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God and Country: The Partisan Psychology of the Presidency, Religion, and Nation

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Overt love of God and country have seemingly been prerequisites to be president in the United States in recent decades, if not always. Indeed, the 2008 presidential race was replete with campaign messages showcasing such perspectives—that Barack Obama and John McCain were religiously faithful and deeply patriotic. Scholarship demonstrates the potential political power of explicit appeals to America and Christianity; however, little research has examined (a) citizens' perceptions of candidates' ties to faith and nation and (b) how these impressions may be related to electoral attitudes and intended vote. We address this gap, measuring both explicit and implicit indicators of the Christian-ness and American-ness of Obama and McCain. We expected and found that both explicit and—in a final-entry regression position—implicit perceptions of these traits related to voters' overall candidate attitudes and intended vote choice and that they were connected significantly more strongly for our sample of self-described Republicans than Democrats. Results illuminate these partisan differences and raise questions about their implications for U.S. presidential politics in years to come.
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Keywords: America; Christianity; implicit attitudes; partisanship; presidential candidates

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Washington

Publication date: June 1, 2011

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