The Evangelical Vote: ABT

Who will conservative evangelicals vote for? Over the past forty years, it has become a common assumption that the “Religious Right” can make or break a presidential campaign. Among some evangelical pollsters and opinion-makers, a new “ABT” attitude—anyone but Trump—seems to be emerging.

For lots of WORLD's evangelical insiders, it's ABT...

For lots of WORLD’s evangelical insiders, it’s ABT…

Thomas Kidd of Baylor University made his position clear. “I will not support Trump under any circumstances,” Professor Kidd wrote,

and I would use what little influence I have to stop him from being elected president. If that means that Hillary Clinton or another Democrat gets elected by default, I am fine with that.

Russell Moore, too, the public face of the Southern Baptist Convention, denounced Trump in no uncertain terms:

We should also count the cost of following Donald Trump. To do so would mean that we’ve decided to join the other side of the culture war, that image and celebrity and money and power and social Darwinist “winning” trump the conservation of moral principles and a just society.

At evangelical WORLD Magazine, J.C. Derrick recently defended his survey of evangelical attitudes. The WORLD poll, Derrick explained, does not sample randomly from the population. It picks 103 people who have substantial claim to the label “evangelical insiders.” Who do THEY think should be president?

Ann Coulter accused the WORLD survey of being an anti-Trump set-up. Only Trump, Coulter fumed, displayed “real Christian courage.”

WORLD’s evangelical insiders disagreed. These days, they prefer Marco Rubio. Most telling, more than a third of respondents said they would either vote Democrat or stay away from the polls if Trump were the GOP candidate.


Similar stories emerge from another evangelical poll from the National Association of Evangelicals. NAE leaders were not in agreement about whom they thought best represented their values, but they seem heading toward the ABT camp. As the NAE report put it,

Trump did not perform well in the NAE poll with some leaders specifically noting ‘Not Trump’ or ‘Anyone but Donald Trump.’

With primaries and caucuses just around the corner, I wonder if this sort of evangelical ABT will catch on among conservatives.

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  1. So what? They’ll choose Carson.

  2. I have a question I would love your input on. Do you agree with my recent statement…

    “Ben Carson’s creationism will have no effect on his presidency in the same way Obama’s belief in evolution has had no effect on his.”

    If you do agree… why do you think the evolution question is mentioned so much. If you don’t agree… why?

    • Let me start with a statement that might seem like a non sequitur: president Obama is a creationist. As a Christian, officially he believes that God created everything. Why do I bring up this obvious but beside the point point? Because I think the real issue is the split among Christians between those who make a political issue out of their creationism and those who think they don’t. To be a “creationist” in Dr. Carson’s sense is to imply a political position against the teaching of evolution, just as being a creationist in president Obama’s sense implies support for that teaching. But president Obama does not imply that his beliefs about evolution are based in his religion.

      • Why do you think Carson’s position against evolution is any more political than Obama’s stance in favor?

      • Tim,
        I think I said it badly. I don’t mean to imply that Dr. Carson’s creationism is political and President Obama’s non-creationism is not. What I’m getting at is that creationism has always been split between those who identify as anti-mainstream creationists and those who don’t make an issue of it. It’s not an individual thing, either, but something approaching a political identity. Democratic hopefuls this round will not be asked about evolution, whereas every GOP hopeful will. And has!

      • I’m just trying to figure out if it is actually applicable to a presidential run or if it is just a ruse to mock people. I can’t find a single political difference between a young-earth creationist and an evolutionist.

      • No political difference between two? Really? Do you mean within the GOP, or among all politicians generally?

      • I don’t want to put words in Tim’s mouth, but I think he’s asking more if Dr. Carson’s creationism is really important to his qualifications for the presidency, or if it is being used cynically in order to push Carson out of the realm of “respectable” political belief. This was the argument made by Rod Dreher recently. I think it DOES matter, though, for more than just this sort of political demonization. Being a YEC in the mold of Dr. Carson and other Seventh-day Adventists implies a host of other beliefs. And those beliefs matter in a president. Maybe not directly on the day-to-day decisions of the Oval Office, but in general they matter about what sorts of issues a President Carson would consider important, and what sorts of allies and programs he would support. In other words, I think cynics will use Carson’s creationism unfairly and without real logic as a boogie-man to scare away voters, but I also think Carson’s creationism makes a difference.

      • I agree completely with what you stated.

      • Let me rephrase that. I don’t see how positions on origins affects anything politically. Nothing Obama has done has been because of his belief in evolution – therefore why do we think Carson’s creationism would affect his presidency?

      • See Adam’a response to my comment to you. I was raised a YEC, and within that theology, there is expressed an urgent need to rescue the nation from the pagans. The pagans have had many labels over the years, beginning with “Communism” when I was a child. Now it is the “MSM”, and the “Leftists”. The groups have changed but the purpose of the Bible-only crowd is the same–return the USA to its “Judeo-Christian roots”. This type of theology most certainly will impact decisions made by POTUS. For these folks who also subscribe to “The Rapture”, this will also include unwavering support for Israel regardless of what Israel does. These believers see any criticism of Israel as putting the USA in danger of divine retribution, based on a Biblical passage where God says that he will bless those who bless Israel, and curse those who curse Israel. It’s a twisted view of the Bible that will creep into the Oval Office.

      • @Sheila: Yes. Not to mention all the other ways Carson appears to be crazy and a lifelong narcissist who operates within a megalomaniac’s delusional reality all the time.

  3. @Adam – Now Evangelical leaders and not just their GOP handlers have clearly lost control of their rank and file. They have the ethno-nationalism, “nativism,” and straight up racism of their base uncorked and following a man they can’t control. I don’t see how you can possibly recover party discipline at this point. They’re in this situation because their unifying discipline since Goldwater has been race baiting!


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