Courting christians: How political candidates prime religious considerations in campaign ads

Christopher Weber, Matthew Thornton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)400-413
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Politics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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