We might expect that evangelical leaders’ Bible-based arguments would lead rank-and-file evangelicals to welcome refugees. That’s not what’s happened. Instead, white evangelicals have supported President Trump’s closed-door policies wholeheartedly.
Early in Trump’s presidency, amid marches and airport protests, 76 percent of white evangelicals supported his initial entry ban. There’s been little change since. In one recent poll, 25 percent of evangelicals thought the United States has a responsibility to accept refugees — a smaller proportion than of any other racial, age, educational or religious group polled. Another poll found that when asked whether the United States should prevent all refugees from coming into he country, 44 percent said no — and another 44 percent said yes. Compare that with the public as a whole, which opposes this policy by nearly a 2-to-1 ratio, 59 to 31 percent.
Why are lay evangelicals broadly opposed to allowing refugees into the country, defying their leaders? My research shows their position flows from three sources: loyalty to Trump, ideological conservatism, and attention to conservative media. Those factors have led evangelicals to support a policy that their leaders, religious identity, values and beliefs might otherwise lead them to oppose.