Most Americans have been led to believe that religious people disproportionately support Donald Trump. Samuel Perry’s findings don’t conform this. While Perry has found that people with religious, racist, sexist, and authoritarian tendencies overwhelmingly support Donald Trump, he has not found a correlation solely between religion and the president.
Perry dubs people with religious and nationalist tendencies “White Christian Nationalists.” They make up around 20% of the population, and are extremely politicly vocal. Like other religious voters, they claim to practice “value voting.” So why did they vote for Donald Trump?
Because White Christian Nationalists (WCNs) don’t really consider themselves religious. They, more accurately, see themselves as the last line of defense against America-haters (socialists, atheists, minorities, etc.) They don’t support Trump because he attends church and claims to be a Christian — they support him because the two have a common enemy. Trump’s rude, uncouth, and anti-Christian behavior doesn’t really matter; WCNs don’t actually care about “value voting.”
Circling back to Perry’s main findings, WCNs aren’t even very religious. They define themselves as Christians because they like the “traditional values” that Christianity supports. It’s a dog-whistle term for them. Actual religious people (those who read the bible and regularly attend church) are much more open-minded than WCNs. In fact, they’re more open-minded than the average American.
Nonetheless, religious people and WCNs are considered one in the same by pollsters and public opinion. This is all to say: religious people don’t overwhelmingly support Trump. Alt-right people — who claim to be religious — support Trump. And their guise is working. Perry’s lecture wasn’t a presentation of his findings, it was an expose. And we (the American public) are being exposed.