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Religion, Gendered Authority, and Identity in American Politics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 December 2016

Erin C. Cassese*
West Virginia University
Mirya R. Holman*
Tulane University
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Erin C. Cassese, Department of Political Science, West Virginia University, 316 Woodburn Hall, Morgantown, WV 26506. E-mail:; or to Mirya R. Holman, Department of Political Science, Tulane University, 6823 Saint Charles Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70118-5669 E-mail:
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Erin C. Cassese, Department of Political Science, West Virginia University, 316 Woodburn Hall, Morgantown, WV 26506. E-mail:; or to Mirya R. Holman, Department of Political Science, Tulane University, 6823 Saint Charles Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70118-5669 E-mail:


Religious identity serves as a central cleavage in American politics. However, little attention has been granted to how gendered views of authority conveyed in religious doctrine shape political identities and attitudes. Using a nation-wide sample of adult Americans, we demonstrate that gendered notions of divine and human authority exert considerable influence on political thinking. In particular, belief in a masculine God and preferences for traditional gender roles strongly relate to political conservatism. Adherence to gendered notions of authority influences political identity and policy preferences, even when controlling for more conventional indicators of religiosity. Accounting for gendered beliefs about authority also partially explains well-documented gender gaps in American politics, providing insight into women's apparently contradictory tendencies toward both political liberalism and religiosity. The relationships uncovered here, coupled with the continued salience of both gender and religion in contemporary political campaigns, underscore the importance of attending to the gendered dimensions of authority.

Copyright © Religion and Politics Section of the American Political Science Association 2016 

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The authors would like to thank Melissa Deckman, Nichole Bauer, and the Gender and Political Psychology Writing Group for their comments on earlier drafts of this article.



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