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Abstract

Since the late 1970s, American evangelicals have been a potent influence in conservative politics. Recent scholarship both refines and contextualizes some of the central themes found in the broader literature on evangelical politics. We first review key recent scholarship in American religious history. It shows that current patterns of evangelical conservatism are the product of historically contingent social forces and that political conservatism was never uniform among evangelicals. We then discuss recent scholarship on evangelicals' attitudes toward public issues. This work indicates that commitment to moral traditionalism on social issues is the dominant force animating evangelical political conservatism and that evangelicals remain distinctly Republican in their partisan voting despite economic and foreign policy commitments that are not as strongly aligned with Republican priorities. We then shift our focus to the dominant conservative movement of the moment: the Tea Party. We cite evidence that evangelicals and the Tea Party remain distinct in terms of constituents and issue priorities but that social concerns may be taking precedence over the economic concerns that birthed the movement. We conclude by discussing recent trends that suggest that a de-alignment between evangelicalism and conservative politics may be underway.