Millions of people tuned in to “60 Minutes” on Sunday night to watch adult-film actress Stormy Daniels detail her alleged affair with the president shortly after his third wife gave birth to his youngest child. The interview came days after former Playboy centerfold Karen McDougal shared details of her alleged affair with Trump in a CNN interview.
Trump has denied the allegations, and White House staffers often attack the character of the accusers. But a new poll shows that more white evangelicals believe Daniels and McDougal over the man some religious leaders have called evangelicals’ dream president.
According to a recent CNN poll, 4 in 10 white evangelicals, or 40 percent, believe the women involved in reports about Trump’s alleged infidelities. The share who believe Trump is a bit lower — 36 percent. An additional 24 percent are unsure.
But white evangelicals’ decreased faith in Trump’s fidelity may not lead to significant drops in disapproval of Trump — and it certainly is not likely to keep them from voting for the GOP.
After Sunday’s interview, David Brody, co-author of “The Faith of Donald Trump: A Spiritual Biography,” tweeted:
“Attention mainstream media: if you think the Stormy Daniels #60Mins interview on @CBSNews is going to move the needle downward regarding evangelical support for @realDonaldTrump, you would be dead wrong. Don’t expect any change.”
He’s probably correct. White evangelicals were well aware of Trump’s playboy past when they chose him as the Republican Party nominee, months before choosing him in the general election. He has given more interviews to shock jocks about his sex life than to Christian media outlets about his deeply held religious convictions.
But that didn’t keep them from supporting Trump, and the Daniels interview might not, either.
Brody, a journalist with the Christian Broadcast Network, previously wrote in the New York Times why he thinks that is the case:
“Does Mr. Trump have moral failings? Yes. Critics will suggest a hypocrisy coming from evangelical leaders who are quick to denounce the ethical failings of others who don’t have an 'R' next to their name. But the goal of evangelicals has always been winning the larger battle over control of the culture, not to get mired in the moral failings of each and every candidate. For evangelicals, voting in the macro is the moral thing to do, even if the candidate is morally flawed.”
However, there is an important subculture within white evangelicalism worth paying attention to: women.
According to data that the Pew Research Center provided to The Washington Post, support for Trump among white evangelical women in polls has dropped about 13 percentage points, to 60 percent, compared with about a year ago. Among all women, there has been an eight-point drop.
The president's support for Alabama Senate candidate and accused pedophile Roy Moore, bans on refugees, and comments about immigrants have led some white evangelical women to speak out against Trump and his policies, despite his socially conservative positions on issues like abortion.
The Post's Sarah Pulliam Bailey previously wrote that high-profile authors such as Beth Moore and Jen Hatmaker have become increasingly vocal in the Trump era. After building careers focused mainly on the Bible and spirituality, things have changed a bit for some white evangelical leaders.
“Moore, who is one of the most widely recognized Bible teachers in evangelical circles, has become much more outspoken on political issues this year on Twitter, especially on sexual abuse in the wake of the #MeToo movement. She has openly written and spoken about her own history of sexual abuse.”
As Americans move toward the November midterm elections, every vote will matter in some races. White evangelicals as a whole will probably remain on the Trump train — especially men. However, if more allegations about the president betraying his marriage vows with women in the adult-entertainment industry dominate headlines, this could lead some of America’s most religiously conservative women to view supporting Trump as something their values just won’t allow them to do.