When Jimmy Carter was elected president, a famous Newsweek cover story proclaimed 1976 to be "the year of the evangelical."
Almost exactly 40 years later, many Americans are struggling to understand how twice-divorced casino owner Donald Trump could end up as the evangelical of the year.
Nearly two-thirds of likely evangelical voters, 65 percent, said they support Trump in a nationwide survey released Tuesday by the nonprofit Public Religion Research Institute — this after the airing of an 11-year-old video in which he was recorded lewdly bragging about having made sexually inappropriate advances to married women.
Likewise, a survey released Monday by the religious polling group Barna reported that Trump leads Hillary Clinton by 55 percent to 2 percent among likely evangelical voters in next month's general election.
Such support has been remarkably consistent since Trump emerged as the Republican nominee — hitting a high of 78 percent in a July survey by the nonprofit Pew Research Center's Project on Religion & Public Life.
And widely known evangelical leaders remain committed to Trump, including:
James Dobson, founder of Family Talk Radio and the advocacy group Focus on the Family
Tony Perkins, president of the Christian conservative Family Research Council
Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition and former executive director of evangelist Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition
Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., and son of Jerry Falwell Sr., co-founder of the Moral Majority
You might ask, "How can that be?"
But in the context of how modern candidates, operatives and pollsters define evangelical Christianity as a political constituency, a better question might be: "How could it be otherwise?"
Take a closer look at the polls.
Historically, major polling organizations have categorized Christian respondents' faith into a few main groups: Catholics, mainline Protestants, white evangelicals, African-American Protestants and those with no religious identity.