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The Effect of Religion on Candidate Preference in the 2008 and 2012 Republican Presidential Primaries


, : The Effect of Religion on Candidate Preference in the 2008 and 2012 Republican Presidential Primaries. Plos One 11(4): E0152037-E0152037

Thanks to the work of politics and religion scholars, we now know a lot about the relationship between religion and voting in American presidential general elections. However, we know less about the influence of religion on individual vote choice in presidential primaries. This article fills that gap by exploring the relationship between religion and candidate preference in the 2008 and 2012 Republican primaries. Using pre-Super Tuesday surveys conducted by the Pew Research Center, I find that the Republican candidate who most explicitly appealed to religious voters (Mike Huckabee in 2008 and Rick Santorum in 2012) was the preferred candidate of Republican respondents who attended religious services at the highest levels, and that as attendance increased, so did the likelihood of preferring that candidate. I also find that identification as a born again Christian mattered to candidate preference. Specifically, born again Christians were more likely than non-born again Christians to prefer Huckabee to Mitt Romney, John McCain and Ron Paul in 2008, and Santorum to Romney in 2012. Although ideology was not the primary subject of this article, I find that ideology was also a statistically significant predictor of Republican candidate preference in both 2008 and 2012. This robust finding reinforces scholars' prior work on the importance of ideology in explaining presidential primary vote choice. The overall findings of the paper provide evidence that religion variables can add to our understanding of why voters prefer one candidate over another in presidential primaries.

US$19.90

PMID: 27043438

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0152037


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