Religion and Politics: The Impact of Religious Thesis

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Religion & Politics: The Impact of Religious Affiliation on Voting Choices of Americans


Although the separation of church and state has been long heralded as one of the benefits of American freedom, a study of religion's role in ethnic and social groups suggests the importance of the demographic in political identity formation and, hence, voting patterns in the United States.

Traditionally and historically religious affiliation has been believed to have a great impact upon the voting choices of individuals. This work examines this issue in the attempt to disseminate the actual impact of church membership and religious affiliation upon partisanship of those church members and religious adherents.


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The work of Kelly and Kelly (2005) entitled: "Religion and Latino Partisanship in the United States reports a research study in the Latino community, which has until now been little studies in relation to religious affiliation and the effect of that affiliation on the partisanship of the community. This study utilized data from the 1990-2000 National Election Studies in examining both the religious affiliation and the level of religious commitment among Latinos and focused on the effects of these statistics on the political affiliation of the Latino group. Findings in this study include that the classification of Latinos into two groupings of either being Catholic or non-Catholic is a faulty classification and additionally findings are stated that religious significantly influences Latino partisanship.


TOPIC: Thesis on Religion & Politics: The Impact of Religious Assignment

The work of Campbell (2004) entitled "Acts of Faith: Churches and Political Engagement" examines what appears to be two statements which contradict one another in relation to congregations of the church and mobilizations on the political level. Campbell states that political science students have often held debate over two specific theories: (1) churches encourage their congregations to become involved in politics; and (2) churches attempt to persuade their members to withdraw from political life. (Campbell, 2004) Data utilized in this study was from the Citizen Participation Study as well as two Alabama elections. The hypothesis stated by Campbell (2004) suggests that the degree of involvement of members in mainstream Catholic and Protestant churches resulted in their activity in the community and political activities to be lessened.


The work of McClurg (2006) entitled: "The Electoral Relevance of Political Talk: Examining Disagreement and Expertise Effects in Social Networks on Political Participation" states the theory that individuals who participate in social networks have a higher level of "political sophistication" are more likely than are others to be politically involved. (p. 737) it is stated in the work of McClurg that it has been long accepted that those who are involved in social networks that are "large [and] more politicized" will be actively politically more so than are others. McClurg accredits this to the political language within this groups that drives the tendency for individuals to be more active on a political level and that since religious groups are a large social networking group those who are religious are more likely to be politically active.


The work of Clawson and Clark entitled: "The Attitudinal Structure of African-American Women Party Activist: The Impact of Race, Gender and Religion" examines the activism of African-American Democratic women and state that African-American women can be described as "unique" as "they equate racial and gender issues" seeing them on a single dimension." (p. 211) Clawson and Clark Hold that one of the primary factors in making the determination of an African-American woman's political involvement is the black church" and states that the determination of whether the issue concerning abortion "…ls within the African-American woman's political category of equate racial and gender issues is dependent on the 'religious involvement of these activists." (p. 211)


In 1996, the Pew Research Center report entitled: "The Diminishing Divide…American Churches, American Politics" stated that religion "…is a strong and growing force in the way Americans think about politics. It has a bearing on political affiliation, political values, policy attitudes and candidate choice." (Pew Research Center, 1996) in fact, it is stated in this report that the specific impact of religion is one of a strong nature on "the political views of Christian Americans who represent 84% of the voting age population." (Pew Research Center, 1996) However, "the full effect of religion on American politics is best observed when race is factored into the equation." (Pew Research Center, 1996) Stated to be the stronger religious force in today's politics is "the conservatism of white evangelical Protestants…" (Pew Research Center, 1996) Stated as the "most meaningful distinction" is that between those Protestants "who self-identify as evangelical or born against vs. those who do not." (Pew Research Center, 1996)


The Pew Research Center report entitled: "Religion and Politics: Contention and Consensus states that "most people (67%) say that their religious beliefs play at least an occasional role in helping them decide what to do in their lives. But far fewer (38%) say religion has the same influence on their voting decisions." (2003) it is stated that forty-five percent of respondents state they "…they frequently finding themselves using their religious beliefs to help make choices and decisions on a typical day…" however, only twenty-two percent report frequent reliance on their religious beliefs in making voting decisions and sixteen percent are reported to occasionally rely on their religious beliefs in deciding how they will vote. (Pew Research Center report, 2003) the responses given in this Pew Research Center report are shown in the following table labeled Figure 1.

Figure 1

Religion Guides Voting Findings by Pew Research Center (2003)

The Pew Research Center report states findings that "a significant number of Americans would be reluctant to vote for a well-qualified candidate if he or she were a member of a particular religious group, especially a Muslim" at a rate of thirty-eight percent. As well "many more express reservations about voting for a candidate without religion than one with a specific faith" at a rate of fifty-two percent. Overall, sixty-four percent of Americans state an admission that "…a candidate's religion, or lack thereof, could lead them to vote against a well-qualified candidate from their own party." (Pew Research Center report, 2003) the Pew Research Center report states that a particular concern "for white evangelical Protestants and African-American majorities" is the issue of 'Atheism'. The impact of the candidates religion upon the various branches of religions in the United States is shown in the following table labeled Figure 2.

Figure 2

Candidate's Religion

In a separate Pew Research Center report entitled: "Clinton and Giuliani Seen as Not Highly Religious; Romney's Religion Raises Concerns" (2007) it is reported that religion has, "so far…not proving to be a clear-cut positive in the 2008 presidential campaign. The candidates viewed by voters as the least religious among the leading contenders are the current frontrunners for the Democratic and Republican nominations -- Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani, respectively." (Pew Research Center, 2007) This report additionally relates that approximately "…three-quarters of Americans (78%) say domestic issues such as the economy, health care and the environment will be very important in their decisions about whom to support for president; 72% say the same thing about the war in Iraq." (Pew Research Center report, 2007)


There is no denying that religious affiliation has historically and traditionally affected the resultant voting choices of individuals in the United States and in 1996 as indicated in the Pew Research Center report, religious affiliation had a strong impact on individual voting in elections. However, in recent years, while the impact of religious affiliation on voting choices has remained, there has… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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