Perhaps Evangelicals Really Are “Easy to Command” After All

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.

While I’ve been tromping around in Ireland, I see that this chart from Thomas Edsall has been making the rounds:

Edsall comments on this and other recent poll results:

What happened in the interim? The answer is obvious: the advent of Donald Trump….Michael Barber and Jeremy C. Pope, political scientists at Brigham Young University, reported in their recent paper “Does Party Trump Ideology? Disentangling Party and Ideology in America,” that many Republican voters are malleable to the point of innocence.

….Nathaniel Persily, a professor of law and political science at Stanford, described his surprise at the docility of Republican officials in an email: “While I and others had written extensively about the partisan tribalism of both elites and the mass public, I guess I would have expected greater defections by Republicans in the wake of Charlottesville.”

As these quotes make clear, the issue here isn’t religion per se, but Republican affiliation. An awful lot of Republicans apparently have very weak views on most subjects and are willing to support whatever Trump supports. Conversely, those with no religious affiliation, who are heavily Democratic, changed their views hardly at all. That’s not to say they’re unaffected by tribalism, but apparently they’re affected a lot less.

Any way you look at it, though, the strongest effect by far came from white evangelicals, who were almost literally willing to flip their views upside-down when Donald Trump told them to. I’m reminded of the famous description of evangelicals in a Washington Post article 25 years ago as “largely poor, uneducated and easy to command.”

The Post apologized almost instantly, but this nonetheless became legendary on the right as shorthand for the contempt that Beltway elites feel toward evangelicals. But maybe the Post should have held its ground after all. In the age of Trump, it seems like maybe it’s evangelicals who ought to be the ones apologizing. Compared to other religious traditions, evangelicals in general really are poorer, less educated, and easier to command.

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate