Nearly half of the people who voted for President Donald Trump say that if he had an affair with former pornographic film actress Stephanie Clifford, a.k.a. Stormy Daniels, it’s not immoral or they are not sure. And only slightly more than half say it would be immoral, according to a HuffPost/YouGov survey released Tuesday.
The survey, conducted earlier this month, also found that a majority of Trump voters (75 percent) believe that, if the allegations are true, they are not relevant to Trump’s presidency. And a majority of those same voters (70 percent) say that an elected official who has committed an immoral act in their personal life “can still behave ethically and fulfill their duties in their public and professional life.”
Clifford alleges she had an “intimate relationship” with Trump in 2006, shortly after Trump’s wife Melania gave birth to their son, and in 2007. Earlier this month, Clifford filed a lawsuit against Trump claiming that a non-disclosure agreement she signed shortly before the election is not valid because the document lacks Trump’s official signature.
Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen told CNN that shortly before the 2016 presidential election he paid Clifford $130,000 using funds from his own home equity line in exchange for her signing the agreement, which prevented her from discussing the alleged affair with Trump.
Despite Trump’s videotaped boasts about grabbing women “by the pussy,” and a growing list of women who have accused him of sexual misconduct, his conservative supporters have consistently been willing to turn the other cheek as the list of scandals grows.
In the past, religious conservatives, such as the “values voters” of the Republican base, have placed great significance on a politician’s moral values and behavior.
For example, leaders of the religious right roundly condemned President Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, and as ThinkProgress found, “have long weaponized faith-based shame as a tool for political pressure.”
In 1998, Christian Coalition founder Ralph Reed told the New York Times that “character matters, and the American people are hungry for that message. We care about the conduct of our leaders, and we will not rest until we have leaders of good moral character.’’
At the time, attendees of a Christian Coalition convention told the Times that they were “despondent” about opinion polls showing that “most Americans do not share the conviction that President Clinton should resign or be impeached.”
”The polls could be accurate,” Gary Johnson, an operations consultant, told the Times. “And that makes me worried that the so-called liberalism that has taken root in the last 20 to 25 years means that people can’t think clearly about perjury and obstruction of justice. It seemed clear when Nixon was in office. Why isn’t it clear now?”
Yet, white evangelicals voted overwhelmingly for Trump according to the Washington Post, which noted after the presidential election that although Trump’s candidacy “caused a huge divide among evangelical leaders,” evangelical voters supported him, with many citing “his promise to appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade.”
ThinkProgress also examined how religious conservatives voted in the presidential election and spoke with Harvard scholar of American religion Harvey Cox, who concluded that ultimately the political ambitions of Trump’s voters took precedence over any concerns about sexuality and personal morality.
“One thing that becomes clear [over time] is the evolution of the Religious Right away from social issues — homosexuality, sex edition, etc. — toward embracing a much larger, more conservative agenda starting under Reagan and since then as well,” Cox told ThinkProgress. “By the time we get to the last couple of years, the traditional issues of which you have shamed people have faded out of the spectrum of emphasis for conservative people.”
“This is probably one of the reasons why they didn’t do much or say much about Donald Trump — who could have easily have been shamed,” he added. “They’ve moved on to other concerns.”
One poll, conducted in the fall of 2016, found that white evangelical views on morality have shifted in recent years. For example, in 2011, only 30 percent of white evangelicals said 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,” compared to 72 percent in 2016.
The new HuffPost/YouGov survey found that compared with the rest of Trump’s voter base, his evangelical supporters appear “only slightly more concerned about this latest scandal.”
While about two-thirds of self-described evangelical or born-again Christians who voted for Trump say that it would be immoral if Trump had an affair with Clifford, few evangelical Trump voters say they consider the affair allegations credible, and almost seven in 10 say that even if true, Clifford’s allegations aren’t relevant to Trump’s presidency, according to HuffPost.
Trump’s supporters also say the alleged Clifford affair is “fake news,” according to the survey, which found that only 20 percent of his supporters found reports of the Clifford payment credible, and only 11 percent believe Clifford’s claim about the affair.