Most Republican voters consider former President Donald Trump to be a person of faith, putting him ahead of other more vocally religious individuals, like his former Vice President Mike Pence, according to a national poll conducted by HarrisX for the Deseret News.
But Republicans are less likely to say Trump is “religious” — pointing to his support for religious people, not his personal religiosity, as their reasoning for saying he is a man of faith.
Registered voters were asked whether they considered a list of political figures to be people of faith, including Trump, President Joe Biden, former Vice President Mike Pence and Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney. Trump was the top choice for Republicans, while Biden was the most common choice for Democrats. Pence topped the list for independents.
Sixty-four percent of Republicans said Trump was a person of faith, up from 53% in October. Pence, at 56%, came in second.
More Republican voters said Trump was a person of faith than several of his opponents in the 2024 GOP presidential primary, including Nikki Haley (44%), Ron DeSantis (34%), Vivek Ramaswamy (22%) and Chris Christie (22%). Haley was raised Sikh, but converted to Christianity. DeSantis is Catholic and Ramaswamy is Hindu.
The poll was conducted Nov. 21-22, 2023, among 1,012 registered voters. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 percentage points.
The results added context to a similar Deseret News/HarrisX survey conducted in October, where Trump was also the most likely politician to be called a person of faith by Republicans.
In the latest survey, voters were also asked whether they considered a list of politicians to be religious — separately from being a person of faith — and why.
Most Republicans — 62% — said Pence was religious, while only 47% said Trump was. And while only 13% of Republicans said President Joe Biden was a person of faith, 26% acknowledged he was religious.
Sixty-nine percent of Democrats said Biden is a person of faith; 72% said he was religious.
When voters were asked why they considered Biden to be a person of faith or religious, most pointed to beliefs about his character: he has a strong moral compass (52%); he is honest and trustworthy (48%); and he makes ethical decisions (47%).
In contrast, those who said Trump was a person of faith or religious point to their perception of him as a defender of religious people or policies. Sixty-seven percent said Trump defends people of faith in the U.S.; 60% said he supports policies that focus on families; and 54% said he “cares about people like me.”
The least common reason for saying Trump is a person of faith or religious, expressed by only 26% of respondents, is that he is “actively involved in religious and faith communities.”
More GOP voters view Trump as a person of faith than view him as religious. When justifying calling him a person of faith, voters more frequently pointed to his actions on behalf of religious people, such as defending people of faith and supporting family-focused policy. Those who called him religious, however, were more likely to say he “openly expresses his religious beliefs” (57%) and is “honest and trustworthy” (53%).
Trump was the first U.S. president since Dwight Eisenhower to change his religious affiliation while in office. Though he was raised Presbyterian, Trump now identifies as a nondenominational Christian.
Trump boasts massive support from evangelical Christians, who make up a significant portion of the Republican electorate. Many evangelicals credit Trump for nominating three conservative justices to the Supreme Court who overturned Roe v. Wade.
“No president has ever fought for Christians as hard as I have,” Trump said at an event in June. “I got it done, and nobody thought it was even a possibility.”
Faith has become a central issue in the 2024 election. Trump’s new position on abortion — backtracking from his former support for a federal ban — has caused some discomfort among evangelical voters. And he faces a religiously diverse group of GOP challengers.
Many conservative Christian voters seem to value a candidate’s positions on key issues over their religious affiliation or practice. “I think Donald Trump changed a lot of that, frankly,” Jake Chapman, one of the Ramaswamy campaign’s co-chairs in Iowa, said.
“I think some Christians (in 2016) probably were questioning whether or not they could vote for Donald Trump,” Chapman continued. “And yet, you have Donald Trump who who did a lot for religious freedom, who did a lot by putting good conservatives on the courts that helped overturn Roe v. Wade. Give credit where credit is due.”