Explain the importance of religion as a voting factor in the USA (Short essay)

The USA is unusual (in comparison with Britain) in that religious identity has strongly influenced voting behaviour. Religion has an important impact in how the voter looks at specific issues, such as abortion, homosexuality, the environment, and economics. The voter then uses his or her response to these issues as a guideline to help determine which presidential candidate to vote for. It is therefore reasonable to understand that religion has a significant influence on an individual’s voting behaviour in presidential elections.

Trends have shown that Protestants tend to vote Republican, for example they gave a majority of their votes to Bush in 1992, Dole in 1996 and George W Bush in 2000, and 2004 in which 74% voted Republican.  In contrast, Catholic voters usually support the Democrats, with a majority support Clinton in both 1992 and 1996 and Gore in 2000, despite the conflict between the Democrats policy of ‘pro-choice’ and the Catholic Church’s ‘pro-life’ stance.  Jewish voters also solidly vote for the Democrats.  The link between the Democrats and the Jews of America is almost certainly similar to the reasons the African Americans support them – the party has been associated with civil rights and moving forward the standard of living for minority groups.

Furthermore, those who attend church regularly vote Republican.  42% of voters who attend religious services weekly voted 59% for Bush in 2000, whereas 56% of the voters who seldom or never attended religious services voted for Gore.  Indeed, the significance of religion in US politics prompted Michael Barone to claim that religious faith essentially dictated their stance on Clinton’s impeachment and their vote in the 2000 election.  This therefore shows how socio-economic factors such as religion can determine the outcome of US elections.

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