Pence and GOP Convention Give Trump a Big Lift Among Conservative Christians
Cleveland is having its best year in ages. The Cavaliers won the NBA title. The Indians are in contention for MLB post-season opportunities. And the Republican National Convention took place without violence and with final-night ratings that swamped those of the Democratic National Convention held a week later.
Donald Trump capitalized on his week in Cleveland with a substantial spike in support from Christian conservatives, according to a new survey by the American Culture & Faith Institute. The combination of naming Mike Pence his Vice Presidential candidate and the hoopla of the convention pushed the Republican candidate to his highest level of support yet among the hallowed Christian conservative vote.
Substantial Growth for Trump
Support for Donald Trump from SAGE Cons was a bit scarce during the Republican primaries. In February, an ACFI survey found that only 11% of the Christian conservatives selected him as their preferred candidate.
Since the American Culture and Faith Institute began tracking the Trump-Clinton battle in March, however, Mr. Trump’s support has consistently registered in the 70% to 74% range. As much as 60% of the support he has received from Christian conservatives has been attributed by those voters to their distaste for Mrs. Clinton.
Things may be changing, though, thanks to the selection of Governor Mike Pence as the Republican Vice Presidential candidate plus the widely exposed GOP Convention. In a survey conducted during the week subsequent to the event in Cleveland, SAGE Con support for Mr. Trump jumped to 84%, which is ten percentage points above his previous high water mark with that group.
Among SAGE Cons, less than one-half of one percent says they would vote for Mrs. Clinton. Several other candidates, including Libertarian Gary Johnson, cumulatively attract 8% of Christian conservatives, while 4% say they would vote but not for President, and 5% have yet to make up their mind.
Among those who have chosen to back the GOP nominee, almost two-thirds (63%) say they are totally committed to voting for him, 30% say they are “mostly committed” and the remainder have made a soft commitment. Men are a bit more likely than women to be totally committed at this point in the race (66% versus 58%, respectively).
The Pence Factor
Six out of ten SAGE Cons (59%) entered August with a very favorable view of Mike Pence, with 27% holding a “somewhat favorable” impression of the Governor. Just 4% had an unfavorable opinion of him, while one-quarter (24%) said they were not sure yet. His profile was similar among both men and women.
Nearly two out of every three SAGE Cons (64%) felt that Mr. Pence was the best choice from among the three people alleged to have been the “finalists” in the GOP VP selection process. That was more than double the support shown for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, whom one out of four SAGE Cons (23%) said would have been a better choice. The third option, embattled New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, was favored by only 1%. Another 7% felt that all three men were of equal appeal while another 1% said that either Gingrich or Christie would have been a superior pick.
The value of adding the Indiana Governor to the GOP ticket was evident in the fact that two-thirds of all SAGE Cons (68%) said that the presence of Mr. Pence on the ticket made them feel more confident about Donald Trump’s candidacy. Only 2% said they believed that Mr. Pence diminished their confidence in Mr. Trump’s candidacy. The other one-third (32%) said choosing Mr. Pence made no difference in their level of confidence in Mr. Trump’s candidacy.
Will adding Mr. Pence to the ticket impact the chances of Mr. Trump being elected president? Nearly three-quarters of SAGE Cons (72%) believe his addition to the ticket will improve Mr. Trump’s chances of winning while only 1% said it would hurt those chances. The other 27% said it would not make a difference.
The latest results among SAGE Cons bode well for Mr. Trump, according to pollster George Barna, who directed the survey through ACFI. “In the most recent four presidential election cycles, Christian conservatives have given the more conservative presidential candidate – which has been the Republican nominee in each case – a minimum of 81% of their vote,” Barna explained. “The good news for Mr. Trump is that the data from this latest survey puts him firmly in that range. The challenge, though, will be for him to maintain that support since one-third of those voters are not yet totally sold on his candidacy.
“Adding Governor Pence certainly put many Christian conservatives at ease and strengthened Mr. Trump’s appeal,” he continued. “Although the national awareness numbers for Mr. Pence are a bit low, the SAGE Cons who know him, like him. In the eyes of SAGE Cons he was certainly the strongest running mate under consideration, and his acceptance speech, in which he described himself as a Christian first and foremost, as well as a conservative, was clearly a hit within the SAGE Con community.”