The Disappearing God Gap? Religion in the 2008 Presidential Election

The Disappearing God Gap? Religion in the 2008 Presidential Election

The Disappearing God Gap? Religion in the 2008 Presidential Election

The Disappearing God Gap? Religion in the 2008 Presidential Election

Synopsis

After the reelection of George W. Bush in 2004, the "God Gap" became a hotly debated political issue. Religious voters were seen as the key to Bush's victory, and Democrats began scrambling to reach out to them. Four years later, however, with the economy in a tailspin on election day,religion barely seemed to register on people's radar screens. In this book, a team of well-regarded scholars digs deeper to examine the role religion played in the 2008 campaign. They take a long view, placing the election in historical context and looking at the campaign as a whole, from theprimaries all the way through election day. At the heart of their analysis is data gleaned from a national survey conducted by the authors, in which voters were interviewed in the spring of 2008 and then re-interviewed after the election.

Excerpt

Over the past several decades, scholars have increasingly recognized that religion plays a vital role in American politics. the study of religion and politics has mushroomed from occasional analyses, largely ignored by the scholarly community, to a major subfield of study. This new scholarly attention has been especially focused on the role of religion in electoral politics. in the aftermath of the 2004 presidential election, for example, a number of different studies examined the relationship between attendance at worship services and vote choice (e.g., Campbell 2007; Rozell and Whitney 2007, chs. 2–5). Religiously observant voters were much more likely to vote for Republicans than Democrats. Thus, the “God Gap” was born, a label used to describe the tendency of those who are highly religious to vote Republican and those who are less so to vote Democratic. Or, as political commentator Michael Barone had earlier noted (Carnes 2004): “Americans increasingly vote as they pray, or don’t pray.”

By the 2008 presidential election, however, the political landscape appeared to have changed in some important ways. in the presidential primaries, Democratic candidates redoubled their efforts to appeal to religious voters; the Christian Right had become more fragmented, as longtime leaders such as Jerry Falwell and D. James Kennedy had passed from the scene; a new generation of evangelical voters appeared to be emerging, one apparently more environmentally sensitive and less reflexively Republican in their preferences; and, finally, the ongoing conflict in Iraq, rising oil prices, and a stagnant economy had largely pushed social issues off the table.

Historically, religious affiliation has been the most important factor in the relationship between religion and politics. One’s religious group or . . .

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