Around two years ago, journalists were sharpening pencils and tapping at keyboards, working on stories about President Joe Biden’s Catholic spirituality, faith-facts about Kamala Harris, and the persistent power of the U.S.’s white, evangelical voting bloc.
Two years later, religion remains a potent force in U.S. politics and the 2022 midterm elections are just weeks away.
Fallout from multiple Supreme Court decisions, results from recent primary elections, and ongoing political polarization have shaken up the prospects for candidates on both sides of the aisle. Changes in access to abortion services, questions around notions of religious liberty and dramatic decisions impacting the interpretation of the Constitution’s “Establishment Clause” are at the front of voters’ minds.
According to Christian non-profit My Faith Votes, abortion, immigration, religious freedom, and the economy are the most prominent issues for evangelical voters, with religious takes on the rising cost of living, climate change, gender identifications, and crime rates also playing a role.
In this edition of ReligionLink, you will find important background, relevant stories, and numerous experts to help you cover the 2022 midterms and their religion angle with balance, accuracy, and insight.
Background and research
The fact that religion and politics intersect is not news.
Be that as it may, the particular contours of those convergences are constantly in flux and informed by a multitude of evolving factors. Each election brings new angles and new stories to discover and report on.
To help reporters get up to speed, the resources below link to recent and relevant research and background information that will inform the 2022 elections. From white evangelicals to liberal Catholics, Muslims to pagans, these resources unpack contemporary trends and historical context that will shape the upcoming vote.
- Read “The 20 counties that will decide the midterms,” from Politico.
- Read “The 5 states that will likely determine the fate of the U.S. Senate,” from Deseret News.
- Read “10 facts about religion and government in the United States,” from Pew Research Center.
- Read “A Political Profile of U.S. Pagans,” by Kathleen Marchetti in Politics and Religion.
- Read “American Muslims and the 2022 Midterm Election,” from the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
- Read “Religion & Politics,” from Pew Research Center.
- Read “How future Supreme Court rulings may fuel the decline of religion in the US,” from the London School of Economics.
- Read “Keep America Christian (and White): Christian Nationalism, Fear of Ethnoracial Outsiders, and Intention to Vote for Donald Trump in the 2020 Presidential Election,” by Joseph O. Baker, Samuel L. Perry and Andrew L. Whitehead in Sociology of Religion.
- Read “Most White Americans who regularly attend worship services voted for Trump in 2020,” from Pew Research Center.
- Read “Liberal Protestants and the Polarization of the U.S.,” from Religion and Politics.
- Read “Religious and spiritual struggles around the 2016 and 2020 U.S. presidential elections,” by Julie J. Exline, Nick Stauner, Joshua A. Wilt and Joshua B. Grubbs in Psychology of Religion and Spirituality.
- Read Religion and American Politics: From the Colonial Period to the Present, edited by Mark A. Noll and Luke E. Harlow.
The United States’ religio-political landscape is increasingly diverse and divisive.
From “sea to shining sea” are a wide range of political and religious perspectives and postures. Religion reporters have been on the job in recent weeks — and over the last few years — covering the breadth and depth of that environment.
Here is just a brief sampling of stories related to the upcoming elections, with a selection of reports focusing on local elections in Michigan, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Texas, New York and other states:
- Read “How Michael Flynn goes local to spread Christian nationalism,” from Religion News Service via Religion Hub on October 17, 2022.
- Read “Trump attacks American Jews in a Truth Social post,” from The Washington Post on October 16, 2022.
- Read “The dangerous paradox of the religious polarization of American politics,” from The Hill on October 16, 2022 (Commentary).
- Read “Doug Mastriano’s Holy War,” from Slate on October 16, 2022.
- Read “Perspective: The shadow side of the fight against white Christian nationalism,” from Deseret News on October 16, 2022 (Commentary).
- Read “The Latino voter shift comes into focus in South Texas,” from CNN on October 15, 2022.
- Read “Dr. Oz could make history as a Muslim senator, but his faith isn’t a big part of his campaign,” from ABC News on October 14, 2022.
- Read “Brandon McGinley: 4 candidates, 4 religious traditions,” from The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on October 14, 2022 (Analysis).
- Read “A majority of Americans think US democracy is broken. Here are 12 ideas for repairing it,” from CNN on October 14, 2022 (Commentary).
- Read “What Role Will Religion Play In The Midterm Primaries?” from The Christian Recorder (AMEC) on October 14, 2022 (Commentary).
- Read “Meet Rashad Hussain, the first Muslim to serve as America’s religious freedom ambassador,” from Deseret News on October 12, 2022.
- Read “Christian leaders object to VP Harris’ claim they don’t have to ‘abandon’ faith to support abortion,” from Fox News on October 9, 2022.
- Read “Brand loyalty not what it used to be. Study: More now shop churches based on politics,” from The Review Atlas on October 7, 2022 (Analysis).
- Read “The Herschel Walker case belies the case for religion in politics,” from Religion News Service on October 7, 2022 (Commentary).
- Read “The United States of Confederate America,” from The Atlantic on October 4, 2022 (Analysis).
- Read “America needs a new religious awakening,” from Fox News on October 4, 2022 (Commentary).
- Read “Has U.S. evangelical Christianity become more a political culture than a religion?” from Yahoo! News on September 30, 2022.
- Read “A Christian nationalist wave is testing U.S. secularism, overlapping religion and politics like never before,” from Grid Politics on September 28, 2022.
- Read “Christians, please listen. There is no national religion in America,” from NJ.com on September 25, 2022 (Commentary).
- Read “Trump’s Embrace of QAnon Realizes the Dream of the Religious Right,” from The Nation on September 23, 2022.
- Read “Study: More than 3/4 of Republican evangelicals want US declared a Christian nation,” from Religion News Service on September 23, 2022.
- Read “Religion is for Democrats too, not just Republicans,” from The Observer on September 22, 2022 (Commentary).
- Read “Gen Z Hindu Americans reckon with faith and politics,” from Religion News Service on September 21, 2022.
- Read “Most Republicans Support Declaring the United States a Christian Nation,” from Politico on September 21, 2022.
- Read “As Midterms Loom, Right Wingers Are Revving Up the Faithful with Talk of Religion and Guns,” from the Trace on September 19, 2022 (Analysis).
- Read “Yoga versus democracy? What survey data says about spiritual Americans’ political behavior,” from Religion News Service via Religion Hub on September 3, 2022.
- Read “‘American Muslim Poll 2022’ shows Islamophobia is alive and well,” from The Bridge Initiative on September 1, 2022 (Analysis).
- Read “Biden Is an Uneasy Champion on Abortion. Can He Lead the Fight in Post-Roe America?” from The New York Times on August 7, 2022.
- Read “5 Catholic Storylines To Look For This Summer Ahead Of The Midterm Elections,” from Religion Unplugged on July 27, 2022 (Analysis).
- Read “An ‘imposter Christianity’ is threatening American democracy,” from CNN on July 24, 2022 (Analysis).
- Read “January 6, Trump and the rise of America’s dangerous ‘shadow gospel,’” from NBC News on July 21, 2022 (Commentary).
- Read “Faith Is Powerful. That’s Why Christian Nationalism Is So Dangerous,” from Time on July 23, 2022 (Commentary).
- Read “In deep-red Ottawa County, religion, race spark civil war among Republicans,” from Bridge Michigan on July 19, 2022.
- Read “Brown and Peroutka Win Maryland AG primaries,” from The Washington Post on July 19, 2022.
- Read “The God Gap Helps Explain a ‘Seismic Shift’ in American Politics,” from The Dispatch on July 17, 2022 (Analysis).
- Read “Catholic Voters Down On Biden Ahead Of Midterms, Most Favor Abortion Rights With Limits,” from Religion Unplugged on July 15, 2022.
- Read “As Faith Flags in U.S. Government, Many Voters Want to Upend the System,” from The New York Times on July 13, 2022.
- Read “The particularly Pentecostal flavor of Mayra Flores’ Christian nationalism,” from Religion News Service on July 11, 2022.
- Read “Survey: Almost half of Muslim Americans disapprove of Biden; majority to stick with Democrats in midterms,” from The Arab American News on July 8, 2022.
- Listen “This conservative leader is trying to make white evangelical politics less white” from NPR on July 5, 2022.
- Read “Roe jolts the midterms: 5 takeaways from the 2022 election midpoint,” from Politico on June 29, 2022.
- Read “What we learned from the New York primaries,” from Politico on June 29, 2022.
- Read “GOP Rep. Boebert: ‘I’m tired of this separation of church and state junk,’” from The Washington Post on June 28, 2022.
- Listen to “Politics Podcast: What The Politics Of Abortion Look Like Now,” from FiveThirtyEight on June 27, 2022.
- Watch “Timothy Head on Faith and Religion in the 2022 Midterm Elections,” from C-SPAN on June 27, 2022.
- Read “Could New York City Lose Its Last Remaining Jewish Congressman?” from The New York Times on June 22, 2022.
- Read “A Jewish Coloradan hopes to beat Boebert in November,” from Jewish Insider on June 20, 2022.
- Read “Republicans exude confidence at Nashville event as midterms loom,” from The Guardian on June 20, 2022.
- Watch “Evangelical political activists push Hispanic, Black voter outreach as ‘game-changer’ in the midterms and 2024,” from Fox News on June 20, 2022.
- Read “How evangelical Christians are sizing up the 2024 GOP race for president,” from Politico on June 28, 2022.
- Read “‘Comes Across as a Cult Guy’: The Pennsylvania Candidate Freaking Out Both the Left and the Right,” from Politico on June 10, 2022.
- Read “Why Trump’s MAGA Resonates With White Christian Nationalism,” from Religion and Politics on June 6, 2022.
- Read “GOP makes gains with minorities. Will it change the party?” from The Christian Science Monitor on June 2, 2022.
- Listen to “Christian nationalism and election season 2022,” from the Baptist Joint Committee on June 2, 2022 (Commentary).
- Read “What Comes After the Religious Right?” from The New York Times on June 1, 2022.
- Read “Christian nationalism on the rise in some GOP campaigns,” from The Associated Press on May 29, 2022.
- Read “‘Reprehensible’: Oz condemns GOP opponent’s tweet on Islam,” from The Associated Press on May 14, 2022.
- Read “What role will religion play in the midterm primaries?” from National Catholic Reporter on April 27, 2022 (Commentary).
- Read “A Crusade to Challenge the 2020 Election, Blessed by Church Leaders,” from The New York Times on April 25, 2022.
- Read “Jewish organizations are gearing up as midterm elections nears,” from The Jerusalem Post on April 23, 2022.
- Read “Record Numbers of Muslim and Arab Americans are Running for Office,” from Washington Report on Middle East Affairs on Jan. 4, 2022.
- Read “God And Guns: How religious leaders have responded to mass shootings in places of worship,” from FiveThirtyEight on Nov. 4, 2021.
- Watch “Why Some White Evangelicals Are Rethinking Their Politics,” from FiveThirtyEight on Sept. 30, 2021.
- Watch “Nonreligious Americans Are A Growing Political Force,” from FiveThirtyEight on April 22, 2021.
Experts and potential sources
Nancy T. Ammerman is professor emerita of sociology of religion at Boston University, having served as chair of the department (2007-2013) and associate dean for the social sciences (2015-2018). Her research touches on aspects of “lived religion” in American religious life and conservative religious movements and on American religious organizations and their networks of social provision.
Angela Denker, a veteran journalist and Lutheran pastor, is author of Red State Christians: A Journey Into White Christian Nationalism and the Wreckage It Leaves Behind.
Darren Dochuk is the Andrew V. Tackes College Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame. Dochuk’s research emphasis is on the intersections of religion, politics and the rising influence of the American West and Sunbelt Southwest in national life.
A Beliefnet blog by Jay Sekulow, an expert on constitutional rights and religious liberties in the U.S.
Luis Ricardo Fraga is the Rev. Donald P. McNeill, C.S.C, Professor of Transformative Latino Leadership, Joseph and Elizabeth Robbie Professor of Political Science, director of the Institute for Latino Studies and fellow at the Institute for Educational Initiatives at the University of Notre Dame. He is the co-author of a manuscript in progress, Latinos and Religion in American Politics.
Sabreena Ghaffar-Siddiqui is a media pundit, researcher and human rights advocate. Her sociological research focuses on the areas of migration, race/ethnicity, politics and ethno-religious diasporic identity.
Michelle Goldberg is an op-ed columnist for The New York Times. She is also the author of Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, which discusses “dominion theology,” which links Christianity and political governance.
Fredrick Cornelius Harris is dean of social science and professor of political science at Columbia University. He also serves as director of the Center on African American Politics and Society.
David A. Hollinger is the Preston Hotchkis Professor Emeritus at UC Berkeley’s Department of History. He is the author of Christianity’s American Fate: How Religion Became More Conservative and Society More Secular (Princeton University Press, 2022).
Elizabeth Shakman Hurd is a professor of political science at Northwestern University, with an emphasis on international relations, religion and politics, politics of secularism, law and religion, U.S. foreign relations; politics of the Middle East, methods in the study of religion and politics, contemporary religion, and the politics of religious freedom. She is also co-organizer of the Luce Politics of Religion at Home and Abroad initiative.
Geoffrey Layman is chair of the political science department at the University of Notre Dame and co-editor of the journal Political Behavior. He wrote The Great Divide: Religious and Cultural Conflict in American Party Politics.
Gerardo Martí is a sociology professor at Davidson College, Davidson, North Carolina. He teaches about race and ethnic relations and is the author of A Mosaic of Believers: Diversity and Innovation in a Multiethnic Church. Martí is researching whether worship music matters for making congregations racially and ethnically diverse.
Jacob Neiheisel is an associate professor in the department of political science at University at Buffalo. Much of his research focuses on the effects of elite communication on members of the mass public, election administration, and religion in politics.
Samuel L. Perry is associate professor of sociology at the University of Oklahoma. He is an expert on conservative Christianity and American politics, race, sexuality and families. He is the author or co-author of numerous books, including Growing God’s Family, Addicted to Lust, Taking America Back for God and The Flag and The Cross.
Mark Silk is director for the Leonard Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. Silk is also professor of religion in public life at Trinity. He is particularly knowledgeable about religious variances from one part of the country to another; his books include (as co-author) One Nation, Divisible: How Regional Religious Differences Shape American Politics.
Margaret Susan Thompson is a political historian, with a focus on the 19th-century United States and, particularly, the Congress. Her first book, The ‘Spider Web’: Congress and Lobbying in the Age of Grant, reflects both her scholarly and hands-on experience, the latter as American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow.
Lauren Turek is associate professor of history at Trinity University in San Antonio. Turek is a specialist in U.S. diplomatic history and American religious history and is the author of To Bring the Good News to All Nations: Evangelical Influence on Human Rights and U.S. Foreign Relations, which examines the growth and influence of Christian foreign policy lobbying groups in the United States beginning in the 1970s.
Ali A. Valenzuela is an assistant professor of politics affiliated with the Program in Latino Studies and the Center for the Study of Democratic Politics, and co-founder of Politics Research in Experimental Social Sciences at Princeton University. His research focuses on race and racism in U.S. politics and campaigns; Latina/o/x attitudes, preferences and turnout in U.S. elections; immigration and demographic change in the U.S. and its political consequences; U.S. public opinion and voter behavior; as well as ethno-racial and religious identities in politics.
Robin Globus Veldman is a visiting scholar at Texas A&M University. She studies the relationship between religion and the environment, with a focus on American evangelicalism.
Kenneth Wald is a professor of political science at the University of Florida in Gainesville, where he also teaches on American Jewish culture and society. He wrote the book Religion and Politics in the United States.
Jay Wexler is a law professor at Boston University who specializes in First Amendment issues, including religious expression in public schools and the public square. He speaks on church-state and other constitutional issues across the U.S. and internationally.
Andrew Whitehead is an associate professor of sociology and director of the Association of Religion Data Archives at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. He researches the relationship between religion and other social forces, such as the family.
J. Matthew Wilson is an associate professor of political science at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. His interests include religion and politics, and voting behavior of religious voters.