Huggy Jesus Meme Makes Evangelicals More Likely To Believe Trump Is Anointed By God
Hey! You see that drawing right there in the featured image slot? The extremely hilarious one where Jesus is standing behind Trump helping him write his ABC's like he's in one of those Jesus With You Always memes?
Well, according to a recent study conducted by Religion In Public, white evangelicals were more likely to think Trump was anointed by God after looking at that meme. Like, they looked at that picture with their faces and instead of giggling uncontrollably (because it's fucking funny) they were more likely, by eight percentage points, to say that they think Trump was anointed by God than they were if they didn't look at Trump with huggy Jesus.
How? Did they think it was real? Did they look at it and think it was an accurate depiction of real life events? That Jesus and Trump actually posed for that picture themselves?
It sounds stupid, but is it that much more stupid than thinking the president was anointed by God? I contend that it is not.
Does incidental exposure to the association between Trump and Jesus influence beliefs in his anointment?
Yes, but the effect is not widespread. Evangelicals are more likely to believe that Trump is anointed across the partisan board. But the meme has no effect on Democrats or Independents. Only among Republicans can we see an effect, but it too is limited to evangelicals. Evangelical Republicans who were exposed to the meme boosted their belief that Trump was anointed by God. The effect is about 8 percentage points, shifting from a bare majority (52%) to 60%. This is perhaps surprising given our belief that evangelical Republicans would have already been saturated with this sort of argumentation. Apparently, though, the persistent reminders are effective, which implicates the effect of the right-wing echo chamber.
Part of what the study found (other than that the Christian Right has no sense of humor) is that the more religious conservatives hear that Trump was God's hand-pick for president, the more likely they are to believe it. In fact, just from May of last year to March of this year, the number of white Protestants who believe this has jumped from 29.6 percent to 49.5 percent. Curiously, the number of white Protestants who believe all presidents — not just Trump — were chosen by God doubled.
However, while we all might assume that white Protestants were far more likely to believe that Trump was anointed by God, the study found that this belief was relatively the same on non-white Protestant populations — the main determination being how often people go to church. In fact, among those who said they "seldom" went to church, "others" vastly outnumbered white Protestants in thinking Trump was God's chosen — though I have some guesses about where those numbers are coming from.
Graph showing belief in Trump being anointed by God, White Protestants & others
Alas, the most disturbing finding in this study was not the one about the evangelicals who were more likely to think Trump was anointed by God after looking at at a hilarious drawing of Trump and Jesus.
We also asked respondents if they had heard anyone making the claims that Democrats would strip them of their rights and liberties if they were to take power. We'll have a whole post on these items soon, but for now they also serve as a proxy for elite persuasion and terms promoted by the Trump camp (and ones he explicitly utters from time to time, such as at the 2020 CPAC conference). Here the relationship between hearing these arguments and believing in Trump's anointment are not strongly contingent on partisanship. Independents appear less responsive, but belief in Trump's anointment climbs for both Democrats and Republicans with the more of these arguments heard. At the high end, 40% of Republicans and 26% of Democrats believe that Trump was anointed by God. Thus, both proxy measures are relatively consistent that there is at least a supportive set of argumentation behind the belief that Trump is anointed.
Really? Twenty-six percent of Democrats believed Trump was anointed by God after hearing that Democrats wanted to "strip them of their rights and liberties"? I would love to believe that's not true, but honestly it's hard to put anything past people these days.
As cringe-inducing as this all is, it's a pretty good reminder that messaging matters. The more something is repeated, the more likely people are to believe it's true, even if it is something as patently ridiculous as "Trump is God's Chosen One And That Drawing Of Him With Jesus Is Real."
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse