Former Vice President Mike Pence is a born-again, evangelical Christian who roots his political ideology in his faith and frequently quotes the Bible on the campaign trail. President Joe Biden is, by all accounts, a devout Catholic and attends mass virtually every week.
But according to a recent poll, more Republicans view former President Donald Trump as a “person of faith” than they do Biden, Pence or any other 2024 GOP presidential hopeful.
The poll, from the firm HarrisX and the Salt Lake City-based Deseret News, found 53% of Republican voters said Trump was a person of faith, compared to 52% who said the same of Pence. Only 23% of Republican voters agreed it was an accurate descriptor of Biden, a sentiment supported by 63% of Democrats and 33% of independents.
Among 2024 GOP candidates, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the nephew of a Catholic nun and a priest, scored the next highest with 47%, followed by South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who both clocked in at 31% among Republicans. Throughout his public life, Scott has put his Christian faith front and center, once nailing a copy of the Ten Commandments outside the Charleston, S.C., city council chambers, according to the Greenville News. Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants, grew up Sikh and later converted to Christianity as an adult, attending services at both a Methodist church and a Sikh temple with her family.
Half of voters told pollsters they weren’t sure if Haley, Scott, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — a Catholic — and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, who is Hindu, were people of faith. Roughly 70% of respondents said religion was very or somewhat important in their lives. In a write up of the poll for Deseret News, which is owned by the Mormon Church, national politics editor Suzanne Bates wrote the results indicate that “voters want to see their party’s figureheads as people of faith.”
Bates also noted that evangelical voters are less likely to view Trump as a person of faith.
“The Deseret News/HarrisX poll shows evangelical voters were much more likely to say Pence is a man of faith (65%) than Trump (37%),” she wrote. “Catholic voters and nonevangelical Protestants were also more likely to say Pence is a man of faith, showing the perception of Trump as a man of faith was more related to voters’ political identity than their religious identity.”
In the ever-important Iowa caucus, the first contest in the GOP primary schedule, evangelical voters make up a significant portion of the electorate — 4 in 10 likely caucusgoers, according to a NBC News/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll from August. But, while Scott and Pence have emphasized their religiosity in appeals to Iowans, recent polls have them in the single digits and trailing four or five other candidates. Trump is consistently polling in the high 40s, good enough for a 20 to 30 percentage point lead over his closest rival in DeSantis.
While Trump embraced evangelical Christians in his rise to power in 2016 and again relied on their support in 2020, he identified as “non-denominational Christian” in his second run for president and rarely attended church services outside of a campaign setting, according to pool reports from his time in office. The former president was raised attending a church in Midtown Manhattan whose pastor, Norman Vincent Peale, was the author of the global bestseller “The Power of Positive Thinking.” For decades, Peale ministered the Trump family, including the 2024 GOP frontrunner’s first wedding.
Regardless of his current personal faith or affiliation with a church, Trump continuously has made religion a central part of his campaign. And his supporters find it appealing. Two political scientists polled over 1,000 Protestant Christians in 2019 and found 29% of white evangelicals, 40% of those who attended church multiple times a week and 53% of white Pentecostals agreed Trump was anointed by God.
“Our enemies are waging war on faith and freedom, on science and religion, on history and tradition, on law and democracy, on God Almighty himself,” Trump said at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s conference in Washington, D.C., in June. “It’s not a war they’re going to win.”