A notable shift has taken place within the past decade regarding how white evangelicals consider “morality” with regard to the politicians they support.
While the subject was frequently discussed during the 2016 election cycle in light of significant support then-candidate Donald Trump received from evangelical Christians, the attitude shift related to what an elected official does in his private life having any bearing on his public duties appears to have persisted over two years into his presidency, The Washington Post noted Thursday.
A 2011 Public Religion and Research Institute and Religion News Service poll found that 60 percent of white evangelicals believed that a public official who “commits an immoral act in their personal life” cannot still “behave ethically and fulfill their duties in their public and professional life.”
By October 2016, however, shortly after the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape in which President Trump was heard making lewd comments, another PRRI poll found that only 20 percent of white evangelicals answered the same question the same way.
No other religious demographic saw such a profound change.
Yet among evangelicals, Trump’s past seems to continue to get a pass while former President Bill Clinton’s misdeeds are held to the former standard.
Relying on data from the 2018 Cooperative Congressional Election Study, The Washington Post analysis found that white evangelicals are now “slightly less likely to say that privately immoral behavior means a public official will be unethical in public life, with only 16.5 percent saying yes.”
The Washington Post further tested this by asking questions about morality with regard to Trump and Clinton and discovered that white evangelicals had a substantially different reaction when asked about Trump or Clinton.
“When primed to think about Trump, only 6 percent of them say that an elected official who acts immorally in private is incapable of being ethical in public life. But when Bill Clinton is mentioned, that rises to 27 percent — a 21-point increase.”
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Brandon Showalter