Three in four white evangelicals support President Trump’s controversial executive order banning travelers from seven majority-Muslim countries, according to a recent poll by the Pew Research Center.
The study, released Feb. 16, also found white evangelicals, who according to exit polls voted 80 percent for Trump in the November election, sticking by the president as his overall job approval ratings slipped to 39 percent.
The Pew survey found that overall 59 percent of Americans disapprove of the president’s Jan. 27 executive order temporarily banning nationals from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen and putting an indefinite hold on refugees from war-torn Syria.
Approval varied by race, age, education and religion, with respondents identified as white evangelical Protestants showing widespread support for the policy outlined in the executive order.
Among white evangelical Protestants, 76 percent said they approve of the travel ban, compared to 22 percent who disapprove. Half of white mainline Protestants support the policy, while majorities of Catholics and the unaffiliated do not.
The order, currently on hold by federal courts, set off mass protests at airports in cities across the country. Numerous religious leaders denounced the travel ban.
Evangelical leaders bought a full-page ad in the Feb. 8 Washington Post criticizing the executive order. Southern Baptist signers included Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Bryant Wright, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention; and Ed Stetzer, the former director of LifeWay Research who now heads the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College.
Amanda Tyler, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, called the action “a back-door bar on Muslim refugees.”
Suzii Paynter, executive coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, said CBF churches and field personnel churches “stand with refugees and immigrants here in the United States and around the world, spreading hope and offering comfort in a world that all too often offers hate and fear over peace and welcome.”
The Baptist World Alliance issued a statement recognizing the government’s right to protect its citizens but warning against “misguided policies that will have deleterious long-term effects and that undermine freedom of religion.”
Some religious leaders, notably evangelist Franklin Graham, defended the travel ban, prompting leaders of a Baptist organization in Puerto Rico to withdraw support for Graham’s recent rally in San Juan.
Overall job ratings for Trump are more negative than for other recent presidents at similar points in their first terms. Thirty-nine percent approve of his job performance, while 56 percent disapprove.
Among white evangelicals, long a reliable voting bloc for Republicans, 78 percent said they approve of Trump’s performance, the highest of any religious preference by 26 points.
Rasmussen’s daily Presidential Tracking Poll shows overall higher support for the president. Tuesday’s numbers show 50 percent of likely voters approve of Trump’s job performance, while 50 percent disapprove.
Another major poll, Gallup, rated the president’s job approval at 41 percent in its most recent weekly average, Feb. 6-12.
The Washington Post ad, taken out by the national refugee resettlement agency World Relief, continues to collect signatures online. More than 6,300 individuals had added their names as of Tuesday, Feb. 21.
Last week World Relief announced layoffs and the closing of five local offices due to Trump’s decision to dramatically reduce the number of refugees allowed to resettle in the United States.