Religion occupies a central role in American politics. From being an impetus behind numerous political movements, to shaping how political candidates are considered, scholars and pundits alike have emphasized the role of religion for political behavior and attitudes. Yet, there has been a scarcity of empirical work examining the consequences of religious appeals in campaigns. Drawing on recent work that contends views about religious traditionalism have replaced many interdenominational differences in vote choice and issue attitudes, we argue that religious cues activate religious traditionalism, which subsequently influences how political candidates are considered. In a priming experiment administered to a representative cross-section of adults, we examine whether religious priming occurs. By manipulating the participants information environment, we also examine whether there are limits to priming. We find strong evidence religious traditionalism is activated when religious cues are embedded in campaign ads, but we find priming effects are reduced when participants are provided information about the candidate. While religious cues have the potential to shape how candidates are evaluated, we argue the consequences of religious cues are dampened among those who learn more about political issues and candidates.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science