Haley's Last Stand in South Carolina, Courtesy of Trump-Loving White Evangelical Protestants
PLUS, my conversation last week at the Michigan Avenue Forum, sponsored by Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago
Dear #WhiteTooLong Readers,
Last week was a bit of a blur. I had a scheduled colonoscopy on Monday (I realize this may be TMI, but as someone who has recovered from a bout with colon cancer, consider this a public service announcement and gentle reminder to all readers over the age of 45 that screening can save lives), gave a public talk at Fourth Presbyterian Church on Wednesday, spoke with a great group of students at DePaul University on Thursday, and then attended a funeral just outside of Atlanta for a cousin who died way too young on Friday. Below, I’ve included a link to the talk at Fourth Presbyterian.
I’m still catching up this week, but I want to share a few thoughts about what is looking more and more like Nikki Haley’s last stand at the upcoming South Carolina GOP primary on February 24th and the role that white evangelical voters have played in the demise of her campaign. Painfully for Haley, this likely fatal blow to her campaign will come in her home state.
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The chart below shows the candidate preferences of white evangelical Protestant primary voters. For Iowa and New Hampshire, the numbers come from the CNN entrance and exit polls. For South Carolina, the numbers are from the recent Post-Monmouth survey of likely GOP primary voters.
Just a few quick observations. In Iowa, a majority of Caucus goers were white evangelical Christians (55%), and they supported Trump at a slightly higher rate than other non-evangelical caucus participants. In fact, more white evangelicals supported Trump (53%) than the other candidates combined (27% for DeSantis, 13% for Haley, 7% for Ramaswamy). Notably, this landslide support for Trump in 2024 far outpaces white evangelical support for Trump in the 2016 Iowa Caucuses (with a much more crowded field), when only 21% of white evangelicals supported Trump, compared to 33% who supported Ted Cruz.
In New Hampshire, with the GOP field cleared to be a head to head race, and in a much less conservative state than either Iowa or South Carolina, white evangelical Protestants were more than 2.5 times as likely to support Trump than Haley (70% vs. 26%). By comparison, in the 2016 New Hampshire primary, Trump received 28% of the vote, edging out Ted Cruz (24%).
The New Hampshire exit polls also contained a measure of religious attendance. Consistent with the historical national data I laid out in my recent post, The Zombie Myth about White Evangelical Support for Trump, Trump received a majority of votes not just among white evangelical voters but among all regular churchgoers: 62% of those who attend church weekly or more and 56% of those who attend church occasionally. The only group in which Haley was competitive with Trump was among those who never attend church, and even there it was a statistical tie (Trump 47%, Haley 50%).
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If ever there were a state where Haley could demonstrate her ability to challenge Trump among GOP voters, New Hampshire was it. And it wasn’t even close. Yet, Haley is pushing on undeterred toward the February 24th primary in her home state of South Carolina, a state in which 53% of Republicans identify as white evangelical Protestants, according to PRRI’s 2020 Census of American Religion. It is likely to be a brutal end to her presidential run.
In the recent Post-Monmouth poll of likely GOP primary voters in South Carolina, Trump leads Haley by 26 points (58% to 32%). Among white evangelicals, seven in ten (69%) say they plan to vote for Trump over Haley (22%), who may ultimately attract less than one-quarter of their support (especially given the recent embarrassment in the symbolic GOP Nevada primary, where “she became the first presidential candidate from either party to lose a race to ‘none of these candidates’ since that option was introduced in Nevada in 1975,” according to the Associated Press).
We also have some clues in the Post-Monmouth poll about just how strong the ties are between Republican white evangelicals and Trump: 79% hold a favorable view of Trump; 70% believe Trump’s Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him due to voter fraud; and 75% say they would still vote for Trump over Biden even if he is convicted of a crime.
We’ll see this play out over the next few weeks, first on February 24th in South Carolina and then, if Haley manages to survive, on Super Tuesday on March 5th. But one thing is already clear. The single group that could have steered the Republican Party to any other candidate in these early primaries, and the group that is uniquely responsible for paving the road for Donald Trump’s potential return to power, is white evangelical Protestants.
My Conversation at the Michigan Forum, Sponsored by Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago
Last Wednesday, I had the opportunity to be in conversation with the good folks at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago as part of their ongoing Michigan Avenue Forum speaker series. I was honored to be in such amazing company—past speakers include:
- Scholar in Residence at National Council of Jewish Women and author of On Repentence and Repair: Making Amends in an Unapologetic World, on understanding anti-semitism;
Elaine Pagels on her book Revelations;
Walter Brueggemann on ministry in the twenty-first century;
- on her books Pastrix and (two years later) Accidental Saints;
Nikole Hannah-Jones, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of the New York Times’ 1619 Project.
Click the video below to watch the presentation and interview.
Here’s the description of the event:
In a presentation moderated by Fourth Church member Cynthia Johnson, Dr. Jones explained how the founders of the United States could build the philosophical framework for a democratic society on a foundation of mass racial violence — and why this paradox survives today in the form of white Christian nationalism. Through stories of people navigating these contradictions in three communities, Jones illuminated the possibility of a new American future in which we finally fulfill the promise of a pluralistic democracy.
Michigan Avenue Forums at Fourth Presbyterian Church seek to promote civic formation within the Chicagoland community by presenting a series of events that feature important thinkers and public leaders in live lecture or debate format, discussing current issues of civic and ethical priority.