The Department of Government
The Department of Government

Race, Religion, and Partisanship

Wed, April 22, 2009

Eric McDaniel’s paper, co-authored with Christopher Ellison, “God’s Party? Race, Religion, and Partisanship over Time,” has received Honorable Mention from the Western Political Science Association for the 2009 Political Research Quarterly Best Article Award.

In their article, McDaniel and Ellison draw from the Houston Area Survey, a representative sample of adult residents in Harris County, Texas, and explain how race mediates the relationship between religious beliefs and political affiliation. The article focuses on biblical literalists – Evangelical Protestants who believe the Bible is the literal word of God. Between 1983 and 2003, Anglo literalists became solid Republican Party supporters. During this same time, however, Black literalists remained loyal to the Democratic Party. Latino literalists became less tied to the Democratic Party, but their religious views did not move them to support the Republican Party.

McDaniel and Ellison explain that biblical literalism affects Anglo and Black political preferences differently, because social and cultural legacies mean that the two races still interpret biblical text differently. For example, whereas Anglo interpretation supports a conservative emphasis on individual responsibility and morality, Black interpretation additionally emphasizes responsibilities across society, as well as justice and mercy. The divergence in value-emphasis evident in these interpretations replicates itself in Republican and Democratic Party policy differences, and subsequently in party affiliation among Anglo and Black biblical literalists.

McDaniel, assistant professor of government, and an affiliate of the Department of Religious Studies and the Center for African and African American Studies, is currently a Robert Wood Johnson Scholar in Health Policy Research. In 2008, Michigan University Press published his book, Politics in the Pews: The Political Mobilization of Black Churches. Ellison is professor of sociology and Elsie and Stanley E. (Skinny) Adams, Sr. Centennial Professor.

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