Most white evangelicals say that personal immorality does not hinder politicians from behaving ethically while in office, according to a recent survey.
The Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institution released research on October 19 that shows that 72 percent of white evangelicals believe that immoral behavior committed in a political candidate’s private life does not mean the candidate will behave unethically in their professional and political career.
The results reveal a 42 percentage point increase from when PRRI conducted a survey asking the same question in 2011 when 30 percent of white evangelicals agreed that “an elected official who commits an immoral act in their personal life can still behave ethically and fulfill their duties in their public and professional life."
White evangelicals are also more likely to agree with that statement than their religious counterparts. Nearly the same share of white mainline Protestant respondents (60 percent) and Catholic respondents (58 percent) agreed with the statement that elected officials will behave ethically despite personal immorality. White mainline Protestants and Catholics are more likely to agree with that statement today than in 2011, like white evangelicals, when only 38 percent and 42 percent agreed, respectively.
The religiously unaffiliated, on the other hand, hardly changed in their views with 60 percent of respondents expressing that personal immorality does not have bearing on a candidate’s professional and political conduct, revealing a consistency in their answers with 63 percent agreeing with the statement in 2011.
White evangelicals are also less likely to say that it is important for a candidate to have “strong religious beliefs” now than five years ago.
About half of white evangelicals (49 percent) say that it is “very” important for a presidential candidate to have “strong religious beliefs,” revealing a 15-point drop from 2011 when nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of white evangelicals said strong religious beliefs in a candidate is “very” important.