November 9, 2016

How the faithful voted: A preliminary 2016 analysis

The 2016 presidential exit polling reveals little change in the political alignments of U.S. religious groups. Those who supported Republican candidates in recent elections, such as white born-again or evangelical Christians and white Catholics, strongly supported Donald Trump as well. Groups that traditionally backed Democratic candidates, including religious “nones,” Hispanic Catholics and Jews, were firmly in Hillary Clinton’s corner.

While earlier in the campaign some pundits and others questioned whether the thrice-married Trump would earn the bulk of white evangelical support, fully eight-in-ten self-identified white, born-again/evangelical Christians say they voted for Trump, while just 16% voted for Clinton. Trump’s 65-percentage-point margin of victory among voters in this group – which includes self-described Protestants, as well as Catholics, Mormons and others – matched or exceeded the victory margins of George W. Bush in 2004, John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012.

(For more on the 2016 exit polls, see “Behind Trump’s victory: Divisions by race, gender, education” and “Hillary Clinton wins Latino vote, but falls below 2012 support for Obama.” For an explanation of how exit polls are conducted, see “Just how does the general election exit poll work, anyway?” )

White Catholics also supported Trump over Clinton by a wide, 23-point margin (60% to 37%), rivaling Romney’s 19-point victory among those in this group. Trump’s strong support among white Catholics propelled him to a 7-point edge among Catholics overall (52% to 45%) despite the fact that Hispanic Catholics backed Clinton over Trump by a 41-point margin (67% to 26%). 

Like Hispanic Catholics, religious “nones” and Jews were strong Clinton supporters. Indeed, nearly seven-in-ten religious “nones” voted for Clinton, as did 71% of Jews. Most people who identify with faiths other than Christianity or Judaism also favored Clinton over Trump, 62% to 29%.

Exit polls also follow another pattern from recent elections: Most weekly churchgoers backed Trump over Clinton, 56% to 40%. Those who said they attend religious services more sporadically (i.e., somewhere between a few times a month and a few times a year) were closely divided. And, those who said they don’t attend religious services at all backed Clinton over Trump by a 31-point margin (62% to 31%). There is one caveat, however; while exit polling from previous elections shows similarities, direct comparisons between 2016 and previous years are not possible because the wording of the question about religious attendance changed in 2016.

Finally, the religious makeup of the electorate remained largely the same, although there were some small differences between voters in this election and those in other recent presidential contests. While roughly a quarter of  voters in 2016 described themselves as white, born-again or evangelical Christians (26%), which is unchanged compared with 2012 and 2008, the nearly one-quarter of Catholic voters (23%) may constitute a slight decline in the Catholic share of the electorate, compared with 2012 (25%) and 2008 (27%). In addition, religious “nones” accounted for 15% of all voters, a modest 3-point increase since 2012.

This preliminary analysis reflects data for 2016 as published by NBCNews.com and/or CNN.com as of 11 a.m. on Nov. 9, 2016. If data are subsequently re-weighted by the National Election Pool (NEP), the consortium of news organizations that conducts the exit polls, the numbers reported here may differ slightly from figures accessible through the websites of NEP member organizations.

Topics: 2016 Election, Catholics and Catholicism, Evangelical Protestants and Evangelicalism, Hispanic/Latino Demographics, Hispanic/Latino Vote, Religion and U.S. Politics, Religious Affiliation, Religiously Unaffiliated, Voter Demographics, Voting Issues

  1. Photo of Gregory A. Smith

    is an associate director of research at Pew Research Center.

  2. Photo of Jessica Martínez

    is a senior researcher focusing on religion at Pew Research Center.

43 Comments

  1. Anonymous2 weeks ago

    What was the percentage vote for African American evangelicals by candidate?

    Also what is your working definition of Evangekical? Is it simply, not Roman Catholic? Is it self-identified born again vice mainline denomination?

    I fear that the apparent error of not identifying all “evangelical” voters by race has biases and invalidated the accuracy of your findings.

  2. Anonymous2 weeks ago

    just a question: since exit polls are generally more biased than regular election polls, and it seems that white, born-again/ evangelicals is self identified among both protestants an non-protestants, what is the error estimate on this figure?

  3. Anonymous2 weeks ago

    It’d be interesting to see how members of PCA churches voted

  4. Free’da Slaves3 weeks ago

    Be not deceived; God is not mocked. Whatsoever a man soweth, that also shall he reap. Be careful what you’ve asked for.

  5. Anonymous3 weeks ago

    I see no stats for African Americans…..so much for research by race

      1. Anonymous2 weeks ago

        It is concerning to me that the white evangelical vote is highlighted in the table, as though it is somehow the most important section of the table. I realize that may not be why you highlighted the line above and below it, but it certainly makes it stand out like “Notice Me!” Then unlike white and Hispanic Catholic statistics, you don’t show the nonwhite born again/evangelical vote, which is especially troubling to me. I realize you’ve probably got the information somewhere in your results, but chose not to put it in the article. Reading this article, as a white evangelical, I feel it is skewed as though the white evangelical Christian vote is the most important set of stats on the page and the nonwhite evangelical vote doesn’t even matter at all.

        1. Tracy Martin2 weeks ago

          Of all groups, Evangelicals and conservative voters are the most dependable voting bloc. They always show up to vote.

  6. Anonymous3 weeks ago

    The priest at my Catholic church twice told the congregation that they had to vote for the candidate who was the anti-abortion candidate.

  7. Anonymous3 weeks ago

    In response to some of the comments, I as a white, Catholic male voted for Trump. My vote was more of a vote against Mrs. Clinton and a vote for the Supreme Court. As with most people, I am appalled by the allegations against President-elect Trump, but between the two, this wasn’t a close call. In the last debate Mrs. Clinton said she supported not just abortion, but late-term abortion. No matter where one stands on the abortion issue today, I fear for our society and humankind when we vote for someone who will allow (and support) late term abortion. I think this was a big reason for the high percentage of Catholic and Evangelical support for Mr. Trump.

    1. Anonymous3 weeks ago

      I think many so-called Christians and Catholics are missing the point. We should be fighting against overt racism, bigotry, sexism, and stand for common decency BEFORE we nit pick the details of whether other people can get married or have abortions. Many Evangelical Christians sound more like they are pitching a political platform vs. following the core tenant of their religious belief.

      1. Anonymous3 weeks ago

        We “so-called Christians” believe that the taking of a human life outweighs everything else you mentioned.

        1. Anonymous3 weeks ago

          The parasite ( not to be rude but to highlight the relationship) is NOT a human life by Gods law until breath i.e. Birth. Read your bible Gen2:7

      2. Anonymous3 weeks ago

        You mean over anti white racism of minority quotas for university admissions, scholarships, government contracts, and corporate hiring practices? You mean bigotry against Christian students and aspiring professors in public universities? You mean sexism that disadvantages boys in schools and leads to major male underrepresentation in colleges? You mean standing for decency like rejecting a candidate that was bribed to the tune of a quarter of a billion dollars (Clinton Foundation)?

        Do you think that Christians who believe that God wrote the Bible should ignore everything it says about taxes, about work, about murderig babies, and about all other sins?

    2. Anonymous3 weeks ago

      So you only base your vote on abortion stance. IT IS IN THE CONSTITUTION THAT WOMEN HAVE THE RIGHT TO AN ABORTION, just like you have your religious freedom. Please rationalize how you have religious freedom, and women don’t have any rights in when it comes to their bodies? That’s like me saying that I wouldn’t vote for Joe Biden because he is catholic.

      1. Michael Walsh2 weeks ago

        You must have a different Constitution than I have. The word “abortion” doesn’t even appear in my copy.

  8. Fred Stiening3 weeks ago

    Despite 52% of voters identifying as Protestant Christians, not one Supreme Court Justice is from that group

  9. Anonymous3 weeks ago

    It is beyond my understanding that the Evangelical groups could so strongly support a man who shares none of their beliefs and whose life demonstrates total disregard for any Christian value whatsoever. How could they be so fooled? Or does it demonstrate hypocrisy at its extreme? Sad commentary on the
    Evangelical vote in 2016.

    1. Anonymous3 weeks ago

      I expect many loathed Trump but they were voting for a conservative supreme court for possibly two generations. Clinton close ties with planned parenthood did her harm with both the protestant and catholic groups.

    2. Anonymous3 weeks ago

      My vote for Trump was not in support of him so much as it was a vote against Hillary. Religious Freedom matters.

      1. Anonymous3 weeks ago

        Religious freedom would not have been compromised under Hillary. i think you forget that religious freedom does not mean that everyone has to follow your beliefs. Also voting for Trump by definition means you support him!!! Don’t let other people talk you into believing otherwise.

  10. Anonymous3 weeks ago

    The USA is a melting pot of diversity & lumping religions together whilst ignoring some is skewing data. You are also disregarding certain races & spiritual beliefs, I.e. Native American Indian. What about Asians & Hinduism? Buddhism? Taoism? Or White, Black or Hispanic Buddhists?

    How can anyone truly identify how American citizens voted when the data is already skewed in favor of “White Christians”? We should not assume this is a Christian nation simply based on who submitted a ballot. Present real categories & numbers that may be able to align with the census bureau please.

    Thank you.

  11. Anonymous3 weeks ago

    I was not approached to do an exit poll. How do people get selected fairly for these?

    1. David Kent3 weeks ago

      There’s a link to Edison Research’s methodology in this post: pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/1…

  12. Anonymous3 weeks ago

    Why is race specified in some of the religions but not all?

  13. Anonymous3 weeks ago

    I am surprised at the hard core support of the Jews for the Democrats.

    1. Reps are more Israel friendly.
    2. Jews that I know are more conservative leaning.
    3. When Obama wouldn’t meet with the Israeli leader, the Rep Speaker of the House DID!

    I would love to be enlightened as to WHY the Jewish faith is SO democratic.

    1. Anonymous3 weeks ago

      The Jewish vote has always been strongly democratic. Republican politicians are certainly more pro-Israel now, but they also have a much longer and stronger history of antisemitism. Additionally, their brand of pro-Israeli politics is almost exclusively so that they have a strong military ally in the middle ease, which is very apparent to Jewish Americans. Also, your points about Netanyahu don’t really matter at all, because for the most part, American Jews hate him. He is hyper conservative, and as I already said, most of us are democrats. Jewish people also tend to be more highly educated, and more educated people typically vote democrat.

      Also, your use of “the Jews” and your assertion that they Jewish faith itself is democratic, as opposed to just American Jews as a demographic, indicates strongly to me that you don’t have a huge amount of experience interacting with Jewish people, and have developed some negative stereotypes about us. I’m happy to help educate you in this area.

    2. Anonymous3 weeks ago

      One answer that I have heard–and I tend to agree with–is that most American Jews are not religious, pro-Israel or even pro-Judaism. The majority are secular leftists. They might identify as being Jewish, but more from a cultural than religious standpoint. They lean left because they are upper-middle-class agnostics with above-average levels of post-graduate education who think of religion as a great ill, that Biblical morality is intolerant and vicious, and that Judaism itself is antiquated. Observant Jews lean to the right. Thus, the above figures are a good indication of the disproportion between cultural Jews and religious Jews in America today. The least religious religious group is be an apt description. Just as there are lapsed Catholics, so too, are there lapsed Jews.

    3. Anonymous3 weeks ago

      I live in Miami (large Jewish population) and not one Jewish person I know is a republican.

      In fact they had a mock election at a local temple/school and Hillary won 90% of the vote.

      They’re a people that recognize the threat of oppression and that was never so clear than with Donald Trump.

  14. Anonymous3 weeks ago

    Wow, I’m in a small group
    Conservative atheist

    1. Anonymous3 weeks ago

      There’s at least two of us.

    2. Anonymous3 weeks ago

      So am I. Progressive white evangelical. But I find the increase of white evangelical votes for Trump over previous Republican candidates hard to believe. Among evangelicals Trump is widely despised. Clinton is widely despised too, but that percentage far exceeds what I’ve observed.

  15. Anonymous3 weeks ago

    Please break down Protestant by denomination,

  16. Anonymous3 weeks ago

    Question? Any data about how African American Christians voted in this election? Curious.

  17. Hubert Lee Fitts3 weeks ago

    My vote as an Evangelical was for Brother Pence which had to also include Mr. Trump.

  18. Anonymous4 weeks ago

    While only 50% of those who identify as Christians are registered voters and only 25% of those vote, Christians are either under attack for the outcome of our election or being questioned on our Christian values. Not all Christians are the same, nor do they vote the same. So check out this!

  19. Anonymous4 weeks ago

    Can you publish the actual total numbers of each group, and not just the % splits? It would be interesting to see estimates on how different numbers of voters changes over the cycles. Maybe a 45% in 2012 is the same number as a 40% today if the actual number rose. – thanks

  20. Anonymous4 weeks ago

    where are the figures on African American Protestants?

  21. Anonymous4 weeks ago

    I have mentioned this subject several times about your various reports. I was a cradle Catholic, then non-practicing Catholic and now am a Unitarian Universalist who attends church 2 to 3 times a week and voted for Hillary. Please, can’t UUs have their own descriptor in your research?

    1. Anonymous3 weeks ago

      I am a UU too and looked at this site to get info on how my religious group voted. However, like you I found nothing. Do you think the problem is that UUs may self-identify as Agnostics, Protestants, Jews, Catholics, Deists, Atheists, Pagans, and a host of other titles? Or could it be that we are such a small percentage that we are lumped into “Other”?

  22. Rita Ihly4 weeks ago

    Admitting, I am a “Non”, I find it difficult to understand how the ‘Christians’ could support Donald Trump. It seems to me that when ‘forgiveness’ takes precedence over human frailty it wipes the slate clean. Yet when Bill Clinton (no, I do not support his choices) erred, it seemed a different story. Same goes for Gingrich, et al. Please, could anyone explain this ‘phenomennnnomm’ to me? I am ambivalent in regard to the outcome of this election. I don’t have much of a dog in this fight. I am an 88 year old female, and on my way out. Yet, I lived through the WWII years. I was 14 when Japan attacked. I lived the years of phenomenal mobilization from scratch! of this nation to fight a war on two fronts. Our backs, and those of our allies were against the wall. What will it take for this generation to focus on the Flame we ignited long ago? To choose otherwise, in my opinion is to betray all those who gave their lives, and all the lives that were destroyed emotionally and physically by their devotion and faith. Get over your obsessions, and honor those who carved out the blessings you enjoy today. In other words, Grow Up!!!

    1. Anonymous3 weeks ago

      I am a Christian who attends church on a regular basis. You asked how a Christian could vote for Trump. I say- how can a Christian in good conscience vote for Clinton and her support of abortion. First, let me say, I do not approve of the actions of any man who mistreats women. He apologized for the comments he made in the past and as Christians we are taught forgiveness. I voted for Trump for two main reasons: the fact that he wants to unfund Planned Parenthood and the fact that he will nominate a conservative to the supreme court. I am sure there will be replies to this from those who voted for Clinton, but this will be my last comment on the matter as I respectfully do not want to get into a back and forth. I am simply answering the question of a women representing a generation that we owe a great deal. I keep hearing from those who voted for Clinton-how can you overlook Trump’s faults. It is simple, it is more important to me that we stop abortions and allow children to grow up in this wonderful democratic country of ours where they freely express their opinions and can agree to disagree. Under Hillary, children would never even get the chance to be born. Also, I do not agree with the lack of values in our country and the total disregard for the values on which our nation was founded. Our constitution has been ignored. A conservative judge nominee will balance the court that makes decisions that seriously impact our nation. In addition, I believe the immigration policy needs to be reformed. I believe in immigration but legal immigration. I also feel we live in a different world now, where Isis will do anything to kill Americans. We need stronger vetting of refugees to combat Isis infiltration. I believe Trump will make improvements to that process. There are other issues where I supported his stance over hers as well. I also feel Washington is broken and The Clinton machine was a big part of the problem. I hope this answered your question.

    2. Anonymous3 weeks ago

      Respectfully… What are you talking about?