As the Republican candidate for president, Donald Trump has had a rocky ride with evangelical voters. While they were at first unconvinced, for a myriad of reasons, including his appeal as a businessman and a deep hatred for Hillary Clinton, they flocked to his side in large numbers. Now, following Trump’s predatory comments about groping women, even they are turning away from him.
A national poll by Reuters conducted after the video with Trump’s comments was revealed by the Washington Post last Friday (Oct. 7) showed that Trump’s support among evangelical voters fell by by 12 percentage points since July, bringing his lead over Hillary Clinton to just 1 point. According to a poll by the Marquette University Law School, although Trump still leads over Clinton among Wisconsin evangelicals by 16 points, their support plummeted by 24 points right after the tape hit the ether, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. Because polls are imperfect gauges of voters’ opinions, they don’t all agree: a survey by the PRRI/The Atlantic shows that his support among evangelicals remained unwavering.
While some evangelical leaders are standing by Trump, a number of prominent voices have come out withdrawing their support for the Republican nominee. Pastor James McDonald, a member of Trump’s evangelical advisory council, called his comments about women “misogynistic trash.” Theologian Wayne Grudem rescinded his earlier endorsement in strong words.”I cannot commend Trump’s moral character, and I strongly urge him to withdraw from the election,” he told The Washington Post.
Christianity Today, the leading evangelical publication came out with a scathing op-ed against Trump, in which its executive editor, Andy Crouch, says that evangelical leaders’ decisions to rescind their support for Trump comes “awfully late.” He calls Trump immoral, an “idolater” in many ways.
“He has given no evidence of humility or dependence on others, let alone on God his Maker and Judge. He wantonly celebrates strongmen and takes every opportunity to humiliate and demean the vulnerable. He shows no curiosity or capacity to learn. He is, in short, the very embodiment of what the Bible calls a fool.”
A particularly strong reaction came from evangelical women. Beth Moore, a best-selling author and radio host, condemned Trump by tweeting about her own experiences:
Moore, and other popular women among the evangelical community who have come out against Trump, including authors and media personalities such as Jen Hatmaker can have huge influence that is often underestimated, points out Ruth Graham at Slate.
Of course, Trump thus far still remains the first choice for the majority of evangelical voters, suggesting a deep split among the religious group. The true test will come on Election Day.