With voting results from the 2020 election still streaming in, exit poll data shows a critical percentage of white evangelical voters abandoned President Donald Trump this year.
Nationally, 76 percent of white evangelical and born-again Christian voted for Trump, down from 81 percent in 2016, and in the crucial battleground of Michigan, Trump’s support among this constituency was down to 70 percent.
Integral to this shift among faith voters were the efforts of Vote Common Good (VCG), a faith group led by Pastor Doug Pagitt, who was prompted by Trump’s victory in 2016 to leave his position as a pastor at Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis, MN and start organizing voters of faith to help defeat Trump by getting them to put the common good before their party affiliation.
Pastor Pagitt and VCG have operated under the assumption that persuading even just 5 percent of evangelical and Catholic voters who supported Trump in 2016 to abandon him this year would impact the outcome of the election. Based on the national and battleground exit polling data, it appears they were right.
Since January, VCG has led a bus tour across the country to engage voters of faith:
- Travelling more than 40,000 miles to host over 90 rallies and roundtable discussions in 41 states
- Mounting a series of billboard campaigns in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida
- Sending more than 25,000 postcards to swing states voters
- Training more than 60 candidates on how to engage with faith voters
They began their journey on January 2, 2020, outside of the White House and concluded it in Philadelphia, PA on November 3rd. In August, VCG launched their swing state-specific push with a nine-day, 115-mile pilgrimage for racial justice from Charlottesville, VA to Washington, D.C., where its members rallied outside the White House at Black Lives Matter Plaza before joining with the Rev. Al Sharpton’s March on Washington. VCG executive director Pastor Doug Pagitt spoke alongside Rev. Sharpton at the Lincoln Memorial.
Endorsers of All Faiths
Throughout the Fall, VCG helped mobilize high-profile endorsements for Biden from key faith leaders from around the country:
- Compiled the endorsements of more than 1,600 faith leaders for Joe Biden in what is the largest group of clergy to endorse a Democratic candidate for president in modern history.
- Organized more than 200 Minnesota faith leaders to endorse Biden.
- Released a letter signed by over 300 Ohioan Catholic leaders, rejecting the undue influence of church authorities and partisan groups that have been pressuring Catholics to vote for President Donald Trump.
VCG also produced and released a video from Jerushah Duford, granddaughter of legendary evangelical pastor Billy Graham, urging fellow voters of faith, particularly evangelical women, to not vote for President Donald trump. It made multiple stops in Duford’s home state of Michigan, with a focus on the evangelical stronghold of Kent County, which flipped to Biden.
VCG Polling Showed Defections from Trump
VCG saw the writing on the wall long before everyone else. In September, Vote Common Good released a poll of evangelical and Catholic voters in key battleground states – Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Florida – showing President Trump’s perceived lack of kindness was driving faith voters away – notably, the survey found an 11-point swing toward Biden and away from Trump as compared to 2016.
- In Michigan, the survey found a 7-point swing from Trump to Biden among evangelical voters.
- In North Carolina, the survey found a 9-point swing among evangelical voters.
- In Florida, the survey found a 13-point swing from Trump to Biden among evangelical voters.
- In Wisconsin, the survey found a 17-point swing from Trump to Biden among Catholic voters.
- In Pennsylvania, the survey found a 20-point swing from Trump to Biden among Catholic voters.
The poll – the largest survey of swing state faith voters in the 2020 cycle – was designed by behavioral scientists at the University of Southern California, the University of Maryland College Park, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and Duke University and commissioned by Vote Common Good. It not only revealed declining support for President Trump among Catholics and evangelicals, but shined light on the reasons these faith voters are moving away from him: his lack of Christian kindness was turning voters away.
And now, as the first data on how faith voters cast their ballots in 2020 start to come out, there are indications the results of the VCG poll are bearing out. Evangelical support for Trump remained strong, but not as strong as in 2016, and it could be one of the reasons President Trump appears headed to defeat.