Politics & Government

Most evangelicals in SC don't think Trump is 'moral,' poll finds

S.C. Republicans, including the evangelical Christians who form the base of that party, approve of President Donald Trump, according to the latest poll by Winthrop University.

A majority of self-described Republicans agree the GOP president is "Christian," "godly," "moral" and "strong," according to the poll released Wednesday.

However, the evangelicals, who make up a major part of the S.C. GOP, are more split on Trump.

While 61 percent of S.C. Republicans said Trump was moral, 51 percent of evangelicals said that term was "somewhat" or "very" inaccurate in describing the president.

A majority of S.C. Republicans — 52 percent — said Trump was "godly." But 53 percent of evangelicals disagreed.

And while 65 percent of S.C. Republicans agreed that Trump is a Christian, 48 percent of evangelicals said that description is somewhat or very inaccurate.

"The fact that fewer than half of evangelicals overall would describe Trump as ‘godly’ or ‘moral’ suggests that his strength with these groups comes not from modeling pious behavior, but from them viewing him as a bulwark against a culture that they feel is increasingly hostile to them,” said Winthrop Poll director Scott Huffmon.

The poll asked self-described S.C. evangelicals of all races their opinion of Trump.

There was more unity among all Republicans and their evangelical base in other descriptions of Trump.

Eighty-nine percent of Republicans and 68 percent of evangelicals agree the president is "strong," and 80 percent of Republicans and 57 percent of evangelicals agree Trump "stands up for people like me."

White evangelicals answered even more strongly, with 75 percent agreeing the president stands up for people like them.

Trump's approval up, but still a polarizing figure

Overall, Trump's approval rating has gone up in South Carolina, the poll found.

Forty-six percent of South Carolinians approve of Trump's performance as president, up from 42 percent in February. Trump's disapproval rating was 47 percent, down from 50 percent.

Not surprisingly, self-described Democrats are not fans of the polarizing president, beset by ongoing investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election and payoffs to women who allege affairs.

While 81 percent of S.C. Republicans say Trump is "capable," 82 percent of S.C. Democrats disagreed, saying that description is "very" or somewhat" inaccurate.

Meanwhile, 88 percent of S.C. Democrats say Trump is immoral and 88 percent questioned his honesty. Ninety-three percent do not agree that he is godly, and 92 percent would not call him Christian.

S.C. is religious, but worried

The poll confirms South Carolina remains a deeply religious state.

According to the poll:

90 percent of South Carolinians believe in God or a "universal spirit"

Three-fourths say they have donated money to their church or religious organization within past year

Two-thirds believe the Bible is the word of God. Of those, 55 percent said the Scripture should be taken literally, word for word

But many also expressed discontent with religion.

Half of those surveyed said churches and religious organizations focus too much on rules. Another half said churches are too concerned with money and power. Forty-four percent said churches are too involved in politics, but half said they were not.

“Many South Carolinians appear to worry that churches are becoming too involved in worldly affairs,” Huffmon said.

The poll asked 789 S.C. residents for their opinion between April 7 and April 16. The poll's margin of error is approximately plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Other findings

  • A sizable number of South Carolinians still don't know what to make of Gov. Henry McMaster.

Nineteen percent of respondents said they were not sure of the job that McMaster is doing as governor, down from 25 percent in February. An identical number of GOP-leaning voters were unsure of how to rate the governor, two months before the GOP primary. McMaster's approval rating was roughly steady at 46 percent, compared to his February numbers, while his disapproval rate was up slightly to 29 percent.

  • Most important problem facing the U.S.? Immigration

That was the top choice of the South Carolinians surveyed, cited by 8.4 percent. Another 8 percent cited racism as the biggest issue in the country, and 7.9 percent said politicians or government.

  • Most important problem facing South Carolina? Education

That is the opinion of 13.4 percent of those surveyed, as S.C. schools deal with teacher shortages in part because of low pay. Roads, bridges or infrastructure were cited by 11.6 percent, and 8 percent cited jobs or unemployment.

  • Government and religious charities have an equal responsibility to help people living in poverty.

Sixty-one percent of those surveyed said the government and religious charities should equally share the responsibility of helping the poor, including 64 percent of Republicans, 59 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of evangelicals.

  • 60 percent of South Carolinians think homosexuality should be socially accepted.
  • Respondents were equally split on whether government aid to the poor does more harm than good, with 46 percent taking each side.
  • 59 percent say environmental regulations are worth the cost — even if they cost jobs or hurt the economy.

As anticipated, President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital on December 6, 2017. The announcement is a break from decades of U.S. policy and carries unclear consequences for Mideast peace efforts.