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A Crack in Trump’s White Evangelical Wall Over Family Separation

Noted evangelist Franklin Graham’s criticism of President Trump’s immigration policies earlier this month may have revealed one of the few weak spots in the President’s support from his otherwise loyal white evangelical Protestant base.

Following weeks of controversial family separations at the border and the president’s executive order which orders families to be detained together throughout their immigration proceedings, a new PRRI survey examines how Americans feel about family separation. The survey finds that only 36% of white evangelical Protestants favor a policy whereby families entering the country without permission are treated as criminals and children are separated from their parents, while a slim majority (51%) are opposed. Opposition among white evangelical Protestants could explain Trump’s policy shift after he and several senior administration officials steadfastly maintained the policy was sound, with Attorney General Jeff Sessions citing a Bible passage used to defend slavery to support their actions.

Americans overall largely reject family separations. The same poll finds only 22% of the public expresses support for this policy. More than seven in ten (71%) Americans oppose such a policy.

The study similarly uncovered a divide along racial and ethnic lines. While nearly two-thirds (66 %) of white Americans oppose the policy that treats migrant families as criminals and separates immigrant children from their parents, the overwhelming majority of Hispanic (82%) and black Americans (93%) hold this view.

Republicans are also split on the issue with half (50%) of Republicans supporting the policy while 40% are opposed to it. A vast consensus of Democrats (94%) and a large majority of independents (76%) oppose the policy.

The study also indicates that many Americans do not believe the country is a leader on morality. Fewer than half (40%) of the public believes that the U.S. sets a good moral example for the rest of the world. Nearly six in ten (58%) believe we do not.