President Donald Trump returns to the White House after visiting outside St. John's Church, Monday, June 1, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) Donald Trump
President Donald Trump returns to the White House after visiting outside St. John's Church, Monday, June 1, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Only 37% of white Catholics hold favorable views of Trump, a significant drop from a high of 60% in March.

President Donald Trump is losing support among his most ardent base, white Christians. The Public Religion Research Institute released a new poll showing Trump’s popularity has dipped among white Catholics and white evangelicals, who in recent weeks have expressed dismay about the president’s handling of national crises.

According to Thursday’s poll results, 55% of Americans overall hold an unfavorable view of the president. Only 37% of white Catholics hold favorable views of Trump, a significant drop from 49% across 2019, and a veritable plunge from a high of 60% in March and 48% in April.

Catholics are “a big part of the Midwest base,” Natalie Jackson, the research director for PRRI, told the Washington Post. Although he carried Ohio and Iowa handily in 2016, Trump’s own advisers are worried about his standing even in those Midwestern states.

Monday’s photo opp, where he hoisted a Bible at St. John’s Episcopal Church after violently clearing the area of protesters the night before, was supposed to shore up his image among Christians. It damaged it instead. 

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“Pelting people with rubber bullets and spraying them with teargas for peacefully protesting is morally wrong,” said Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. “What we need right now is moral leadership.”

“You just don’t do that, Mr. President. It isn’t cool!” said televangelist and staunch evangelical conservative Pat Robertson, referring to Trump’s heavy-handed response to the national outcry around the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. “We’re one race. And we need to love each other.”

Trump can’t afford to lose even a few white evangelicals. Although a record 81% of them voted for him in 2016, he barely scraped by with the presidency, losing the popular vote to Hilary Clinton. In March, nearly 80% of white evangelicals said they approved of the job Mr. Trump was doing, PRRI found. But by the end of May, white evangelical approval had fallen 15 points to 62%. 

Rebukes from their cultural leaders could widen the growing vulnerability. According to the poll, white Catholics and nonwhite Protestants show the largest shift in their approval of the president.