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Survey Experiments on Candidate Religiosity, Political Attitudes, and Vote Choice

Campbell, David E.; Castle, Jeremiah; Layman, Geoffrey C.
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion

Because identification with and affect toward social groups is a primary heuristic for citizens, the social group profiles of candidates are important for electoral behavior. We focus on an increasingly important element of candidates’ social characteristics: their levels of religiosity and secularism. We argue that as religious groups and identities become structured less by what religion they are and more by how religious they are (or are not), candidate religiosity and secularism should condition the impact of political orientations such as partisanship and cultural policy attitudes on vote choice. Highly religious candidates should attract more support from Republicans and from cultural conservatives, while overtly secular candidates should appeal more to Democrats and cultural liberals. Using a survey experiment in which respondents evaluate a state legislative candidate with varying levels of religiosity and secularism, we find strong support for our argument.