President Donald Trump famously once said that he wouldn’t lose support even if he shot someone on Fifth Avenue in New York City. As his presidency enters its most dramatic phase yet, just one year ahead of the 2020 election, he might be right.
In mid-September, 94 percent of Republicans opposed impeachment. A month later—after the news about Trump’s fateful phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and after House Democrats formally launched an impeachment inquiry—their views are essentially unchanged. Even with these revelations, 93 percent of Republicans remained opposed to impeachment in mid-October, according to data released today from the Public Religion Research Institute. Of all Republican voters, two subgroups stand out for their unwavering support of Trump: those who primarily get their news from Fox, and white evangelical Christians.
It’s easy to forget now, but during the 2016 primary, white Christians were intensely divided over Trump. Many religious voters in deep-red pockets of the country preferred Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who is more clearly one of their own, or Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who has championed socially conservative policies, over a reality-television star who once incorrectly referred to a book of the Bible as “Two Corinthians” during a speech at an evangelical university. But since 2016, these voters, along with Republicans generally, have consolidated behind the president. According to the new PRRI data, one year after Trump’s election, 59 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said they would prefer for Trump to remain the party’s nominee in 2020. Two years after his election, 66 percent said the same thing. And this fall, 72 percent said they want their party to keep Trump. Within this group, white evangelicals were among the voters most likely to want Trump on the ballot, at 82 percent.