NEW YORK — Despite back to back photo ops in front of religious sites last week, new polling shows that only 27 percent of registered voters believe President Donald Trump to be religious.
Further, according to data from POLITICO and Morning Consult, just over a third of all Christians polled view the president as religious, with 50 percent not seeing him as religious.
Despite the president’s controversial visit last week to the Saint John Paul II National Shrine, among Catholics, that number is the lowest, with only 23 percent of Catholics viewing him as religious.
Trump was joined by First Lady Melania Trump during a visit to the shrine to the late Polish pope, less than twenty-four hours after police used tear gas to dislodge protesters in downtown Washington in order for Trump to visit St. John’s Episcopal Church across from the White House, while the nation has devolved into widespread unrest following the killing of an unarmed black man in Minneapolis named George Floyd by police officers.
The city’s Catholic archbishop, the first African American to hold the post, denounced the visit as reprehensible.
“I find it baffling and reprehensible that any Catholic facility would allow itself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles, which call us to defend the rights of all people even those with whom we might disagree,” he wrote in a statement.
“Saint Pope John Paul II was an ardent defender of the rights and dignity of human beings. His legacy bears vivid witness to that truth. He certainly would not condone the use of tear gas and other deterrents to silence, scatter or intimidate them for a photo opportunity in front of a place of worship and peace,” he continued.
The shrine is operated by the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization also connected with a number of conservative causes. In a statement the shrine noted that the visit was originally meant to host the president for the signing of an executive order on religious liberty.
While the president rarely attends public church services, he is affiliated with the Presbyerian Church and First Lady Melania Trump is Catholic.
Despite the president’s high profile efforts to appear in front of Christian sites as the national grapples with its history of racial injustice, on Tuesday the president took to Twitter to denounce 75-year-old Martin Gugino, a Catholic peace activist who was engaged in peaceful protest in Buffalo and was shoved over by the police and cracked his head.
Former vice president Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, took to Twitter citing his own shared Catholic faith with Gugino.
“My Dad used to say there’s no greater sin than the abuse of power,” wrote Biden on Tuesday. “Whether it’s an officer bloodying a peaceful protester or a President defending him with a conspiracy theory he saw on TV. I’m a Catholic – just like Martin. Our faith says that we can’t accept either.”
New data on how American voters view Trump’s religiosity comes just one week after new data was released by the Public Religious Research Institute (PRRI) which found the president rapidly losing support among white Catholic voters.
In the latest PRRI data, only 37 percent of white Catholics held favorable views of Trump, representing a significant drop from 49 percent during 2019, and an even further decline from a high of 60 percent in March and 48 percent in April.
During the 2016 election, the Catholic vote was sharply divided between Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Among one analysis by the American National Election Studies, Clinton won the Catholic vote by 48 percent to Trump’s 45 percent. 2016 exit polling from the New York Times, differed, showing Trump winning the Catholic vote 52 to 45.
In the lead-up to election day, the president continues to make a big push for Catholic voters. In a call with religious leaders in April, Trump boasted of being the best president in the history of the Catholic Church, saying the “situation coming up on November 3, the likes of which have never been more important for the Church.”
Follow Christopher White on Twitter: @cwwhite212