The narrative that "evangelicals support Trump in large numbers" needs closer analysis. The Family Research Council offers the following perspective." (Bolding is my own)
Very few people have been able to wrap their heads around the "bizarre" relationship between Donald and evangelicals. Part of the reason for the unusual alliance, Peter Wehner speculates in yesterday's New York Times, "is that many evangelicals feel increasingly powerless, beaten down, aggrieved and under attack." But there may be a better explanation for Trump's popularity with this bloc, the Barna Group points out, which is that some of these "evangelicals" aren't evangelicals at all!
If you want to understand where true evangelicals stand, they argue, ask the churchgoers. "Most polls are based on self-identification," the Group has found, "instead of what people do or believe... Reuters and others have found that church attendance distinctly decreases evangelical support for Trump, who has the least-religious supporters among the GOP candidates."
Barna's definition of evangelical is more "rigorous." To qualify, voters have to meet nine key faith criteria ranging from a personal commitment to Jesus Christ to agreement on who God is. Using that filter, true evangelicals, the Group notes, "whose faith hinges on obedience to God's commands, are far more interested in the character of candidates than any other segment." Looking at the election through Barna's lens, the mirage of Trump's broad evangelical support begins to fall away.
"Overall, far more evangelicals view Trump as 'very unfavorable' than 'very favorable," the survey notes. "Researchers found a 38 percentage point difference between the extreme ends of Trump's favorability spectrum... When Barna asked its 869 survey respondents to choose their favorite candidate, evangelicals who identified as Republicans split between Cruz (38%) and Carson (35%), trailed by Rubio (14%) and Trump (11%). Practicing Christians also chose Cruz first (30%), followed by Carson (20%), Trump (18%), and Rubio (15%)."
The liberal media would love to perpetuate the story that evangelicals are abandoning their morals to vote for someone with questionable character. The liberal media would love to perpetuate the story that evangelicals are abandoning their morals. And perhaps some are. But Barna's research makes it clear -- true evangelicals haven't lost faith in their core values.And perhaps so