Religious Appeals and Implicit Attitudes



This article explores the effects of religious appeals by politicians on attitudes and behavior. Although politicians frequently make religious appeals, the effectiveness of these appeals and the mechanisms of persuasion are unknown. This article explores the possibility that religious language can affect political attitudes through implicit processes. Because religious attachments are formed early in the lives of many Americans, religious language may influence citizens without their awareness. Implicit and explicit attitudes are related but distinct constructs, and implicit attitudes may have behavioral implications in the political realm. I test these hypotheses experimentally, relying on a widely used implicit measure, the Implicit Association Test. I find that a Christian religious appeal affects implicit attitudes and political behavior among people who currently or previously identify as Christian. Furthermore, an explicit preference for less religion in politics does not moderate implicit effects.