Last fall, we wrote about the extent to which white Protestants believed Donald Trump was anointed by God to be president of the United States. Just 21% believed this, but evangelicals were more likely to believe it (29%), and pentecostals were the most likely (53%). This belief didn’t come out of nowhere, it was making the rounds of conservative media, with figures such as Rick Perry suggesting that Trump is “the chosen one,” a label Trump embraced and used (while pointing toward the clouds) in an August 2019 presser. Others used variations on the theme; he was compared to King Cyrus; “God was behind the last election;” and Trump is the “King of Israel,” and the “second coming” according to Wayne Allen Root.
We ran another survey in late March, 2020, and asked the same questions of a sample of American adults quota-sampled to match the nation in gender, region, and age. The 2019 sample was only of church-attending Protestants, so we subsetted the 2020 data to match. In 2019, among white Protestants who attended church weekly or more often, 29.6 percent believed Trump was anointed by God to be president. But by March 2020, that figure had climbed to 49 percent. It was up across the board, though none so dramatically as among the regular attenders.
Notably, believing that all presidents were anointed also increased over the past year and in just as dramatic of fashion. It is also clear that there remains a gap in believing that all presidents are anointed versus whether Trump was, though it is now much smaller. In 2019, the gap was nearly 40% across attendance categories, though by 2020 the gap was closer to 15%. The religious significance of the presidency is spreading.
Before we isolate this as a phenomenon of white Protestants, we should compare them to the rest of the sample in 2020. The figure below shows unequivocally that white Protestants are NOT distinctive in their beliefs in Trump’s anointing. In the top two attendance categories, the level of belief is effectively identical between the two groups. This is a phenomenon that is sweeping American religion.