Many mainstream political pundits and media types have been puzzling over why Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election, but few have taken the time to figure out why Donald Trump won. A respected Christian pollster, though, has looked at the numbers and offers his perspective.
In a new book, pollster George Barna with the American Culture & Faith Institute says Trump's unexpected victory had a lot to do with spiritually and politically engaged conservatives. Two groups – more than any others – had a profound effect on the 2016 elections, he says in his book The Day Christians Changed America.
There were the SAGECons*, as he calls them, which make up only 10 percent of American voters, but had an astounding 91 percent turnout at the polls with almost all of them (93%) voting for Trump. Then there were "notional" Christians – 43 percent of the electorate – which usually vote Democrat, but this time went for Trump (49%-47%).
"When you put those two groups together, they not only represent a majority of the voters, but they went in very significant fashion for Donald Trump – and that's what put him over," he tells OneNewsNow.
Barna admits the brash New Yorker was an odd candidate for the faith crowd. But when the other favorites of that crowd – e.g., Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, and Mike Huckabee – dropped out of the primaries, believers were left with a stark choice between the two major party candidates. One who said this about making abortion common:
Clinton: "Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed."
And the other who said this about making it rare:
Trump: "If you go with what Hillary is saying, in the ninth month you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother .... Now Hillary can say that that's okay, but it's not okay with me."
While the election was more than just about abortion, those were two key moments, according to Barna, that swung the 2016 election. But for history to repeat itself in 2020, he says conservatives have to engage now – because Democrats sure are.
"They're putting their foundations into place now. They're hiring people to do that now. They're raising money to do that now," he points out. "You can never just sit back and watch the battle and say I'll arm myself and get back in the battle in a couple of years."
Regardless how the next presidential election turns out, Barna says the 2016 run was unlike anything he had experienced in four decades of polling. "It was a wild ride that ended with a miracle outcome," he states – and faith, he adds, "played a significant role in the campaign and the outcome."
* Spiritually active, governance engaged conservatives