Now Trump and the GOP are Losing Young Evangelicals Too

Whoever the Republicans pick to stand for president in 2024, they may not be able to count on as much support from the young evangelicals who weren't old enough to vote last time around, according to a just-released study.

Donald Trump rode to victory against Hillary Clinton in 2016 with significant help from white, Protestant evangelicals, who make up about one-fifth of the electorate. Around 77 percent of them backed the former president, according to Pew Research.

But evangelicals ages 18-25 — representing about 13 percent of Gen Z — are not nearly as likely as their parents and grandparents to be influenced by Republicans, according to a new poll from Neighborly Faith, which bills itself a student movement that introduces Christians to young people of other religions.

Neighborly Faith co-director Kevin Singer told Newsweek the shift in whom young evangelicals look to for influence could already be having an impact, pointing to midterm elections in which the Republicans did not achieve the "red wave" of victories they had hoped for.

"Young evangelicals were almost certainly a contributor to the so-called 'red wave' becoming more like a ripple," Singer said. "Though they have more conservative political leanings than their peers, they are also more progressive than older evangelical voting blocs that Republican candidates have come to rely on."

Even prior to Neighborly Faith's findings, there was evidence that white evangelicals of ages 18-25 were drifting left, with 64 percent of them voting for Trump in 2020, down from 68 percent four years earlier, according to the 2020 Cooperative Election Study. In contrast, just 29 percent of the non-religious of the same age group dub themselves "conservative" while 52 percent say they are "liberal."

That said, it had initially appeared that Trump's share of evangelical voters of all ages had slipped two years ago, but when all votes were counted his support among them had risen. Other Christian groups, such as Vote Common Good, Faith 2020 and Catholics for Biden, rallied for Joe Biden.

This next go-around, at least when it comes to the new generation of voting evangelicals, it could inch closer to a 50-50 split Republican to Democrat, which may not bode well for the GOP's future, said Singer, even though evangelical elders remain steadfastly conservative.

The study, dubbed, "Who is Influencing Young Evangelicals on Politics?" polled 1,989 young adults, purposely over-sampling evangelicals, which Singer says will likely make up the third largest voting block of young adults, trailing the non-religious and Catholics.

The poll listed several political influencers, and it found that 21 percent of young evangelicals agreed politically with conservative Ben Shapiro but, on the flip side, 8 percent agreed with progressive Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and 15 percent with Democrat socialist activist Bernie Sanders.

"Donald Trump cannot count on this group," said Singer. "Generally, their attitudes are favorable toward him and, strangely, the amount of trust among young evangelicals who are female, non-straight and minorities have an even greater amount of trust for Trump, but we see similarly positive marks for Biden."

There are 10 attributes that qualify one as an "evangelical," according to the study. Among them are a "personal commitment to Jesus Christ;" belief that their lives have "been completely transformed by my faith;" and that "the Bible is the ultimate authority in faith and life."

Although Singer says young evangelicals tune into Fox News and CNN in roughly equal measure, it's still an uphill climb for the Democrats to get to something close to a 50-50 split on young evangelicals, as 46 percent of them said they trusted Trump when he was president and 33 percent say they trust Biden.

Plus, influencers on the right such as Candace Owens and Tucker Carlson still beat out those on the left such as Rachel Maddow, Jimmy Kimmel, John Oliver and Trevor Noah on the "trust" scale, according to the study. Also, young evangelicals look more often to their religious leaders than they do to media figures before deciding on an issue.

Nevertheless, Singer sees his polling data representing a negative trend for the GOP and a positive one for Democrats. "The data is close enough. Young evangelicals are a lot less beholden to one institution over the other," said Singer. "When it comes to climate change, economic equality and other causes, they are trending progressive, just as their peers are."

"They are teetering," he added, "and if this lasts, it could result in evangelicals no longer being a reliable voting bloc for Republicans and change many future election outcomes."

Composite Headshot, Biden and Trump
If it's Donald Trump (right) vs. Joe Biden again in 2024, Trump will have to work for the votes of young evangelicals, according to a new study. Getty