Politics, Religion, and Society: Is the United States Experiencing a Period of Religious-Political Polarization?

Thomas A. Hirschl, James G. Booth, Leland L. Glenna, Brandn Q. Green


This study investigates the effect of religious identity on U.S. Presidential voter choice in order to determine whether this relationship changed over time. The research literature is divided on this question with several investigators finding a positive trend in religious-political polarization since 1980, and others finding no polarization. The study further addresses a putative link between social inequality and religious politics by identifying the race, class, and gender location of religiously influenced voters, using multiple cross sections from the General Social Survey to empirically model Presidential voting over the period 1980 to 2008. The findings demonstrate that religious identity influenced voter choice, and that this influence increased significantly and substantially across the study period. Second, that upper class whites are the source of religious partisan polarity, and upper class whites became more polarized over the period 1980 to 2008. The effect of gender on partisanship is less pronounced, and overshadowed by social class and religious identity. The study findings demonstrate that religiously influenced Presidential voting reflects the political behavior of a relatively privileged component of the electorate.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5539/res.v4n4p95

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Review of European Studies   ISSN 1918-7173 (Print)   ISSN 1918-7181 (Online)

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