This morning, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat speculated on Twitter that polling in Georgia shows that evangelicals are supporting Donald Trump at a lower rate than they did Mitt Romney back in 2012.
While there’s no way to prove that empirically, it’s possible to take a look at polling to see if that might be the case.
In an AJC poll conducted in October 2012, Mitt Romney led Barack Obama 51% to 43% among likely voters. Republicans favored Romney 90% to 5%. White protestant evangelicals were less enthusiastic. For that subgroup, Romney led President Obama by a margin of 82% to 12%. I don’t believe there were exit polls that year (What, Georgia a battleground state? Nah.) so this poll from mid-October is likely the closest we’ll get. And, as Douthat points out, 53% of voters ended up pulling the lever for Romney in November.
Now, let’s look at the AJC’s August poll released over the weekend. In the poll question that included all four presidential candidates (Clinton, Trump, Johnson and Stein), Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump 43% to 39% among registered voters. This is apparently the poll question Douthat is working from. Breaking it down, 4% of Republican voters support Clinton, while 81% support Trump. Trump’s numbers deteriorate more when looking at evangelicals. There, 13% support Clinton, while only 73% support Trump.
Based on these numbers, then, support by evangelicals for the Republican presidential candidate has declined by nine points.
As a side note, it’s interesting to see that in both 2012 and 2016, the polls had support by Republicans for their nominee eight points higher than support by evangelicals for the Republican candidate. This is similar to the way support for House Bill 857, the religious liberty bill, broke out. In a May AJC poll, 58% of Republicans opposed Governor Deal’s veto of the measure, while only 53% of evangelicals did. Overall opposition to the veto was 44%. When those surveyed were asked if the legislature should try to pass the legislation in 2017, 57% of Republicans said yes and 51% of evangelicals said yes, while only 40% of all those polled agreed.