disagree.”
Almost two in 10 respondents (18%) said that they “don’t know.”
When broken down by religious affiliation, just over one-third of Christians agree that the president as religious, while half of Christians said they do not agree that the president is religious.
About 40% of self-identified evangelicals said they agreed with the statement that Trump “is religious,” with 16% saying they strongly agree and 24% saying they somewhat agree. A total of 43% of evangelicals said they disagreed (29% strongly disagreed) with the statement that “Trump is religious.”
Among all Christian respondents, 34% agreed with the statement (22% somewhat agreed), while 50% of Christians surveyed disagreed in some form with the statement (35% strongly disagreed).
While 23% of all religious non-Protestant or Catholics surveyed agreed with the statement, 62% disagreed with the notion that the president is religious.
Conservative respondents were the most likely to agree that Trump is religious (55%). About 31% of conservatives disagreed with the statement. Meanwhile, among liberals, 9% agreed and 79% disagreed with the statement.
The results come as the president has received much criticism over his June 1 photo session at the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church, where Trump posed with a Bible for photographs.
The photo session occurred minutes after law enforcement was used to clear protesters demonstrating after the death of George Floyd from Lafayette Square, the park that sits between the White House and the church.
Over the weekend, the Secret Service admitted that it used pepper spray in its operations to clear Lafayette Square. The clearing of protesters drew the ire of some left-leaning religious leaders.
In an interview with former White House press secretary Sean Spicer two days later on June 3, Trump said he got the idea for the church visit after “somebody suggested it was a good idea.”
Trump contended that “religious leaders loved it” and “everything was handled really well.” Yet, the president is being sued for allegedly violating the First and Fourth Amendment rights of protesters. Also, an investigation is underway into U.S. Park Police officers who were involved in an altercation with two Australian reporters near Lafayette Square.
In the interview, Trump was asked if he believes he has grown in faith while he has been in office.
Trump responded: “I think maybe I have, from the standpoint that I see so much that I can do. I’ve done so much for religion.”
Throughout his time in office, Trump has made a concerted effort to appeal to Christian conservatives through his administration’s policies on abortion and religious freedom as well as through his conservative judicial nominations.
Trump, who grew up as a Presbyterian, made headlines when he decided to place his hand on two Bibles instead of just one during his January 2017 inauguration ceremony.
His administration has held various events and briefings for conservative evangelical leaders, including a “state-like” dinner for over 100 evangelical leaders and their spouses.
Trump has also visited some churches around the country, including when he held the launch of the “Evangelicals for Trump” coalition at a Miami megachurch.
Last June, he made headlines when he unexpectedly showed up at McLean Bible Church in the Washington suburbs of Virginia and was prayed over by Baptist Pastor David Platt.
Among other things, Trump signed an executive order in 2017 ordering federal agencies to review and create guidelines to ensure that religious freedom is protected both domestically and internationally.