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Donald Trump and the End of the "Character Voter"

Conservative Christians have often been labeled as "Character [or Values] Voters"; those that seek Christian values in their candidates that will inspire the nation. Evangelical Christians have often characterized themselves in those terms and their leaders often explain their support for candidates based on such values.

Polling of Evangelicals on the character issue, however, has often been more ambiguous and their support of Donald Trump has eroded the notion that character voters really exist. 80% of those that call themselves Evangelical Christians voted for Donald Trump according to exit polls, and they remain his base of support. In fact, as Trump's support has slipped since the election, especially among college educated voters and suburban women, his support among Evangelicals has remained firm. How can that be? Its often explained that despite his personal proclivities, Trump supports their agenda, especially his new-found opposition to abortion and transgender rights. That is certainly part of it, but its more complex. Evangelical Christians see themselves as a disadvantaged minority in a nation that is becoming more diverse and less tolerant of their beliefs. Trump then is their hero who will stand with their cause, but at what price.

As former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson explains in the Atlantic, that price is far too high and includes accepting [or ignoring] Trumps racism, greed, sexual peccadillos, and misogyny. His public life mocks their faith and undercuts any notion that they are "Character Voters". It will be interesting to see if that changes as the stories of Stormy Daniels, Karen McDougal, and Summer Zervos unfold over the next 6 months.


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