White Evangelicals Can't Quit Donald Trump

With two alleged extramarital affairs looming over the presidency, white evangelicals are doubling down on their support for Donald Trump. But the near-term political gains their support is yielding may come at a high cost for the future of the faith.

A new survey released this week by PRRI, where I serve as the CEO, finds white evangelical support for Trump remains strikingly high, with 75 percent holding a favorable view of the president and only 22 percent holding an unfavorable view. This level of support far exceeds his favorability among all Americans, which is at 42 percent. Among all non-white evangelical Americans, Trump’s favorability is only 36 percent.

This is hardly the first time white evangelicals have chosen to weather a Trump scandal. Despite revelations of taped boasts of sexual assault during the 2016 campaign, moral equivocation about white supremacy during his first year as president, and a host of other controversies, white evangelical support for Trump has steadily increased over time. While his favorability never reached 50 percent during the 2016 primary season, by the early fall of 2016, it jumped to 61 percent. Until this week, the highest level of support from white evangelicals PRRI had measured was 74 percent, shortly after his inauguration. Since the start of his presidency, there have been minor fluctuations, but overall his favorability with this group has never dipped below 65 percent.

Even with the recent allegations of infidelity—with adult-film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, whose respective lawsuits have become tangled in the Russia investigation—white evangelical Protestants are showing no signs of a sunset on their support. By a margin of 3 to 1, or 69 percent versus 23 percent, white evangelical Protestants who identify with or lean toward the Republican Party say they would prefer Trump over another candidate to be the GOP nominee for president in 2020.

A PRRI poll conducted in the fall of 2017 suggested how unshakeable the white evangelical-Trump connection has become: Among the 72 percent of white evangelical Protestants who approved of Trump’s job performance at the time, approximately four in 10 agreed with the following statement: “There’s almost nothing President Trump could do to lose my approval.”

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