Get access

Faith Matters: Religious Affiliation and Public Opinion About Barack Obama's Foreign Policy in the “Greater” Middle East


  • Cigdem Kentmen shall share all data and coding for replication processes. The authors wish to thank the editors of Social Science Quarterly and several anonymous reviewers for their helpful guidance.

Direct correspondence to Laura Olson, 232 Brackett Hall, Department of Political Science, Clemson University, Clemson, SC 29634 〈〉.



Despite the obvious relevance of religious themes and symbols in U.S. foreign policy since September 11, 2001, scholars know little about whether or how religious affiliation and behavior affect foreign policy attitudes. In this study, we endeavor to fill this gap in the literature.


We analyze the relationship between religious affiliation and public opinion about several dimensions of U.S. foreign policy in the Greater Middle East under President Barack Obama using pooled data from three surveys conducted in 2009 by the Pew Research Center.


Our analysis indicates that the “faith factor” is a powerful force driving American attitudes about Obama's foreign policy. Specifically, seculars, mainline Protestants, and Catholics variously stand out as more moderate and more supportive of Obama when compared to evangelical Protestants.


Our findings demonstrate that even when other determinants of foreign policy public opinion are controlled, religious affiliation has a powerful and independent impact on a wide array of foreign policy attitudes. Religion's impact on foreign policy attitudes thus is limited neither to the period immediately following September 11 nor to the administration of George W. Bush.