American Politics: Value Conflict,
Continuity, and Change
ALLEN D. HERTZKE JOHN DAVID RAUSCH JR.
Throughout American history religious currents have flowed powerfully through elections, defining partisan attachments and shaping voting behavior. 1 Still, until the rise of the Christian right in the late 1970s, many modern scholars discounted religion as a key influence in contemporary voting behavior. They did so, in part, because they were guided by the theory of secularization, developed by some of the West's great scholars, which posited the inevitable decline of religion as societies modernize. To Karl Marx, Émile Durkheim, Max Weber, and their followers, secularization constituted "an iron law" predicting the "elimination of religious influence in contemporary culture" ( Wald 1992, p. 4; also see Kellstedt 1993).
Yet not only has religion proven to be "stubbornly persistent" in the modern world ( Shupe 1990, p. 18), its political influence seems to be greater, in some respects, in the mid-1990s than it was just a couple of decades prior. This stubborn persistence probably can be explained by the universal human need for transcendent explanations of life and its hardships (see Freud 1961). But the political assertiveness of religion may arise from a dynamic identified by Ronald Ingelhart, who suggested that in a postmaterialist age, value conflict could replace class or economic interest as the defining characteristic of modern politics ( Inglehart 1977). Thus religion, as the root of many value differences, becomes more salient in politics as immediate material concerns recede.
In this chapter, we chart the voting patterns of the key religious groups in the electorate -- Catholics, evangelical Protestants, "mainline" (or "oldline") Protestants, 2 black Christians, Jews, and secularists -- in order to present evidence for the existence of value-based cleavages in the American electorate. The differences observed are real and politically important, though we caution against exaggerating their magnitude or political significance. Value conflict does not necessarily