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Exit polls show few changes in the religious vote

(AP/RNS) – Polling predictions frustrated and mystified voters on election night, as they did four years ago, when now-President Donald Trump far exceeded the prognosticators’ expectations.

One area where this year’s polls were mostly in line with expectations, however, is religion.

Exit polls conducted with voters by Edison Research for the National Election Pool and by AP VoteCast show that white evangelicals and Catholics changed their minds very little from 2016.

Support for Trump among white evangelicals remained constant (82 percent), according to VoteCast, but somewhat lower in the NEP exit poll (76 percent) – in keeping with 2016 results.

Likewise, Catholics, who evenly split their vote in 2016, were also split between Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden this year.

Trump got 47 percent of the overall Catholic vote this time, according to the NEP, and 50 percent, according to VoteCast.

“In recent elections Catholics are pretty evenly divided,” said Mark Gray, director of Catholic polls and senior research associate at the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate.

Even Biden’s Catholic faith did little to sway Catholic voters. “Ever since Kennedy, Catholics have been no more likely to vote for a Catholic candidate than a non-Catholic candidate,” Gray said.

The VoteCast exit poll found that 68 percent of Jews favored Biden as did 64 percent of Muslims – roughly in line with past elections. (GBAO Strategies, which often polls American Jews, found that 77 percent of Jews voted for Biden.)

Unaffiliated Americans or people of no religion favored Biden to Trump 65 percent to 30 percent in the NEP exit poll and 72 percent to 26 percent in the VoteCast poll.

“There’s very little that’s shifted,” said Robert P. Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute.

Blacks and Hispanics – groups that are both primarily Christian – favored Biden by large margins. And exit polls showed stark differences between Trump and Biden voters on a range of questions about Black Lives Matter, the criminal justice system and racism.

The VoteCast poll also asked about the frequency of worship attendance. It found that 61 percent of people who say they attend worship at least weekly voted for Trump, versus 37 percent who voted for Biden. Those who worship once a month went for Trump over Biden 54 percent to 45 percent.

“This suggests to me the level of polarization based on religiosity is still very important,” said John Green, director emeritus of the Ray C. Bliss Institute for Applied Politics at the University of Akron.

Among less-frequent worship attenders, 57 percent voted for Biden; 41 percent for Trump.

From Religion News Service via The Associated Press. May not be republished.