Republican presidential candidates often get a big boost from evangelical Christians. These voters tend to have more conservative values, in particular, regarding abortion and gay marriage. This voting block identified George W. Bush as one of their own, and famously helped him get elected (particularly the first time around against Al Gore).
Donald Trump would not seem to be a favored candidate for evangelicals. Ted Cruz built much of his campaign on appealing to these voters, as well as Dr. Ben Carson (who recently left the race). But surprisingly, Trump has gotten quite a bit of support from them, even polling as their favorite candidate for the last few months.
What’s going on here? One poll that dug a little deeper into what evangelicals look for in a candidate showed that a decisive, strong leader is a huge factor for their support. Trump certainly fits this requirement. Another interesting take is that church leaders are puzzled that Trump has so much support from Christians, when their congregations generally don’t like him. But a look deeper tells more of the story: if you poll those who label themselves Christian, Trump comes out on top. However, if you poll those who consider themselves Christian and go to church regularly, then Ted Cruz is the top candidate.
So what we are really looking at is a preference based not just on religious belief, but community as well. There are enough Christians who don’t attend church who like Trump, and they’re able to swing the pendulum in his direction for this demographic.