So many were shocked by today’s Gallup poll breaking down Trump’s job approval rating by religion. More Mormons approved of Trump’s Job performance than any of the other religious groups. A staggering 61% of Mormons approved of his performance. Like many people I was shocked it was that high. I suspect the poll seemed worse given it came out on a day when Trump was once again enmeshed in controversy over racist comments.After my initial nausea wore off I realized the was some nuance that we should probably point out. First off this isn’t approval of Trump but approval of his job performance. That’s a fairly ambiguous term. Many people might interpret it in terms of policy not character. That is people may very well be looking at what’s going on in the country and judge his approval in terms of that, not how they think about him as a person. So a respondent could easily despite Trump the person, hate the lack of character and inflammatory tweets, yet look at the stock market, unemployment, and growth and be quite happy.
For Republicans who were wary at how Trump would break with orthodoxy, after a rocky start he’s been fairly positive. Trump’s mostly picked judges conservatives like, has cut regulation, has been tougher on the international arena and achieved tax reform. Now you (and I) may well criticize these points in the details however that’s nuance the average respondent probably doesn’t consider.
More significantly for decades “job approval” has largely been a signifier for how well the country is doing. Taking it as a kind of determination on how people view Trump is problematic. There’s also a strong identity politics component to job approval polls. Democrats almost always approve of Democrats and disapprove of Republicans. Republicans disapprove of Democrats and approve of Republicans. So polls of this sort tell us much less than they may appear at first glance.
Even Mormonism’s top place is somewhat misleading given the broad category of Protestantism. Once you break out Protestantism into white Protestants you find that Mormons have exactly the same rate.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not happy about this. I think in particular that people seeing religious conservatives as so closely tied to Trump will hurt us long term. Indeed we may be losing a generation over politics not only in America but more especially around the world. My hope is that if Romney runs for Senate in Utah as expected he may provide not only pushback to Trump but a different more respectable figure to the world.