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Lyman A. Kellstedt, Corwin E. Smidt, James L. Guth, and John C. Green
Cracks in the Monolith?
Few religious groups have received more scrutiny from political analysts than evangelical Protestants. Some credit them with mounting a potent Christian Right movement, influencing national elections, and, in the process, transforming the Republican Party. These pundits often resort to military metaphors, such as Frances Fitzgerald's image of a "disciplined, charging army," presumably headed off to battle in James Davison Hunter's "culture wars." Certainly Pat Robertson and Gary Bauer would savor this interpretation.
Other observers scoff at such notions. Sociologist Andrew Greeley, for example, warns us to ignore the "noisy entrepre-neurial elites" who foster the myth of an evangelical political powerhouse. Pay close attention to ordinary evangelicals, Greeley says, and "you don't hear the clamor of a disciplined charging army." To clinch the argument, Greeley points to the traditional political passivity of the evangelical community, internal religious divisions, disagreement on political issues, and the demise of some Christian Right organizations. Evangelical leaders such as Ron Sider and Jim Wallis might draw solace from Greeley's assessment.
Of course, the truth may lie somewhere between such "maximalist" and "minimalist" stereotypes. The recent presidential election provides an ideal opportunity to evaluate these rival interpretations. In this article, we use the 2000 Survey of Religion and Politics, conducted by the University of Akron Survey Research Center for the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Unlike most national polls, this study contains a wealth of religious information, allowing us to delineate how faith influences evangelical politics.
A good place to begin is with the voting patterns of the major white Christian traditions, as measured by denominational affiliation. A quick look confirms one "maximalist" claim: in 2000, evangelical voters demonstrated an overwhelming Republican preference, giving George W. Bush 75 percent of their votes. By comparison, ...