In what ways does religion affect political participation?
Members of some religious groups do not vote at all. Jehovah's Witnesses, for example, do not believe in voting for or endorsing any political candidate or platform. They believe that they lead by example, trusting God to solve the problems of the world. They also believe that remaining politically neutral allows them to speak to people of all political backgrounds about matters of faith.
Other people will vote for political candidates based on their perception of that candidate's religious values (which may or may not be accurate). For example, Republicans are more likely to be classified as "conservative," which appeals to many voters from religious backgrounds. Some of these voters believe that Republicans' morals will align more closely to their own (again, which may or may not be accurate). These voters will then show up to vote for these candidates.
Americans seem to value candidates who are part of particular religions. To date, there have been no openly-atheist presidents, no Jewish presidents, and only two presidents who claimed no religious affiliation. When Kennedy became president, his Catholic views were so concerning to the populace that he felt compelled to deliver a speech in 1960 stressing the importance of the separation of Church and State. Thus, people may feel compelled to vote against people of certain religious backgrounds (depending on the era) even if they otherwise would not vote for the opposing candidate.
A candidate's perceived religious views can earn voter trust and therefore encourage (or discourage) participation in elections.
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