Jeremy Castle on Religion and Voting Behavior
Date: June 25th, 2017

How do American voters react when candidates prompt them with religious cues?  Dr. Jeremiah (Jeremy) Castle, an assistant professor at Central Michigan University, discusses a recent study he conducted with his colleagues regarding how religious cues and prompts affect opinions towards various candidates.  We start the discussion with Prof. Castle’s dissertation work on young evangelical Christians and whether they are becoming more liberal/progressive in their political views.  It turns out, that Millennial evangelicals are not becoming more liberal when you examine those who are actively involved in their church.  Younger Christians who are peripherally involved in their faith do show a leftward drift, though.  Moving on to a recent article published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, we pick up the topic of whether or not voters are influenced by how a candidate is presented to them in media (e.g., voter pamphlets).  Jeremy reviews the extant literature on why people vote the way they do, noting that partisan affiliation is — not surprisingly — the primary factor determining how one views, and votes for, a partisan candidate.  The question moves back one step to explain what determines party affiliation and Prof. Castle notes that a number of factors condition this, including race, income, education, and religion.  The interesting phenomenon that social scientists have observed over the past few decades, though, is a shift away from denominational affiliation (e.g., Presbyterian, Catholic) and party identity, to one that is based more upon religious intensity.  Christians, irrespective of denomination, who are more active in their faith subculture tend to be conservative and Republican in their political identity, whereas less active and secular individuals lean Democrat and liberal.  (There are some exceptions including Jews and black Protestants who still largely vote Democrat.)  Jeremy then details the survey experiment he conducted with David Campbell, Geoffrey Layman, and John Green wherein they created a “generic” candidate and manipulated how that candidate was presented to individuals.  Some test subjects received a moderate religious prompt, others a strong religious prompt, a third group received a secular prompt, and of course there was a control group that did not have any religious/secular identifying characteristics.  Jeremy reveals that the strong religious prompt tended to improve the favorability of candidates amongst individuals who identified as strongly religious, and secular prompts tended to reduce the candidates favorability amongst this group.  He shares a number of other interesting observations from this study as well.  The topic of religious voting during the 2016 presidential election comes up at this point and Prof. Castle notes that some of the trends within Donald Trump’s rhetoric matches with the theoretical expectations of the hypotheses he was testing.  We then shift gears to discuss some of Jeremy’s other work on whether or not political messages in movies have an impact on public opinion and he covers an experimental study he did on Notre Dame students exposed to three different films and their attitudes towards health care reform conducted several years ago.  He finds that strong political messages in movies do shift attitudes immediately following the viewing of the film and several weeks later.  Jeremy closes out with some observations on what he has learned in his young career as an academic.  Recorded: June 12, 2017.


Prof. Jeremiah Castle’s bio at the Dept of Political Science & Public Administration, Central Michigan University.

Prof. Castle’s personal website.

The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical, by Shane Claiborne (mentioned in podcast).


Gerald De Maio on the Electoral Religion Gap.

Joe Fuiten on Clergy and Politics.

David Campbell & Quin Monson on Mormons and Politics in America.

Douglas Baker on Dominionism, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Perry.

Laura Olson on Attitudes towards Religious Free Exercise.

David Buckley on the Demand for Clergy in Politics.

Ken Wald on the Puzzling Politics of American Jews.

Luis Bolce on the Media and Anti-Fundamentalism.

Nathanael Snow on the Evangelical Coalition and Public Choice.

Kevin den Dulk on Religion, Education, and Civic Engagement.

Hunter Baker on the Past and Future of the Religious Right.

Who Would Jesus Vote For? A Redemption Church Small Group.

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