Perhaps the strongest indication that serious evangelicals are not the backbone of Trump’s campaign was seen in the question that asked “which candidate qualities mattered most in deciding how you voted today?” Trump is off the charts among voters who said “telling it like it is” is their main concern; Trump garnered in some cases 70-80% of those voters. However, among those voters who said that “shared values” mattered most Trump performed horribly; he only attracted an average of 13% of these voters and he failed to top 20% in any southern state. By contrast, Cruz averaged 41% of “values voters”, and Rubio average 28% of these voters with neither of the two dropping below 20% of such voters across the entire south.
In the end, a deeper look at the exit polls reveal[s] that Trump that has failed to earn a majority of evangelicals in any southern state thus far and a vast super-majority of evangelicals have consistently supported other candidates. Furthermore, to those who[se] religion matters most, Trump’s support is on average the weakest, while Ted Cruz’s is on average the strongest. Lastly, very few actual “values voters” are supporting Trump and they are instead opting for Cruz and Rubio in much larger numbers. Evangelical voters are not a monolith and defining them or generalizing about them is difficult at best, but it seems clear that they are not, as a group, Trump supporters. In short, headlines suggesting that evangelicals as a group support Trump seem rooted in a convenient media narrative rather than the facts.
Darren Patrick Guerra is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Biola University specializing in Constitutional Law and American Politics. His book Perfecting the Constitution was published in 2013 by Lexington Books.