Trump's Approval Among White Catholics Has Slipped

Carol Kuruvilla

President Donald Trump’s favorability ratings have recently dipped among two religious groups that make up a core part of his religious base: white Catholics and white evangelicals.

Only 37% of white Catholics held a favorable view of Trump in May, down from a peak of 60% in March, according to a Public Religion Research Institute survey published Friday.

The low rating is even starker when compared to the fact that Trump managed to maintain an average favorability of 49% among white Catholics throughout 2019.

The president’s approval rating among white evangelical Protestants, a key constituency, also dropped, from March’s peak of 77% to 62% in May. This is about the same as his average favorability among this group throughout 2019, which was 64%.

March’s bump in favorability among white Catholics and white evangelicals was prompted by a patriotic “rally ’round the flag” effect brought on by the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, according to PRRI.

But as the pandemic continued and protests over police brutality toward Black Americans erupted around the country, that wave of support began to recede. 

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump visit St. John Paul II National Shrine on Tuesday in Washington.

The PRRI survey was conducted via telephone from May 26 through May 31 as the country reacted to the May 25 police killing of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes. PRRI recorded a shift in opinion among all white Christians within the time that the survey was conducted. During the first half of the survey period, Trump’s favorability was 57% among white Christians. By the second half, as Trump pushed a militaristic response to protests, it had slipped down to 46%. 

These drops in favorability are happening at the same time that the Republican Party’s white evangelical base is shrinking. The religious group was 21% of the U.S. population in 2008; today it makes up just 15% of the country, according to PRRI. Catholics made up 17% of the electorate in 2008 and...

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