American Republican religion? Dis...
ORIGINAL PAPER American Republican Religion? Disentangling the Causal Link Between Religion and Politics in the US Stratos Patrikios Published online: 5 February 2008 �� Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008 Abstract Recent research in American political behavior has examined at length the link between evangelical Protestants and the Republican Party. These works however do not consider the idiosyncratic nature of religiosity in the US, and insist on treating religion as an ���unmoved mover��� with respect to political contexts. The question posed herein is: during the participation of religious communities in par- tisan politics, should we expect politics to eventually constrain religious behavior? Motivated by a political social identity approach, I use American National Election Study panel data and structural equation modeling techniques to explore the untested possibility that religious and political factors are linked through reciprocal causation. Conditional upon religious and temporal context, findings highlight the causal impact of ideology and partisanship in shaping religious behavior. Keywords Religious politicization Church attendance Party identification Ideology Social identity theory Introduction The nexus between religion and politics in violent and non-violent conflicts tends to generate global scholarly and popular attention. American society in particular serves as a proverbial case, where the peaceful but vocal participation of religious With apologies to Alexis de Tocqueville. Electronic supplementary material Theonlineversion of this article (doi:10.1007/s11109-008-9053-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users. S. Patrikios (&) Department of Government, University of Strathclyde, McCance Building, 16 Richmond St., Glasgow G1 1XQ, UK e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org 123 Polit Behav (2008) 30:367���389 DOI 10.1007/s11109-008-9053-1
populations in the political process is now widely considered an endemic phenomenon (Leege and Kellstedt 1993 Green et al. 2003). The relationship has been identified as a cleavage, a concept describing the translation of objective social divisions into enduring political conflicts, with original reference to the formation of West European party systems (Lipset and Rokkan 1967). Given the interest and concerned tone of most secular social science on the matter, it is surprising that research has tended to probe the role of religion in politics relative only to the impact of ���stable��� religious variables on political behavior. This sociological interpretation of politics expects that exogenous religious processes (e.g. exposure to church contexts) shape political behavior (e.g. partisanship), and explains relevant trends accordingly. Recent studies in this direction have debated the drift of mainline Protestants away from the Republican Party, the stability of Catholic traditional support for the Democrats, but above all the entrance of evangelical Protestants into the Republican electoral base in the 1980s and their transformation into an efficient political machine in the 1990s, as described in Fig. 1 (e.g. Moen 1994 Wilcox 1996 Guth et al. 1997 Layman 1997, 2001 Manza and Brooks 1999 Bolzendahl and Brooks 2005). The present study examines the relationship between evangelical Protestantism and the Republican Party in recent decades. However, it avoids the aforementioned sociological reductionism and its limited focus on the political impact of religious factors, such as churches, para-church organizations, lobbies and demographics. Instead the following discussion shifts to the effects of politicization on religious behavior itself, defined here as church attendance. In this way, I pursue a more nuanced direction in the study of cleavages, and propose that the products of the infusion of religion into politics are not restricted to the electoral realm, but can potentially transform religion into a secular/political phenomenon. According to this path, the influence of religious practice on political behavior���a conventional Fig. 1 Partisanship among frequently attending evangelicals, 1960���2004. Source: 1960���2004 ANES Cumulative File (excluding African Americans). Note: Independent category includes ���leaners���. Frequent attendance is defined as ���regular��� until 1968, and as ���almost every week��� or more thereafter 368 Polit Behav (2008) 30:367���389 123
assumption adopted by most political scientists���can be supplemented by a reverse effect, whereby religious practice becomes constrained by political/partisan concerns (cf. Sartori 1969 Kriesi 1998). Michael Hout and Claude Fischer���s sociological study (2002) is to my knowledge the only published quantitative effort that attempts to explore this expectation, as an investigation of political pressures on individual religiosity in the context of the recent religious politicization in the US. The investigation centers on apostasy, i.e. the phenomenon of Christians dropping out of church. The authors argue that the conservative religious politicization of the 1990s caused the following backlash: ideologically liberal and moderate Christians abandoning conservative denomina- tions. Hout and Fischer interpret part of this movement as a reaction against the Christian Right���s political agenda, and the prominent place occupied by conser- vative Protestantism in GOP ranks (2002, pp. 181, 185). The present article builds on Hout and Fischer���s effort, updating it in three ways. First, the authors provide only an indirect test of their expectation using cross- sectional data the models presented herein avoid assumptions of temporal precedence by turning to panel data, and provide therefore a more rigorous test of the hypothesis. Second, the 2002 work focuses on how personal ideological orientation determines apostasy. In what follows, I elaborate on this idea and develop an additional explanation rooted in partisan influences, on the basis of a well-documented phenomenon in realignment research. This refers to the sorting- out, i.e. the overlap between ideology and partisanship, and the polarization experienced between the two major parties since the late 1970s. In this development, culturally liberal Republicans abandoned the GOP and conservative Democrats followed a similar movement away from their party (e.g. Poole and Rosenthal 1984 Abramowitz and Saunders 1998 Levendusky 2005). Finally, my work focuses on changes in religious practice and not on apostasy, since the low number of apostates in the datasets is inadequate for multivariate analysis, and relevant repeated measures are missing. My expectation is that the politically charged American religious landscape, in particular the close association in the public mind of evangelical Protestants with social conservatives and the Republican Party, can lead individuals to react by altering their religious behavior. Religious politicization, loosely defined as the perceived affinity of certain religious populations with certain parties or ideological camps, creates the potential to make some believers minimize their attendance at certain churches and others to increase their church-going. This process is summarized as an extrinsically ���political religion��� fuelled by ideology and partisanship. The two competing expectations are specified as: (i) an attendance effect on politics (the ���sociological��� approach) and (ii) an ideological/partisan effect on attendance (the ���political religion��� phenomenon). Based on social identity theory with a strong emphasis on partisanship (Greene 1999, 2002, 2004 cf. Green et al. 2002), I use panel data from the Michigan/ American National Election Study (ANES) pool, which both precede and overlap with the religiously charged eras of the mid-1990s and early 2000s. Drawing on the political behavior literature, particularly on methodological advances regarding the exogeneity of party identification vis-a-vis ` other political concerns, a series of Polit Behav (2008) 30:367���389 369 123