April 25, 2019


How Trump has changed white evangelicals' views about morality (David Campbell and Geoffrey Layman April 25, 2019, Washington Post)

Back in 2016, many journalists and commentators pointed out a stunning change in how white evangelicals perceived the connection between private and public morality. In 2011, a poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and the Religion News Service 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." But in an October 2016 poll by PRRI and the Brookings Institution -- after the release of the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape -- only 20 percent of evangelicals, answering the same question, said that private immorality meant someone could not behave ethically in public.

Other religious groups didn't see such a dramatic shift. [...]

Have white evangelicals made an allowance only for Trump, or have they reconsidered their opinions on private and public morality more broadly? We tested this with two other versions of the same question. One starts with, "Many supporters of Donald Trump have argued," followed by the identical statement about an elected official who commits a privately immoral act. The other harks back to the Monica Lewsinky scandal that led to Bill Clinton's impeachment. "When he was president, many supporters of Bill Clinton argued . . ." To avoid the possibility of one question affecting responses to the others, respondents were randomly assigned to receive only one of the three variations: the "generic," Trump, or Clinton version.

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.

Posted by at April 25, 2019 4:11 AM