Religion and Politics in the United States
Religion in the United States is remarkable in its high adherence level compared to other developed countries. The First Amendment to the country’s Constitution prevents the government from having any authority in religion, and guarantees the free exercise of religion. A majority of Americans report that religion plays a “very important” role in their lives, a proportion unusual among developed nations, though similar to other nations in the Americas. Many faiths have flourished in the United States, including imports spanning the country’s multicultural heritage as well as those founded within the country, and have led the United States to become the most religiously diverse country in the world.
Historically, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the two major parties polarized along ethnic and religious grounds. In the North, most Protestants were Whigs or Republicans; most Catholics were Democrats. In the South, from the 1860s to the 1980s, most whites were Democrats (after 1865) and most blacks were Republicans. see Ethnocultural politics in the United States
The majority of Americans identify themselves as Christians (65% as of 2019), while non-Christian religions (including Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and others) collectively make up about 6% of the adult population. Another 26% of the adult population identified as having no religious affiliation. According to the American Religious Identification Survey, religious belief varies considerably across the country: 59% of Americans living in Western states report a belief in God, yet in the South (the “Bible Belt“) the figure is as high as 86%.
The United States has more Christians than any other country in the world (US is largest Christian nation in respect to population). Going forward from its foundation, the United States has been called a Protestant nation by a variety of sources. This is despite the fact that Protestants are no longer the majority in the United States (43%).
Politicians frequently discuss their religion when campaigning, and many churches and religious figures are highly politically active. As important as religion is in politics, Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, had to fight his way into office due to his controversial thoughts about religion. His writing was often seen as anti-Christian. It is argued that Jefferson’s win can be linked to him changing the election’s narrative from one about his own religious beliefs, to one about his tolerance of religious freedom (Lambert).
However, to keep their status as tax-exempt organizations they must not officially endorse a candidate. There are Christians in both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, but evangelical Christians tend to support the Republican Party whereas more liberal Christians, Catholics and secular voters tend to support the Democratic Party. A 2019 survey conducted by Pew Research Center found that 54% of adults believe the Republican Party to be “friendly” toward religion, while only 19% of respondents said the same of the Democratic Party.
Every President and Vice President, was raised in a family with affiliations with Christian religions. Only former President John F. Kennedy and President Joe Biden were raised in Roman Catholic families. Two former presidents, Richard Nixon and Herbert Hoover, were raised as Quakers. All the rest were raised in families affiliated with Protestant Christianity. However, many presidents have themselves had only a nominal affiliation with churches, and some never joined any church.
There has never been a Jewish President or Vice-President. The only Jewish major party candidate for either of those offices was Joe Lieberman in the Gore-Lieberman campaign of 2000 (although John Kerry and Barry Goldwater both had Jewish ancestry). Lieberman’s faith is Orthodox Judaism. Some sources indicate that Jews constitute only 1.4% of the U.S. population, although others indicate that Jews comprise as much as 2.1% of the population (a significant decline from over 3% in the 1950s, chiefly due to the relatively low birthrate among Jewish Americans and high rates of out-marriage to non-Jews).
While fundamentalist religious people are less likely to have information collected about who they will vote for, they “tend to engage mainstream political activity at higher rates than the average American”. While there is a common belief that religious voters will always vote republican that is not necessarily the case. Whether the vote is made for one party or another is noticeably based on socioeconomic status. For low income religious people, there is almost no correlation between their religious beliefs and their voting decision.George W. Bush, a Methodist, earned a slim victory over John Kerry, with voters who cited “moral values” (a commonly used term among religiously-inclined voters) playing a crucial part in the election. Bush’s clear victory has been directly attributed to fundamentalist Christian groups.
In 2006 Keith Ellison became the first Muslim elected to the federal government, as the representative of Minnesota’s 5th congressional district. When re-enacting his swearing-in for photos, he used the copy of the Qur’an once owned by Thomas Jefferson.
A Gallup Poll released in 2019 indicated that 60% of Americans would be willing to vote for an atheist as president. Research shows that candidates that are perceived to be religious are considered more trustworthy.