Religious Stereotyping and Voter Support for Evangelical Candidates

By McDermott, Monika L. | Political Research Quarterly, June 2009 | Go to article overview

Religious Stereotyping and Voter Support for Evangelical Candidates


McDermott, Monika L., Political Research Quarterly


While much important research exists on the topic of religion and politics, very little exists on candidate religious affiliation and its potential effect on voters' behavior. This article addresses the issue of candidate religion from the point of view that it acts as an information cue for voters in elections through trait and belief stereotypes. Using a case study of hypothetical evangelical Christian candidates and an original experimental data set, this analysis demonstrates that voters stereotype evangelicals as more conservative than other candidates, as well as more competent and trustworthy, all else equal. These stereotypes subsequently play a significant role in voters' choices of whom to support.

Keywords: voting; stereotypes; information shortcuts; evangelicals; candidate religion

Religion in America has become increasingly entwined with politics during the past few decades. For example, voters are turning to their religious affiliations more and more to help them form political opinions and make voting decisions (Layman 1997; Miller and Hoffmann 1999). The major political patties' coalitions have become increasingly religiously homogenous, and Democratic and Republican activists have thus become increasingly polarized over cultural issues (Layman 1999). Perhaps as a result of these trends, researchers have also found strong religious influences on the voting behavior of legislators (most recently, Yamane and Oldmixon 2006). While this and other research tell us quite a bit about how an individual's - be it a voter, activist, or legislator religious affiliation affects his or her own actions, the literature has largely ignored one vital ingrethent in the relationship between religion and politics - electoral candidates' religious affiliations and how they may affect voters' evaluations and electoral decisions.

Given the increasing importance of religion in politics, understanding whether and how candidate religious affiliation matters seems critical to our understanding of voting behavior and elections. If voters do bring their own religion into the political realm and the choices they make, it is reasonable to expect that they would also pay attention to candidates' affiliations and be influenced by them.

Public opinion surveys have demonstrated that candidates' religious affiliations can affect voters' willingness to support them. For example, a Pew Foundation survey1 in 2003 found mat 8 percent of the American public said they would not be willing to vote for a "generally well-qualified" nominee from their political party if the candidate were Camolic. Likewise, 11 percent expressed opposition to voting for a Jewish candidate, 37 percent for a Muslim nominee, 17 percent for an evangelical Christian, and half would not vote for an atheist. While demonstrating that religious affiliation has some effect, however, these numbers do little to elucidate how candidate religion affects voters and their choices.

How might candidates' religious affiliations affect voters' choices? Existing research into other candidate characteristics offers a well-documented method heuristic processing. In heuristic processing, individuals use general and accessible rules of thumb to make judgments about new and potentially unfamiliar situations or people (Fiske and Taylor 1991). In other words, individuals simplify their world by taking information shortcuts (heuristics) rather than collecting complete information. These shortcuts are frequently in the form of stereotypes - generalizations that individuals hold about groups, and subsequently, group members (Fiske and Taylor 1991). When it comes to politics, the heuristic process is the same; social and political stereotypes frequently provide the information for individuals' cognitive shortcuts (Ottati and Wyer 1990; Rahn 1993).

This article examines candidate religion as such an information shortcut. It uses original data from an experimental study to establish how candidate religious affiliation affects voters' images of candidates, as well as how this affects voters' choices. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Religious Stereotyping and Voter Support for Evangelical Candidates
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.