As It Happens

Why these U.S. midterm voters are bucking demographic trends

An Evangelical Democrat voter and a black woman Republican explain their choices.

An Evangelical Democrat voter and a black woman Republican explain their choices

Pastor Robb Ryerse, left, is from Arizona. Corrin Rankin, right, is from California's Bay Area. (Left: Provided by Robb Ryerse, Right: Corrin Rankin/Facebook)

Robb Ryerse is an Evangelical pastor and a lifelong Republican who has spent the last several weeks campaigning on behalf of the Democrats.

"I think that what we need to do is put our party loyalty aside and vote for the candidates that are going to put the needs of people first," the Springdale, Ark., pastor said. 

"If there were Republicans around the country who were standing up to the president and resisting his agenda, I would be the first one to be supportive of them. Unfortunately, there hasn't been that."

Ryerse, who works for an organization called Vote Common Good, is a demographic anomaly.

According to a March survey by the Public Religion Research Institute, 81 per cent of white male Evangelicals support U.S. President Donald Trump.

But the pastor is just one of many voters in the U.S. midterm elections who doesn't fit neatly into people's preconceived notions about what a Democrat and a Republican look like. 

African-Americans for Trump

Corinn Rankin is the California director of African-Americans for Trump.

According to Gallup and Ipsos Reuters, Trump's approval rating among black voters has hovered between 10 to 15 per cent throughout 2018. And according to exit polling from CNN, more than 90 per cent of black women cast ballots for Hillary Clinton in 2016. 

But Rankin says Trump's focus on the economy is good for everyone — and that includes black voters. 

"Jobs — that was one of the things that drove me to this president," she said.

"He promised on the campaign trail to increase jobs, to bring back jobs, to decrease the unemployment rate and to ensure that minorities, a.k.a. black Americans, Hispanic Americans, their unemployment rate would decrease." 

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally on Nov. 3 in Pensacola, Fla. The president has been campaigning in support of Republican candidates in the midterm elections. (Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images)

Like Ryerse, she's a convert — but not a recent one.

"The Republican Party ... are for the people and by the people, and that's one of the reasons I switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party back in 2009," she said.

She said she got really energized when she started working on Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.

"One of the main things that attracted me to Donald Trump was the fact that he was not a politician, that he was an individual, a resident, a business person," she said.

"That was probably the main driving factor of why I decided to support this president."

'I just did not recognize the Republican Party'

Meanwhile, it was Trump's ascent to the White House that first caused Ryerse to drift away from the Republicans.

"I woke up the day after the presidential election in 2016 and just had this overwhelming feeling of, you know, what have we just done?" he said.

"I had the sense that I just did not recognize the Republican Party that I had grown up in."

What really got under his skin, he said, was the president's tenancy to stoke division and create "suspicion of people who are different than us."

Rankin jumped ship from the Democrats to the Republicans in 2009. (Corrin Rankin/Twitter)

The president has repeatedly come under fire for his extreme rhetoric. Among other things, he has called Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals, dubbed African countries "sh--holes," condemned bad actors on "both sides" of a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, N.C., and tweeted links and videos to anti-Muslim propaganda

In the weeks leading up to the midterms, Trump has zeroed in on a caravan of Central American migrants making their way to the Mexico-U.S. border.

While people on the ground say the group mostly consists of women and children, Trump has painted them as dangerous invaders. 

"Jesus was consistently on the side of the marginalized and the oppressed. Jesus consistently encouraged his followers to welcome people who were different from them, to love their neighbours," Ryerse said.

"It seemed like so many people including a lot of religious people, a lot of Christians, a lot of evangelical Christians, had sold out their values for the chance to win an election. And it really, really bothered me."

But Rankin said she hasn't seen any evidence that president or his policies are racist, and she stands by him — especially when it comes to border security.

"There's no doubt that if you get that many people, that there is an element of that group of people that are dangerous people," she said of the migrant caravan.

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview with Robb Ryerse produced by Kate Swoger. Interview with Corinn Rankin  produced by Imogen Birchard.