Since President Donald Trump’s election in 2016, some religious and political leaders have pondered God’s role in his rise to power. Trump’s former energy secretary Rick Perry has said the president is “here at this chosen time because God ordained it.” Evangelist Franklin Graham has said that “God was behind the last election.”
But how many Americans believe Trump was chosen by God to be president? And among those who think God’s hand was involved in the 2016 election, in what sense do they think God was at work?
A new Pew Research Center survey finds that 27% of U.S. adults believe Trump’s election reflects God’s will in the sense that the 2016 outcome must be part of God’s overall plan, but that this doesn’t necessarily mean God approves of Trump’s policies. Far fewer U.S. adults – just 5% – say God chose Trump because God approves of his policies. About half of Americans say God doesn’t get involved in U.S. presidential elections (49%), while the remainder say they don’t believe in God (16%).
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Americans hold very similar opinions about the election of President Barack Obama: 29% say Obama’s elections in 2008 and 2012 were part of God’s broader plan, but just 3% say God chose him to be president because God approved of his policies.
Among religious groups, white evangelical Protestants and black Protestants are more likely than others to say that recent presidential elections reflect God’s will in some way: A majority of white evangelicals (56%) and roughly half of black Protestants (48%) say it must be part of God’s plan that Trump or Obama – or both – were elected, but that this doesn’t necessarily mean God favored their policies.
Additionally, small shares of white evangelicals and black Protestants do think that God tipped the outcome based on policy considerations, though they differ about God’s preference. Among white evangelical Protestants, 11% say God chose Trump but not Obama because God favored Trump’s policies, while only 2% say God favored Obama on policy grounds, but not Trump. Among black Protestants, 12% say Obama’s election (but not Trump’s) reflects divine endorsement of his policies, while only 4% say this about Trump (but not Obama).
Among all other religious groups, large majorities say that God doesn’t get involved in presidential elections or that they don’t believe in God. That’s the case for 86% of the religiously unaffiliated, including almost all atheists (98%) and agnostics (96%), as well as eight-in-ten Jewish Americans, seven-in-ten Catholics and two-thirds of white Protestants who do not identify as born-again or evangelical.
There also are divisions on this question by party. Republicans and those who lean toward the Republican Party are more likely than Democrats and Democratic leaners to say the election of Trump or Obama (or both) was part of God’s overall plan though not necessarily a divine endorsement of their policies (35% vs. 20%). Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say that God stays out of presidential elections or that they do not believe in God.
While most Americans do not believe God has intervened in recent presidential elections, a 2017 Pew Research Center survey that asked more general questions about the nature of God found that seven-in-ten U.S. adults do believe that there is a God or a higher power in the universe that knows everything that goes on in the world, and six-in-ten believe that God has the power to direct or change everything that happens in the world.