Thursday, June 14, 2012

Voting Along Religious Lines

There has been a lot of talk about the religious beliefs of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in public and in private. President Obama has been labeled a ‘Muslim’ in the past by his political opponents while Romney, because of his Mormon faith that is viewed differently from other Christian sects, continues to receive negative perceptions from a section of the media, the public, and his political opponents who feel leaders in America should either be inclined to Catholicism or Evangelical Christianity. Because Barack Obama’s middle name is Hussein, there has been suspicion among voters who view Islam as an aggressive religion especially after the 911 terrorist attacks on American soil. Mitt Romney has been viewed with suspicion because he follows a religion that is a minority in a land dominated by Catholics and Evangelical Christians.

Since America’s formation as a modern sovereign state, voters have been voting along ethno-cultural and ethno-religious lines (Wright, 1973). According to Wright (1973), sabbatical and parochial laws gained significant strength in the era when the Irish and Germans were divided along catholic or Lutheran sectarian lines. This period in time corresponds to the 1850s America. For the sake of statistics and scientific research, it is extremely difficult to know the religious beliefs of the amalgamation of voters from all walks of life. Only those voters who expose their beliefs in the ballot paper may be documented for the purpose of future research. Despite the separation of church and state from politics, still, there are those voters driven by religious beliefs when choosing a candidate of choice.

It can be advantageous and as well disadvantageous for a candidate to reveal his or her religious identity during election times. It can be advantageous when the potential candidate shares the same religion with the voter and disadvantageous when candidate and voter follow different religious beliefs. Since religion is a very sensitive issue in American politics, it would be sensible to avoid exposing the religion of the candidate altogether. American is a nation founded on equal justice and freedom of religion even though Judeo-Christianity is given much preference in its guiding principles. A candidate espousing a religion other than that of the voter may end up losing many votes and many admirers. Revealing one’s religious identity to the voter is not a good idea in modern political settings. What the voter has to look for in the candidate should be his or her political ideals.


Wright, J.E. (1973). The ethnocultural model of voting: A behavioral and historical critique. Beverly Hills, CA: SAGE Publications.

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