Theories of Trump’s Evangelical Popularity: Status Threat

Why do white evangelicals remain some of Trump’s most consistent supporters? In this short series, we’ll look briefly at a variety of explanations. Today’s is status threat theory.

White evangelicals are experiencing a threat to their status as the dominant group in the US, not merely numerically (with fewer and fewer Americans identifying as white evangelicals) but in terms of their perception of power.
America is changing, and they see a future in which they have less power, so they are scrambling for it now. Trump fosters this fear with his apocalyptic visions of a decaying and racially changing America, and he sets himself up as the only person who can protect true (white, Christian) Americans from it.
Image may contain: 1 person, text that says 'IN REALITY THEY'RE NOT AFTER ME THEY'RE AFTER YOU I'M JUST IN THE WAY'

Above, a pro-Trump meme shows the president looking directly at the camera, pointing his finger at the viewer. The text readers: “In reality they’re not after me[.] They’re after you[.] I’m just in the way.”

Here, power isn’t merely political power (though it is that too) but power over our symbols. It’s why Trump has vowed to say “Merry Christmas” rather than “Happy Holidays.”

For more on status threat as an explanation of Trump’s appeal to some voters, see Diana C. Mutz’s article “Status Threat, Not Economic Hardship, Explains the 2016 Presidential Vote” in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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