Religious “Threat” in Contemporary Presidential Elections


David E. Campbell is assistant professor of political science, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556.


Recent presidential elections have drawn attention to the role religion plays in shaping how Americans vote and highlighted the political relevance of white evangelical Christians, an important group within the Republicans’ base of supporters. Evangelicals see themselves as in tension with a secular society, which affects their political behavior. Drawing on the venerable racial threat literature, I show evidence that evangelicals respond to “religious threat.” The more secularists in their community, the more likely white evangelical Christians were to vote for Republican presidential candidates in 2000 and 1996. These results hold for two distinct ways of identifying white evangelicals, using community data at different levels of aggregation. However, secularists do not appear to respond to the presence of evangelicals in their environment.