Has the 2016 presidential race had a "Trump effect" on public morality?
A new poll from the Brookings Institution shows that might be the case, for white evangelicals especially. Though only 30 percent of white evangelicals in 2011 said they believed politicians who committed immoral acts in their personal lives could still behave ethically in public life, that number increased to 72 percent in 2016—a huge swing.
Rev. Emmett Price, professor and founding executive director of the Institute for the Study of the Black Christian Experience at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, said white evangelicals are defecting to Donald Trump because of the lasting impact Hillary Clinton's Supreme Court justice nominees could have on social issues like same-sex marriage and abortion. Though many evangelicals criticized Trump during the primary process, they are assuaged by his promises to appoint socially conservative justices to the court.
"Particularly folks who are so focused on the Supreme Court are willing to go beyond their own standards of morality in order to try to win," Price said.
"People adamant that there need to be politicians with a high caliber of morality and integrity and with all these values and virtuous standards, now all of a sudden they're thinking, 'Yeah, we need to win this,'" he continued.
In April, two-thirds of regular churchgoing Republicans said they would not back Trump for their party's nomination, according to Pew Research. By June, nearly nine of ten GOP voters who regularly attended church said they would vote for Trump in the general election.
"Their belief system was never really rooted in a social gospel belief toward justice," she said. "They will try to win by any means necessary, even if it does corrupt their belief system."
To hear more from the reverends, tune in to Boston Public Radio above.