The percentage of evangelicals in the U.S. increased during the Trump years, countering the notion that the outspoken and often caustic conservative drove people away from one of his strongest support groups. According to Pew Research Center, 25% of white Americans self-identified as evangelical in 2016. After four years of Trump, the ranks added another 6% but lost two, for a net gain of 4%.
Conventional wisdom held that a greater number of people would be turned off by the evangelical community's public support for President Donald Trump. Dr. Robert Jeffress of First Baptist-Dallas doesn't believe the numbers.
"Frankly, I find nothing exciting or encouraging about that number," the Southern Baptist pastor tells AFN. "I think when you're talking about self-identifying evangelicals, you have to define terms."
Jeffress contends the term "evangelical" has become misunderstood, being identified by race or by political beliefs instead of by spiritual beliefs, rendering it increasingly meaningless, he argues.
But the pastor offers this standard for determining who is and who's not evangelical: "[It's] somebody who has believed historically in the divinity of Christ, his death for our sins, the certainty of his return one day, and our duty to evangelize – or share the gospel – with as many people as possible."
Using that definition, Jeffress says if – as some people estimate – there truly were 70 million evangelical Christians in the U.S., "this country would look a lot different than it does today."
He contends the number of evangelicals in America probably has declined slightly since 2016, and he estimates it at closer to 6% of the current U.S. population.