A great divide? Religion and political change in U.S. national elections, 1972-2000

Clem Brooks, Jeff Manza

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


    Since 1980 most social scientists have found little evidence in support of popular and recurring commentaries that identify religion (and evangelical Protestants, in particular) as a major source of conservative political trends in the United States. But in the past several years a new line of research has reported results suggesting that earlier studies underestimated evidence that partisan change among specific religious groups has contributed to an emerging Republican electoral advantage. We assess this latter body of research, presenting the most comprehensive analysis to date of the effects of religious group memberships on political outcomes in national elections from 1972 through 2000. We address the limitations of past studies by incorporating advances in the measurement of religious denomination, adjudicating competing statistical models of the changing interrelationship of religion and voter alignments and extending previous investigations by simultaneously considering the impact of religion on (1) voting behavior, (2) partisanship, and (3) the representation of religious groups within the Democratic and Republican parties' electoral coalitions. Our results refine and extend past studies of religion and political change, providing evidence of limited changes in group-specific voting coupled with much larger changes in religion-based partisanship and party coalitions.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)421-450+v-vi
    JournalSociological Quarterly
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - 2004

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science


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