The battle for the presidency has produced a tight race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Despite the neck-and-neck contest, each candidate is drawing a very different segment of voters. A new study by Barna indicates just how divergent those segments are—and helps to explain how divided the nation is in its vision for the future.
Segments Supporting Donald Trump
The new Barna survey of 1,023 adults, which included 627 likely voters, identified 16 distinct voter segments that are poised to vote for Trump. Those segments range from large in number to a relatively small niche, but they share a conservative view of politics and a common notion of the appropriate direction for the nation to pursue.
Not surprisingly, the Republican candidate has won over a majority of the typically right-leaning faith segments. That includes evangelicals (among whom he holds a 55% to 2% lead over Clinton); non-evangelical born again Christians (he has a 49% to 31% lead among them); those who attend a Protestant church (47% to 32% lead); adults who claim to have a biblical worldview (57% to 30% margin); people who believe that absolute moral truth exists (48% to 37% preference for Trump); and those who consider themselves to be theologically conservative (60% for Trump, 28% for Clinton).
Trump was the favorite of several lifestyle segments. Among gun owners (55% to 34% preference for Trump); self-proclaimed pro-life advocates (54% to 31%); people who say they support traditional moral values (47% to 39%); adults who say they love NASCAR (50% for Trump, 39% for Clinton); and people who currently or have previously served in the military (57% to 29%).
The New York real estate mogul was also the candidate of choice to several groups defined by their attitudes or ideology. For instance, among people who say they are angry about the current state of America, Trump was the favorite by a 52% to 31% margin. He is also preferred by people who believe the country is going in the wrong direction (52% to 30%). Similarly, Trump dominated among fiscal conservatives (71% to 19%); social conservatives (69% to 21%); and among people who want a government that is less active and far-reaching than we currently have (64% to 16%).
Segments Supporting Hillary Clinton
The research by Barna discovered 14 voter segments that prefer Hillary Clinton for President. Compared to the segments supporting Trump, those who back Clinton clearly take a more left-leaning point-of-view about the future of the U.S.
Like her GOP opponent, Clinton claims the allegiance of several faith segments. Among them are notional Christians (i.e., people who consider themselves to be Christian but are not born again – the largest of the three Christian-oriented niches, constituting a segment she leads by a 48% to 36% margin); people aligned with non-Christian faiths (among whom she has a 37% to 30% lead); atheists and agnostics (61% to 18%); and Catholics (45% to 35%).
Clinton is also favored by several lifestyle groups, such as self-described environmentalists (64% to 23%). Other such segments she leads include adults who regularly shop at Wal-Mart (47% to 41%); and self-proclaimed advocates of LGBT rights (71% to 17%).
The Democratic nominee also won the favor of several groups defined by their attitudes or ideology. Among those are people who are optimistic about the future, which she leads by a 53% to 32% margin. She was also the preferred candidate of each of six ideological segments that were either moderate or liberal. Those included fiscal liberals (81% to 6%) and fiscal moderates (56% to 23%); social liberals (76% to 14%) and social moderates (41% to 34%); and people who want the government to remain as active and far-reaching as it is now (75% to 15%) as well as those who want government to be more active and far-reaching than it is today (76% to 17%).
Clinton Has a Segmentation Advantage
After evaluating the support patterns associated with each of the major-party candidates, George Barna, special analyst for the 2016 election polling notes that at this point in the campaign Clinton has a distinct advantage over Trump.
“Each of the candidates has a variety of voter segments for which they are the preferred option. But when you examine the size and nature of those segments, Clinton has a clear advantage,” Barna explains. “Notice that while Trump handily wins the conservative vote, and Clinton handily wins the liberal vote, she also triumphs among moderates. Although there are more conservatives than liberals among US voters, that difference is not enough to eclipse the benefit she receives from winning among moderates. In addition, Clinton wins the liberal vote by a larger margin than Trump wins the conservative vote, further dampening his potential advantage.”
Barna also comments on the struggles of evangelicals in this election. “Although Trump has a huge lead over Clinton among evangelicals, the most noteworthy finding in this regard is that more than four out of ten evangelicals currently refuse to vote for either of those two candidates. Nearly three out of ten are presently undecided, making them the largest block of undecided votes still up for grabs. One out of eight evangelicals plan to protest the quality of the major party candidates by voting for a third-party or independent candidate. This behavior by evangelicals is unique over the course of the last nine election cycles.”
Barna notes that if the election were to be held today, the evangelical vote would be at least 20 percentage points lower than that of evangelicals for the Republican candidate in each of the last five elections.
The founder of Barna Group adds that the election remains too close to call – especially with the volatile and hyper-active final month of the campaign yet to unfold. “Clinton is in a more comfortable position heading into the final four weeks of the campaign,” he explains, “but with hundreds of millions of dollars of advertising and marketing yet to be spent, plus the ground game of both sides picking up steam and the unpredictability of both the media and the candidates, this is likely to be a fight to the finish.”
About the Research
This research was conducted by the Barna Group using an online survey with a nationally representative sample of adults 18 and older. A total of 1,023 adults were interviewed, resulting in 908 registered voters and 627 likely voters participating in the survey. The surveys were completed online from September 12 through September 19, 2016. The estimated maximum sampling error for the aggregate sample is plus or minus 4 percentage points at the 95-percent confidence level. The sampling error estimate is higher for subgroups within the total sample.
Evangelicals: Have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today and believe that, when they die, they will go to heaven because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, plus seven other conditions. These conditions include saying their faith is very important in their life today; believing they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs about Christ with non-Christians; believing that Satan exists; believing that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; asserting that the Bible is accurate in all that it teaches; believing that eternal salvation is possible only through grace, not works; and describing God as the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today. Being classified as an evangelical is not dependent upon church attendance or the denominational affiliation of the church attended. Respondents were not asked to describe themselves as “evangelical.”
Other faith: identify with a non-Christian faith, or identify as a Christian but report beliefs not aligned with historic, orthodox Christianity
No faith: identify as agnostic or atheist, or as having no faith
Non-evangelical born again Christians: meet the born again criteria but not all of the seven other criteria to be classified as an evangelical Christian
Notional Christians: identify as Christian, but do not meet the born again criteria
Biblical worldview: someone who believe that absolute moral truth exists; that the source of moral truth is the Bible; that the Bible is accurate in all of the principles it teaches; that eternal spiritual salvation cannot be earned; that Jesus lived a sinless life on earth; that every person has a responsibility to share their religious beliefs with others; that Satan is a living force, not just a symbol of evil; and that God is the all-knowing, all-powerful maker of the universe who still rules that creation today.
Theological conservative: self-identify as theologically conservative
Social conservative/moderate/liberal: when it comes to social issues, like abortion and same-sex marriage, a person who considers themselves to be either conservative (very conservative or somewhat conservative), moderate, or liberal (somewhat liberal or very liberal)
Fiscal conservative/moderate/liberal: when it comes to politics and government, on fiscal issues, such as taxes and government spending, a person who considers themselves to be either conservative (very conservative or somewhat conservative), moderate, or liberal (somewhat liberal or very liberal)
Barna is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization under the umbrella of the Issachar Companies. Located in Ventura, California, Barna Group has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984.
© Barna Group, 2016.