Why Christians Overwhelmingly Backed Trump

Despite predictions to the contrary, Trump won among conservative women and evangelicals. Abortion may have been a major factor.

Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

After the release of a video in which President-elect Donald Trump said he felt he could grab women’s genitals with impunity, many thought for sure two of his supporter contingents would abandon him: conservative women and Christians.

Instead, last night, both stuck by him.

Trump won over 53 percent of white women, to Clinton’s 43 percent, according to CBS, and he did about as well among white, Republican women as among white, Republican men.

Women and Trump
As of 12:30 a.m. Nov. 9 (NBC News Exit Poll)

And despite the vulgar language Trump was heard using in the Access Hollywood tape, which many social conservatives found off-putting, 81 percent of white evangelical Christians still voted for Trump, as did the majority of people who attend religious services once a week or more. (Catholics were slightly more divided than born-again protestants, but 60 percent still went for Trump.)

Trump’s embrace by these groups might signal the importance of abortion—an issue on which at least a fifth of Americans say they will not compromise when voting. In 2015, 21 percent of Americans said they would only vote for a candidate who shared their abortion views, up from 13 percent in 2008.

Vice-President-elect Mike Pence’s abortion stance is well known: As governor of Indiana, he signed one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation.

Trump’s position, meanwhile, has veered from vaguely pro, to staunchly opposed, to downright inscrutable. He has historically supported abortion rights, and last year he told Jake Tapper he was pro-choice, before immediately correcting himself to say he is actually pro-life. In March, Trump said if abortion is banned in the U.S., women who seek the procedure should be punished—then quickly backtracked the statement.

Then, his remarks about abortion during the final presidential debate—he said, “you can take a baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby”—suggested to many that he is unfamiliar with the mechanics of the procedure.

It seems, though, that pro-life voters might have been persuaded by some of Trump’s other comments in the final debate. He said he’d like to see the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade and for abortion rights to be left up to the states. Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, said, “I strongly support Roe v. Wade.”

Seven in 10 voters on Tuesday said the next president’s appointment of a new Supreme Court justice was an important factor—presumably because this judge could have a decisive vote in cases involving abortion and other social issues. Voters “were mobilized by what’s at stake & the clear contrast w/Hillary on life,” Family Research Council president Tony Perkins tweeted late Tuesday.

Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary and part of Trump’s evangelical advisory committee, “believes evangelicals were motivated to vote in unprecedented numbers because of Hillary Clinton’s record on abortion,” according to the Huffington Post.

Though Trump hasn’t been their most steadfast ally, several pro-life activists celebrated his victory Tuesday.

“For 25 years, we fought the Clinton abortion machine; finally the American people have brought an end to that era,” Mark Harrington, who led a pro-life get-out-the-vote initiative across Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida last month, said in an emailed statement. “Today, preborn babies got a reprieve.”

Meanwhile, Willie Parker, board chair of the pro-choice Physicians for Reproductive Health and one of the last few doctors to provide abortions in Mississippi, said in a statement that he was “deeply disheartened” by Trump’s win, adding, “A Trump presidency will mean that attacks on access to abortion and all other reproductive health services will continue.”