Broken Contract? Changing Relationships between Americans and Their Government

By Stephen C. Craig | Go to book overview

TABLE 10.7
Presidential Vote, Congressional Vote, and Self-Identified Ideology by Attendance at Religious Services (whites only), 1992
1992 Presidential Vote 1992 DemocraticIdeology.
Clinton Bush PerotHouse VoteConservative
Attend at least
 once a week (39%)
33% 48% 18% 45% 41%
Do not attend at
 least once a week (61%)
47% 28% 25% 58% 21%
N = 7,028
SOURCE: Voter Research and Survey exit poll, general election, November 1992.

ble and it is partially supported by the data. There are, however, some problems -- beginning with our discovery that many voters are not so neatly placed as the European model (secular-left versus Christian-right) might lead us to expect. Furthermore, the single most loyal Democratic constituency (African Americans) is also one of the most solidly Christian, orthodox, and church-rooted; to a degree, the same pattern holds for Hispanic Catholics. Although minority attachment to the Democratic Party can be explained on economic and historical grounds, that does not diminish the departure from the European norm. In the United States, at least, there is a more robust progressive Christian tradition to draw upon than in Europe.

Quite obviously, modern politics confronts religious constituencies with keen dilemmas and cross-pressures. E. J. Dionne ( 1991) has suggested that voters do not always like the way activists tend to frame issues in dichotomous terms -- e.g., feminism versus family -- and as political discourse becomes ever more polarized in this fashion, many are turned off by the whole process. Our analysis puts Dionne's argument in a slightly different light by showing how particular religious constituencies often face unsettling choices between candidates and parties; it is not surprising that the effect of those cross-pressures is greater volatility, split-ticket voting, disenchantment, and disengagement from politics. Gone are the days, for some, when elections offered unambiguously appealing choices.

Finally, our findings leave little doubt that a kind of postmaterialist, value-based voting is an important feature of contemporary American politics, with churches and religious beliefs playing a vital role in producing and shaping those values. On the eve of the twenty-first century, religion remains a defining characteristic of American political life, contrary to the predictions -- and in some cases the wishes -- of scholars.


NOTES
1.
Notable here is the work of Paul Kleppner ( 1970 and 1987), who analyzed the role of ethnoreligious forces in nineteenth-century politics; Paul Lopatto ( 1985), who focused on religion and presidential elections; and Albert Menendez ( 1977), whose work summarized religion and voting from the founding era onward.

-205-

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