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Free «The Effect of Religion on the Way People Vote in the US» Essay Sample

Religion has over the influenced the voting behavior in the United States. There are many positive results of the religious interpretation of past American Voting behavior. The most important thing is the realization that religious beliefs significantly affected mass voting behavior which means that religious groups and political parties have a symbiotic relationship (Noll & Harlow, 2007). It was also noted that since mid 1970s political historians have had to disprove the salience of religion and culture as major explanations of voting patterns (Noll & Harlow, 2007).

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In their studies Noll & Harlow (2007) indicated that there are two valid criticisms one which relates to the religious model and the other involves research design (p. 160). Most importantly is the pietistic liturgical continuum which how doctrinal beliefs were translated into voting patterns. Noll & Harlow (2007) further says that this was not enough because religious beliefs were translated into voting decisions in USA as one critic charged, but because ultimate values and beliefs which are always dominant in human decision making which are too complex for a one dimensional either or scale.

Research shows that religion was the stuff of political choice in the nineteenth century shaping issues, rhetoric and party alignments. Noll & Harlow (2007) also found out that churches were primary value generating institutions and religious beliefs inevitably affected political choices and goals. In this context voters responded to the theological outlook toward culture of their particular denominations. This was further encouraged by in-group pressures and the influence of pastors and teachers (Noll & Harlow, 2007).

Moreover, Smidt, Kellstedt & Guth (2009) noted that if religion provides individuals with values then those values are engaged across an array of political practices including voting. Most studies have investigated the possibility that religion influences general voting behavior in United States. This is based on the fact aligning denominations based on orthodoxy legislators were scored with respect to their denominations place on the alignment and their constituencies were given orthodoxy scores based on the relative size of denominations within district boundaries (Smidt, Kellstedt & Guth, 2009).

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Smidt, Kellstedt & Guth (2009) supported that “religion is truly an important determinant of voting behavior which shows up in the general voting scale” (508). In this studies which were tapped between 1959 to 1994 Smidt, Kellstedt & Guth (2009) found out that “Catholics, black Protestants and Jews were more liberal than their mainline Protestant colleagues, whereas Mormons and evangelicals were more conservative” (p. 508). This study therefore shows the effect of religion on voting patterns in the USA. It was noted although Catholic legislators were more liberal overall their behavior changed over time.

The salience measure on voting has had a direct effect on legislative voting with higher religious salience producing higher ideological conservatism. Smidt, Kellstedt & Guth (2009) thus says that “the effect of denominational affiliation, however worked primarily through other variables” (p. 508). During that period it was noted that evangelical Protestantism was negatively related to Democratic partisanship and Democratic partisanship which was negatively related to outspoken in support for Israel

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Religion is measured at the mass level and is thought to contribute indirectly to the policy process (Smidt, Kellstedt & Guth, 2009). Also they indicated that evangelical denominational affiliation is associated with political conservatism. Broughton & Napel (2000) says that “religion has constituted a sustainable influence on party identification and voting preference that is religious individuals tend to vote for pro-church parties and groupings whereas members from the secular group are more likely to be found among supporters of liberal or secular left wing parties in USA” (p. 190). 

High religiosity among other factors also encourage voting in elections and a higher interest in politics in general (Broughton & Napel, 2000). They also note that in USA religiosity was the best of predictor of voting preferences. On the other hand Kohut (2000) says that the overall effect of religious beliefs on voting attitudes has probably changed during the past three or four decades. However, Kohut (2000) says that “the changes in the nation’s political agenda have focused public attention on new issues and revealed significant differences among the various religious traditions” (p. 72). We can therefore say that as issues on which religious traditions differ become more important, religion has indeed become more salient to contemporary US politics and especially voting behavior.

In United States religious tradition is a powerful influence on individuals voting behavior which operates along several different pathways to guide or reinforce citizen’s choice of candidate (Kohut, 2000). Particularly it is important to note that religion influences opinion with respect to certain issues, opinion on these issues which is the single most powerful influence on choice where or who someone votes for (Kohut, 2000). Religion has significant influence on party identification. For example Kohut (2000) says that being a committed evangelical or a mainline Protestant committed or not is associated with a significantly higher likelihood of being a Republican. Jews and committed black Protestants are more likely to identify as Democrats.

In, conclusion studies indicate religion has great influence on the voting behavior in the United States. With a wide array of areas in which religion influences the political behavior in the country opinion play a major role. Religion and voting have become intertwined over the last two decades. Religion also influences who votes for Republican and Democrats during the elections. Observations show people vote on the basis of religions hence this means people are tied by religion. Religion helps people to take part in country politics thus it helps individuals to develop skills that could be transferred to the broader political and voting arena. 


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