Christian Conservatives React to Trump Cabinet Picks
With less than one month to go before Donald Trump is inaugurated as President, the public is keenly aware of the preparatory activity in which he has engaged since being elected. Foremost on the radar of many observers has been the leaders he has selected for his cabinet. The public’s reactions to those selections have been lively and diverse.
A new national survey among Christian conservatives, conducted by the American Culture and Faith Institute (ACFI), provides their perspectives on the president-elect’s early personnel choices. The survey also examined their views on Mr. Trump’s prospects for being a successful president and the changes in people’s hopes for the future.
High Hopes for Trump
After shunning Donald Trump in the early stages of the primary season, then supporting him in unprecedented numbers by the end of the campaign, SAGE Cons (the Spiritually Active Governance Engaged Conservative Christian voters tracked by ACFI) are again showing their hope in the Republican winner.
In March of this year, after Trump appeared to be the inevitable GOP candidate, 10% of SAGE Cons felt he would do an excellent job if elected, with another 30% believing he would do a good job. Those figures rose to 19% and 42%, respectively, by July. The latest survey, conducted a month after Election Day, found that 34% expect him to do an excellent job and 57% expect him to do a good job.
Combining the two positive answers in the survey scale – excellent and good – reveals that the percentage of SAGE Cons to give those responses has skyrocketed from 40% in March to 91% in December.
A closer look at the demographics behind those expectations indicates that there have been some noteworthy changes. While men were more likely to expect Trump to do an excellent or good job than were women back in March (42% versus 35% respectively), there is no longer a gender gap.
The differences noted in expectations according to the age of SAGE Cons have also shifted. The general pattern of expectations being higher the older a person is are still in place: 72% of the 30-49-year olds have high expectations, compared to 88% among those 50 to 64 years old, and 95% among SAGE Cons who are 65 or older.
More interesting, perhaps, is how the shift has occurred. Between March and July, SAGE Cons under 50 thawed very little toward Trump: high expectations barely rose from 28% to 35%. But during that same period, high expectations jumped from 36% to 56% among those aged 50 to 64, and from 50% to 74% among the 65-plus group. In contrast, by far the biggest growth from July to December took place among the younger conservatives. Since July, those with high expectations more than doubled from 35% to 72% among the 30-to-49-year olds. The older conservative voters also rose significantly, but not as dramatically: a 32-point increase among those 50 to 64, and a 21-point rise among those 65-plus. Those substantial gains didn’t match the 37-point growth among the younger SAGE Cons.
Another interesting pattern was that back in March, Catholic conservatives were more likely than Protestant conservatives to expect Trump to do an excellent or good job (50% to 37%). In July the two groups were about even (both around the 60%) mark. Today, however, Protestants are more likely to have high expectations for the president-elect (90% versus 81%, respectively). That means the number of conservative Protestants who have adopted high expectations for Trump has expanded by 53 percentage points since March while the proportion of conservative Catholics with high expectations climbed by 31 points – a substantial gain but more modest when compared to the change among conservative Protestants.
Reactions to Cabinet Picks
Almost half of the SAGE Cons (45%) admitted that they knew little or nothing about many of the individuals Donald Trump has chosen for his cabinet. Within that group, most of them who said they are at least somewhat familiar with a few of his nominees – a segment representing three out of ten of all the unaware or minimally aware respondents (28%) – said that they like the selections with whom they are familiar. Only 1% of all the survey respondents said they don’t know most of the picks but they dislike the ones with whom they are familiar.
Among the slight majority of SAGE Cons who said they know all or most of the picks made by Trump, the sentiment about those selections is overwhelmingly positive. Forty-three percent said they like the picks; 12% said they like some but not others; and less than one-half of one percent claimed they do not like any of his selections.
One of the hallmarks of voters in the 2016 election was that they were so discouraged by the condition of the nation and by the quality of the candidates that they were pessimistic about the future of America. The survey data show, however, that the election of Donald Trump has lifted the spirits of millions of Americans.
The December survey among Christian conservatives found that nine out of ten (90%) said they are more hopeful now than they were a year ago, while only 1% said they are less hopeful. That left 3% who said their thoughts about the future have not changed in the past year, while the remaining 6% said they are not sure what to think yet.
The only demographic distinction worth noting related to age. SAGE Cons under 50 remained noticeably less sanguine about the future (79%) compared to those who are 50 or older (93%).