Political Behavior

, Volume 30, Issue 3, pp 367–389 | Cite as

American Republican Religion? Disentangling the Causal Link Between Religion and Politics in the US

  • Stratos Patrikios
Original Paper


Recent research in American political behavior has examined at length the link between evangelical Protestants and the Republican Party. These works however do not consider the idiosyncratic nature of religiosity in the US, and insist on treating religion as an ‘unmoved mover’ with respect to political contexts. The question posed herein is: during the participation of religious communities in partisan politics, should we expect politics to eventually constrain religious behavior? Motivated by a political social identity approach, I use American National Election Study panel data and structural equation modeling techniques to explore the untested possibility that religious and political factors are linked through reciprocal causation. Conditional upon religious and temporal context, findings highlight the causal impact of ideology and partisanship in shaping religious behavior.


Religious politicization Church attendance Party identification Ideology Social identity theory 



Earlier versions of the paper were presented at the Joint Sessions of the European Consortium for Political Research (Workshop: Politicizing Socio-Cultural Structures), Helsinki, May 2007, and the annual meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, Tampa, November 2007. I am indebted to Mark Shephard, John Curtice, Robert Johns, the editors and two anonymous reviewers for advice and comments. I also want to thank Christopher J. Carman and Wouter van der Brug for helpful suggestions.

Supplementary material

11109_2008_9053_MOESM1_ESM.doc (50 kb)
(DOC 50 kb)


  1. Abramowitz, A., & Saunders, K. (1998). Ideological realignment in the U.S. electorate. Journal of Politics, 60, 634–652.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aldrich, J. H. (1995). Why parties? The origin and transformation of party politics in America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  3. Arbuckle, J. (2005). Amos 6.0 user’s guide. Chicago, IL: SmallWaters Corporation.Google Scholar
  4. Asher, H. (1983). Causal modeling. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  5. Bartels, L. M. (1999). Panel effects in the American national election studies. Political Analysis, 8, 1–20.Google Scholar
  6. Bellah, R. (1967). Civil religion in America. Daedalus, 96, 1–21.Google Scholar
  7. Bolzendahl, C., & Brooks, C. (2005). Polarization, secularization or differences as usual? The denominational cleavage in U.S. social attitudes since the 1970s. Sociological Quarterly, 46, 47–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bollen, K. (1989). Structural equations with latent variables. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  9. Campbell, A. (1960). Surge and decline: A study of electoral change. Public Opinion Quarterly, 24, 397–418.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Campbell, A., Converse, P., Miller, W., & Stokes, D. (1960). The American voter. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  11. Campbell, A., Converse, P., Miller, W., & Stokes, D. (1966). Elections & the political order. NY: Wiley.Google Scholar
  12. Carmines, E., & Stimson, J. (1989). Issue evolution. Princeton: Princeton UP.Google Scholar
  13. Carsey, T., & Layman, G. (2006). Changing sides or changing minds? Party identification and policy preferences in the American electorate. American Journal of Political Science, 50, 464–477.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Clarke, H., & Stewart, M. (1998). The decline of parties in the minds of citizens. Annual Review of Political Science, 1, 357–378.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Davidson, R., & Oleszek, W. (2004). Congress and its members (9th ed.). Washington: CQ Press.Google Scholar
  16. Deaux, K, Reid, A., Mizrahi, K., & Ethier K. (1995). Parameters of social identity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 68, 280–291.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Edelman, M. (1964). The symbolic uses of politics. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.Google Scholar
  18. Finke, R., & Stark, R. (1992). The churching of America, 1776–1990: Winners and losers in our religious economy. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP.Google Scholar
  19. Finkel, S. (1995). Causal analysis with panel data. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  20. Fiorina, M. (1981). Retrospective voting in American national elections. Yale UP.Google Scholar
  21. Goren, P. (2005). Party identification and core political values. American Journal of Political Science, 49, 881–896.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Green, D., & Palmquist, B. (1990). Of artifacts and partisan instability. American Journal of Political Science, 34, 872–902.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Green, D., Palmquist B., & Schickler, E. (2002). Partisan hearts and minds: Political parties and the social identities of voters. New Haven: Yale UP.Google Scholar
  24. Green, J. C., Rozell, M., & Wilcox, C. (Eds.). (2003). The Christian right in American politics: marching to the millennium. Washington: Georgetown UP.Google Scholar
  25. Greene, S. (1999). Understanding party identification: A social identity approach. Political Psychology, 20, 393–403.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Greene, S. (2002). The social-psychological measurement of partisanship. Political Behavior, 24, 171–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Greene, S. (2004). Social identity theory and party identification. Social Science Quarterly, 85, 136–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Guth, J. L., Green, J. C., Smidt, C., Kellstedt, L., & Poloma, M. (1997). The bully pulpit: The politics of Protestant clergy. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press.Google Scholar
  29. Hadaway, K., Marler, P. L., & Chaves, M. (1993). What the polls don’t show: A closer look at church attendance. American Sociological Review, 58, 741–752.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hogg, M. A., & Terry, D. J. (2000). Social identity and self-categorization processes in organizational contexts. Academy of Management Review, 25, 121–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hout, M., & Fischer, C. (2002). Why more Americans have no religious preference. American Sociological Review, 67, 165–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Huddy, L. (2003). Group identity and political cohesion. In D. O. Sears, L. Huddy, & R. Jervis (Eds.), Oxford handbook of political psychology. Oxford: Oxford UP.Google Scholar
  33. Jackson, J. E. (1975). Issues, party choices and presidential votes. American Journal of Political Science, 19, 161–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kline, R. B. (1998). Principles and practice of structural equation modeling. NY: Guilford.Google Scholar
  35. Kriesi, H. (1998). The transformation of cleavage politics. The 1997 Stein Rokkan Lecture. European Journal of Political Research, 33, 165–185.Google Scholar
  36. Lau, R. (1989). Individual and contextual influences on group identification. Social Psychology Quarterly, 52, 220–231.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Layman, G. (1997). Religion and political behavior in the United States: The impact of beliefs, affiliations, and commitment from 1980 to 1994. The Public Opinion Quarterly, 61, 288–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Layman, G. (2001). The great divide: Religious and cultural conflict in American party politics. New York: Columbia UP.Google Scholar
  39. Layman, G., & Carsey, T. (2002). Party polarization and party structuring of policy attitudes: A comparison of three NES panel studies. Political Behavior, 24, 199–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Layman, G., & Green, J. C. (2005). Wars and rumours of wars: The contexts of cultural conflict in American political behaviour. British Journal of Political Science, 36, 61–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Layman, G., & Hussey, L. (2005). George W. Bush and the Evangelicals. Presented at the Conference on ‘A Matter of Faith? Religion and the 2004 Presidential Election,’ University of Notre Dame.Google Scholar
  42. Leege, D. C., & Kellstedt, L. A. (Eds.). (1993). Rediscovering the religious factor in American politics. Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe.Google Scholar
  43. Lenski, G. (1963). The Religious Factor. NY: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  44. Levendusky, M. (2005). Sorting in the U.S. mass electorate. Presented at the MPSA Annual Meeting.Google Scholar
  45. Lipset, S. M., & Rokkan, S. (1967). Cleavage structures, party systems, and voter alignments: An introduction. In S. M. Lipset, & S. Rokkan (Eds.), Party systems and voter alignments. NY: Free Press.Google Scholar
  46. Long, K. M., & Spears, R. (1997). The self-esteem hypothesis revisited: Differentiation and the disaffected. In R. Spears, P. Oakes, N. Ellemers, & S. Haslam (Eds.), The social psychology of stereotyping and group life. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  47. Loveland, M. T. (2003). Religious switching: Preference development, maintenance, and change. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 42, 147–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Manza, J., & Brooks, C. (1999). Social cleavages and political change. Oxford: Oxford UP.Google Scholar
  49. Markus, G, & Converse, P. (1979). A dynamic simultaneous equation model of electoral choice. American Political Science Review, 73, 1055–1070.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Miller, W. E., & Shanks, J. M. (1996). The new American voter. Cambridge: Harvard UP.Google Scholar
  51. Moen, M. C. (1994). From revolution to evolution: The changing nature of the Christian right. Sociology of Religion, 55, 345–357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Newport, F. (1979). The religious switcher in the US. American Sociological Review, 44, 528–552.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Nie, N., Verba, S., & Petrocik, J. (1979). The changing American voter. Cambridge: Harvard UP.Google Scholar
  54. Page, B., & Jones, C. (1979). Reciprocal effects of policy preferences, party loyalties, and the vote. American Political Science Review, 73, 1071–1090.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Poole, K. T., & Rosenthal, H. (1984). The polarization of American politics. Journal of Politics, 46, 1061–1079.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Roof, W. C., & McKinney, W. (1987). American mainline religion: Its changing shape and future. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers UP.Google Scholar
  57. Sartori, G. (1969). From the sociology of politics to political sociology. In S. M. Lipset (Ed.), Politics and the social sciences. NY: Oxford UP.Google Scholar
  58. Smith, R., Ager, J., & Williams, D. (1992). Suppressor variables in multiple regression/correlation. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 52, 17–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Steensland, B., Park, J., Regnerus, M., Robinson, L., Wilcox, W. B., & Woodberry, R. (2000). The measure of American religion: Toward improving the state of the art. Social Forces, 79, 291–318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Tajfel, H. (1981). Human groups and social categories. Cambridge: Cambridge UP.Google Scholar
  61. Turner, J. C. (1985). Social categorization and the self-concept: A social cognitive theory of group behavior. In E. Lawler (Ed.), Advances in group processes: Theory and research Vol. 2. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.Google Scholar
  62. Wald, K., & Calhoun-Brown, A. (2007). Religion and politics in the United States (5th ed.). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  63. Warner, R. S. (1993). Work in progress toward a new paradigm for the sociological study of religion in the United States. American Journal of Sociology, 98, 1044–1093.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Wilcox, C. (1996). Onward Christian soldiers: The religious right in American politics. Boulder, CO: Westview.Google Scholar
  65. Zaller, J. (1992). The nature and origins of mass opinion. New York: Cambridge UP.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GovernmentUniversity of StrathclydeGlasgowUK

Personalised recommendations