, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 33-56

The intersection of gender politics and religious beliefs

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Traditional understanding has placed conservatism at the intersection of religion and politics and has assumed that this relationship is stronger for women than it is for men. Yet rarely has gender been a principal analytic category in such explorations, and the relationships have not been thoroughly documented. We analyze the 1980 and 1984 National Election Study data and find that religion is not a more conservatizing influence on voting behavior for women than it is for men. Reagan did best with the small group of women fundamentalist believers, and did rather well among highly religious Catholic women. In most other cases the gender gap actually widened with increasing religiosity. Although women are more religious than men, political observers are cautioned that this finding cannot be taken as evidence of women's greater support for conservative candidates.