Trump got 81% of the evangelical vote in 2016, but that number dropped to 75% in 2020. Meet the evangelicals who rejected him.

  • 81% of white evangelical Christians voted for President Donald Trump in 2016, but his support has been dropping in recent months. 
  • Pastor Doug Pagitt of Minneapolis is going on a bus tour across the country to convince fellow Christians not to vote for the president. 
  • Pagitt has gathered the support of more than 1,600 faith leaders to endorse Joe Biden with him.
  • View more episodes of Business Insider Today on Facebook.

In 2016, 81% of white evangelical Christians voted Donald Trump for president.

Pastor Doug Pagitt of Minneapolis wasn't one of them, but four years later, he said he still feels partly responsible for allowing Trump's rise to power.

"As someone who spent my professional life and my whole adult life working in the industry with white Christians, I realized that my DNA was all over this crime scene, just like everyone else's," Pagitt said.

Now, Pagitt is organizing anti-Trump rallies in swing states through his organization Vote Common Good, trying to convince his fellow evangelical Christians to vote against the president. He travels with former worship pastor Daniel Dietrich and other artists, workers, and volunteers.

They denounce the Trump administration's policy of separating migrant families from their children at the US-Mexico border and its stoking of racial tensions, among other actions they view as unchristian. So far, Pagitt has convinced more than 1,600 faith leaders to endorse Joe Biden with him.

"I think that many leaders don't think it's worth it to lose anyone from their church over politics," Pagitt said. "And I want to remind them that they're not going to lose those people. You're going to lose an entire generation who watched you stay silent when there was a moment that you needed to rise up."

But when it comes to abortion, the generations align more closely. The Supreme Court case Roe V. Wade has been galvanizing evangelicals since it legalized abortion nationwide in 1973.

Still, polls have found support for the president among evangelicals has gone down recently. One exit poll showed Trump's evangelical support dropped from 81% to 76% from the 2016 election to this year's. The disparity was even more severe in key battleground states like Michigan, where Trump's evangelical support fell from 81% to 70%, while Biden earned 29% of the vote.

Meanwhile, Biden led among every other nonwhite religious group, including Hispanic Catholics and Black Protestants, as well as all atheists and agnostics.

Pagitt's message to voters is simple.

"We're not asking Republicans to not be Republicans. We're asking Republican voters to not vote for this Republican," he said. "I think this is a singular response to a singular threat to the well-being of this country and this planet."

Elsewhere, evangelical Christians are finding ways to reconcile their faith with a vote for Biden

For evangelical voters Rich and Lena Eng in Wisconsin, deciding not to vote for a Republican candidate was a difficult at first. But it became easier as they weighed in their concerns.

"The totality of issues at hand, whether it be the economy, whether it be foreign policy, whether it be healthcare, immigration, race — all of those weigh somewhat on my heart too, in addition to abortion," Rich Eng told Business Insider Today. "And in the broad, summation of all those together, I find that I can justify my vote for a vice president Biden, even though he is pro-choice."

Rich and Lena met in college while working for Christian organizations. They now live in a suburb of Milwaukee.

"There was a time in my life that if you were a true Christian all you could do is be Republican Party," Rich Eng said.

But in 2016, they couldn't bring themselves to cast a ballot for Donald Trump, writing in other candidates instead.

The couple recently started a "faith in politics" discussion group at their home, where they invite evangelicals of all political views to discuss topics that can be taboo in the church. One recent discussion group focused on the Black Lives Matter movement.

"The long term vision is that the church can be the leaders of learning, how to bridge the divide in a way that actually solves problems," Lena Eng said. "And in the process, redeem evangelicalism, the Christian faith as a faith that is one of love. I think that exemplifies how Jesus would want us to live."

This story was originally published on October 22, 2020.

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