David E. Campbell, James R. G. Kirk, Geoffrey C. Layman
March 18, 2021
Religion played a prominent role in the 2020 presidential campaign. Donald Trump overtly courted white evangelical Protestants and Catholics, while Joe Biden emphasized his Catholicism far more than any Catholic candidate in American history. Did religion play as important a role in electoral behavior in 2020? If so, how and why did religion affect Americans’ voting decisions? We take up those questions by analyzing the religious vote in 2020 and the reasons why particular religious and non-religious groups voted as they did. We find that the religious divisions in the 2020 electorate were quite deep, but they were mostly unchanged from those present in 2016. Moreover, some electoral differences between religious groups are based in factors such as racial resentment, support for limited government, and anti-immigration attitudes that are not typically associated with religion. However, a key explanation for religious voting in 2020 was an old standby: the abortion issue. The religion gap in American electoral politics represents an enduring divide. The only changes were at the margins—but where elections are close, margins matter.