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James L. Guth, Lyman A. Kellstedt, John C. Green, and Corwin E. Smidt


Onward Christian Soldiers?

Religion and the Bush Doctrine.

During the past four years a growing number of political analysts have connected the emerging "Bush Doctrine" in foreign policy to the influence of evangelical Protestants. For example, one recent review claimed that

The influence of Christian evangelicals now extends to many essential matters of foreign policy, quite apart from the Middle East. Dogmatic, unilateralist, and radically nationalistic, this influence ignores international law and is particularly hostile to international organizations.1

Indeed, it is hard to find a critique of administration foreign policy in publications such as The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, the Atlantic, or the New York Times without a similar complaint.

Such assertions arise in part because of perceptions that conservative evangelicals are involved in virtually every aspect of American politics, from campaigning for George W. Bush in the 2004 election to mounting the recent "Justice Sunday" rally backing the president's judicial nominees. What is missing, however, is any systematic evidence that evangelicals—or other religious communities for that matter—actually support or oppose the Bush Doctrine.

In fact, such assertions fly in the face of much of the existing research. Scholars have found little evidence that religion is a major factor shaping public attitudes toward foreign policy. True, a few researchers (including the authors) have shown that religion is a powerful predictor of attitudes toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and once contributed to anti-communist sentiment, probably stiffening America's posture toward the former USSR.2 But that was about it. Has the situation really changed? Is religion now influencing the public's understanding of the United States' role in the world?

To answer these questions, we use the fourth quadrennial National Survey of Religion and Politics, conducted at the University of Akron in the spring and fall of 2004 and sponsored by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. This ...

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