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The Party Faithful: Partisan Images, Candidate Religion, and the Electoral Impact of Party Identification


  • David E. Campbell is John Cardinal O’Hara, CSC, Associate Professor of Political Science ( Geoffrey C. Layman is Associate Professor of Political Science ( Both can be reached at 217 O'Shaughnessy Hall, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556. John C. Green is a Distinguished Professor of Political Science ( He can be reached at 223B Olin Hall, University of Akron, Akron, OH 44325. Authors’ names are alphabetical, as each contributed equally.

  • Previous versions of this article were presented at the 2007 annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, and workshops at the University of Maryland, the University of Notre Dame, the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, and the Harris School of Public Policy (University of Chicago). We are grateful for the helpful comments of Chris Berry, Tom Carsey, Paul Djupe, John Griffin, Mike Hanmer, William Howell, Ozan Kalkan, and six anonymous reviewers. Funding for this research was generously provided by the University of Maryland, the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron, and the Rooney Center for the Study of American Democracy at the University of Notre Dame. Data for replication purposes has been posted at


We argue that the factors shaping the impact of partisanship on vote choice—“partisan voting”—depend on the nature of party identification. Because party identification is partly based on images of the social group characteristics of the parties, the social profiles of political candidates should affect levels of partisan voting. A candidate's religious affiliation enables a test of this hypothesis. Using survey experiments which vary a hypothetical candidate's religious affiliation, we find strong evidence that candidates’ religions can affect partisan voting. Identifying a candidate as an evangelical (a group viewed as Republican) increases Republican support for, and Democratic opposition to, the candidate, while identifying the candidate as a Catholic (a group lacking a clear partisan profile) has no bearing on partisan voting. Importantly, the conditional effect of candidate religion on partisan voting requires the group to have a salient partisan image and holds with controls for respondents’ own religious affiliations and ideologies.

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