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Religious Influences in the 2004 Presidential Election


James L. Guth is William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Political Science at Furman University. He has written extensively on the role of religion in American and European politics.

Lyman A. Kellstedt is professor emeritus of political science at Wheaton College and the author of many works on religion and political behavior.

Corwin E. Smidt holds the Paul B. Henry Chair in Christianity and Politics and serves as executive director of the Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics at Calvin College. He is the author or editor of several books on religion and politics.

John C. Green is Distinguished Professor of Political Science and director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron. He has written extensively on religion and politics, political parties, and campaign finance.


In this article, we examine the impact of religious variables on the vote in the 2004 presidential election. First, we review and evaluate two theories that underlie many interpretations of religion’s role in American electoral politics, namely, the ethnoreligious and the religious restructuring perspectives. Using both approaches, we deploy a comprehensive classification incorporating religious affiliations, beliefs, and practices that is quite successful in capturing the electoral impact of religion. We show that religious groups exhibited distinctive political priorities, attitudes toward the role of religion in the election, stands on critical campaign issues, and evaluations of President Bush’s performance in office. We find that some religious factors had an important role in the Republican victory, especially in the so-called battleground states. Finally, we discuss some substantive implications of the findings for understanding public policies and policy making.