ITHACA, N.Y., Sept. 30 (UPI) -- Religious identity has been influencing voter choice from 1980 when Ronald Reagan was first elected up to Barack Obama's 2008 victory, a U.S. researcher says.
"First, there is new evidence that religious identity has been influencing voter choice from 1980 to 2008 and this influence is strengthening significantly," lead author Thomas Hirschl, a Cornell University professor of development sociology, said in a statement. "Upper-income white Protestants who believe the Bible is the literal word of God have more than doubled their odds of voting Republican -- from 2.7 GOP voters for every 1 Democratic voter among this group in 1980, to 6.1 for every 1 in 2008."
Conversely, secular-minded, upper-income white Protestants -- who say the Bible is a book of fables but attend church -- reversed their partisan preference -- from 1.9 to 1 in favor of the Republican Party in 1980, to a 2.2 to 1 advantage for Democratic voters in 2008.
Religious-partisan differences among upper income, white Protestants increased dramatically, Hirschl said, but this polarization trend is also found for upper-income white Catholics.
"There is no similar trend among lower-income white Protestants or Catholics. Also, African-Americans remained loyal Democratic voters throughout the 28-year study period, showing no inclination to polarize around religious identity," Hirschl said.
"Overall, it's clear that religious identity strongly motivates upper-income white voters, but does not seem to drive African-Americans or lower-income whites headed to the ballot box."
The study, "Politics, Religion, and Society: Is the United States Experiencing a Period of Religious-Political Polarization?" is online at: www.ccsenet.org/journal/index.php/res/article/view/19481.
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