Nearly 8 in 10 white evangelical voters plan to cast ballots for Donald Trump, whether because of their political affiliation, their appreciation for his defense of Christianity or their dislike of Hillary Clinton.
The Republican presidential nominee enjoys almost the same level support from evangelicals who regularly attend church and those who are less active, according to a new Pew Research Center survey on religion and the election.
The evangelical community's unexpected embrace of the brash and, at times, inappropriate Trump has been widely covered, as commentators like Joseph Loconte, an associate professor of history at the King's College in New York City, point to GOP nominee's appeal.
"Facing a political culture increasingly hostile to their beliefs — and a government riding roughshod over their religious freedoms — evangelicals believe Mr. Trump will be the best guardian of their liberties," he wrote for The Washington Post in February.
However, it's less clear what motivates the white evangelicals (around 17 percent of the group, according to Pew) who plan to vote for Clinton.
Some may be guided by the high-profile evangelical leaders who have come out strong against the Republican nominee. Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, once called the Trump campaign "reality television moral sewage," according to Religion News Service.
Ten percent of white evangelical voters who plan to support Clinton consider their ballot mainly a vote against Trump, Pew reported.
Katelyn Beaty, the print managing editor of Christianity Today magazine, offered another theory about evangelical votes for Clinton in The Washington Post this week. Some young, evangelical women may be motivated by a desire to see more women in power, she argued.
"As Clinton is nominated, young evangelical women are perhaps more primed than ever to celebrate a woman in the White House," Beaty wrote. She interviewed more than 120 young evangelical women (around ages 25 to 40) while writing her new book, "A Woman's Place."
Although these voters may disagree with Clinton on abortion and other social issues, they told Beaty that it's important to them to see a smart woman lead the country and serve as a role model for girls.
"I'm voting for Clinton because I'm committed to seeing women gain greater levels of power," said Ellen Richard, 26.
Six percent of white evangelicals who plan to vote for Clinton mainly see their ballot as a vote for the Democratic nominee, Pew reported.
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