Religion and political behavior in the United States

Layman, Geoffrey C.
June 1997
Public Opinion Quarterly;Summer97, Vol. 61 Issue 2, p288
Academic Journal
This article examines the influence of a new religious cleavage defined by the orthodoxy of religious beliefs, affiliations, and practices on American political behavior. With data pooled from the American National Election Studies from 1980 through 1994, it tests the hypothesis that the political impact of doctrinal orthodoxy, religious commitment, and Protestant denominational orthodoxy is growing and becoming greater than that of the traditional divisions between Christians and Jews and Catholics and Protestants. The results indicate that, even controlling for a wide range of religious, sociodemographic, and political variables, the influence of doctrinal conservatism on partisanship and presidential vote choice is growing over time. The relationship between the orthodoxy of Protestant denominations and political behavior also has changed considerably, with members of evangelical denominations becoming-increasingly Republican relative to their counterparts in mainline denominations. The impact of religious commitment on presidential vote choice also is growing, with very committed individuals becoming increasingly more likely than their less religious counterparts to vote Republican. The analysis demonstrates that the political differences between religious "conservatives" and religious "liberals" are beginning to rival those between Christians and Jews and Catholics and Protestants.


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