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Majority of White Evangelicals Say a Politician’s Private Immorality Not an Issue for Public Service


Christian Post is reporting on the results of a joint survey conducted recently by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and the Brookings Institution that reveal 70 percent of white evangelicals think a politician’s private, moral missteps are unrelated to how well he or she can govern in office.


The matter of discounting so-called personal character issues of politicians has become a more prominent topic in recent years as the ubiquitousness of both old and new media makes it ever less likely that something a politician does in private will remain there.

The change in survey results from 2011, when the question was previously asked, suggests that tolerance, if you want to call it that, of these personal failings, is growing. Back in 2011, when PRRI asked the same question, the results indicated a rather prominent split in opinion among Americans: At that time, 44 percent said that private immorality was an issue, while another 44 percent said it was not.

In this election year, the perceived immorality by some of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has put a particularly bright spotlight on this issue. Although Trump has evidenced historical personal behavior of a kind that many, if not all, evangelicals would normally find objectionable, his public declarations of political positions with which evangelicals largely agree have clearly prompted many to “reprocess” how they look at such personal troubles besetting prospective government leaders.

So…is there a sort of “logic of convenience” at work here? Are these evangelicals, in fact, compromising their principles in the interest of political expediency? Or is it the case that America is not electing a “pastor in chief,” and so there is no inconsistency in this position?


By Robert G. Yetman, Jr. Editor At Large