A Matter of Faith: Religion in the 2004 Presidential Election.

Author:Wilcox, Clyde
Position:Book review
 
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A Matter of Faith: Religion in the 2004 Presidential Election, edited by DAVID E. CAMPBELL. Washington, D.C: Brookings Institution Press, 2007, 308 pp.; $26.95 USD (paper), $62.95 USD (cloth).

The 2004 elections, conducted in the midst of a war on terror and a war in Iraq, were perhaps also influenced by the culture war. George W. Bush's re-election strategy included a focused effort to mobilize white evangelical voters--a constituency that polls showed to be the most enthusiastic about his presidency to date. John Kerry's bid for Catholic voters was complicated by statements by certain bishops that they would deny him communion should he visit their parish. In the end, Bush won a narrow popular victory and cemented his electoral-college majority by winning Ohio, a state that voted that year to amend its constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

After the election, some pundits proclaimed that voters had chosen Bush primarily based on his moral values--and supported this with the results of a poorly worded exit poll. There has since been considerable controversy over the relative role of economics, war and peace, and religious mobilization in the campaign. David Campbell has assembled an exemplary set of contributors to assess various aspects of religion in the 2004 campaign. Although the book looks primarily at this single election, most of the essays are historically grounded and most have relevance to the coming 2008 campaigns as well.

The contributors are a solid mix of established and rising scholars, and several chapters are written by experts in voting behavior and public opinion who are not primarily known for their work on religion. The book includes several essays that seek to establish the overall picture of what happened in 2004, two chapters that focus on the question of moral values in the election outcome, chapters that describe religious mobilization, and chapters that focus more narrowly on particular religious constituencies.

These are primarily based on survey data, and are written for a general audience while being based on generally rigorous statistical analysis. The authors use different religious variables, and operationally define these variables somewhat differently. This could make the book perhaps a bit confusing to those who are new to the study of religion and politics. But this is...

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