Literature Review

Literature Review

In order to understand how religiosity affects voting behavior on women’s rights and gender equality issues, we wanted to first comprehend how religion shapes voter’s perception on gender rights and women’s flexibility in the political arena. The most interesting factor that we found are the social and political implications of religion that still make an impact on aspects like inequitable gender attitudes. Specifically, the political implications of religion have contested for much of the political and public roles. It is assumed that equality is a key indicator of the quality of our democratic culture. However, research shows that there are pivotal inconsistencies of democratic values such as human rights and gender equality. This has sparked constant debates of the political consequences and influences of religion.

Kirmani (2011) further examines how in modern society, religion has not disappeared from the public and political sphere. Religion influences the treatment of women and women’s mobility in politics. The author describes three overlapping themes that confirm the lack of equality of various demographics due to religion. The first trend is that the state still regulates sexuality, gender, and the family by the justification of a religious framework (p. 325). Secondly, there are contradictions between pro-democracy movements and women’s struggles. Lastly, there is a challenge for women advocates and feminists to find ways to gain popular support among those who have strong national and religious identities. This source will help us support our hypothesis as we examine the impact of voter’s identification with religion and how religiosity controls a variety of demographic characteristics.

As we continue to gain a better understanding of the influence of religion on the politics of gender, it will help us develop a better understanding of voter’s perceptions and their voting practices. However, we found that voting behavior is contingent on gender engagement at a state and national level. The research team conducted further secondary research and analyzed Kandiyoti’s (2011) exploration on the entanglement of religion and politics. The author discusses how religion and gender equality are instrumentalised in the service of diverse political agendas. The political agenda is a result of fluid networks of national and local levels engagement with various demographics and their interests (p.10).  As a result of gender inequality, there has been a lack of acknowledgement of women’s rights and roles in the political agenda. Although there are other sources that have impacted the marginalization of women, religion is a legitimate arena that has weakened the discussion of gender equality. This source will further help us also examine institutions such as religion that plays a role in gender related policies, discourse of gender equality, etc.

Contentious reproductive health policies like abortion, measures for quality of healthcare like infant mortality rates, and teen pregnancy rates provide a good way to measure both support and opposition toward women’s issues, and the quality of medical care in the country.  This data can then be broken down at the state and local level, and then compared against religious demographics of the respective area.  In Religion, Poverty, and Politics: Their Impact on Women’s Reproductive Health Outcomes, authors Richard Kimball and Micheal Wissner hypothesize that regions with higher religiosity levels will equate to poorer women’s health outcomes.  They test this theory by analyzing data sets from the Center for Disease Control for each of the 50 U.S. states, and religiosity data sets taken from the Pew Foundation, and then assign each state a value based upon the percentage of Republican voters within the respective state.  Their findings will provide us additional data with which to build a case for our hypothesis.

Clyde Wilcox and Sue Thomas set out to examine the correlation between support for equal rights, specifically the Equal Rights Amendment, and religiosity.  The data they used in their reporting came from a telephone survey of randomly selected African-American women living in Washington, D.C. during February and March of 1988.  They initially hypothesized that support for the ERA would be significant among religious women, and that support for legal abortion would be extremely low.  They base this theory upon the propensity of Biblical verses that explicitly name men as the head of the family and instruct women to obey their husbands.  The authors state that they chose African-American women, because black churches tend to also incorporate a liberation element in teachings, whereas white churches tend to be more openly sexist.  The authors find that the black women surveyed were equally as likely to support feminist movements as white women, however they were more willing to collectively organize and take action to push for gender equality.  This research is important because it draws a distinction between religious institutions and suggests that religious effects upon political beliefs may vary between races or ethnicities.

Evelyn Simien and Rosalee Clawson examine the correlation between racial identity and the propensity to support feminist ideology.  They use evidence from 1993 National Black Politics Study (NBPS) to combat the notion that some black women do not support feminist causes, out of fear that it would detract from their racial identity.  The findings of Simeon and Clawson suggest that this is not the case at all, and both black males and females tend to be more supportive of women’s rights issues than white males.  They also combat the notion that gender equality issues are limited to white women, by their use of survey data that compared their likelihood to support legal abortion, and their beliefs that feminists either hurt or benefit the community.  Their research will benefit our project by controlling for race, and removing it as a possible outside influence.

Nicholas Winter examined the hidden ways in which race and gender, when framed accordingly, influence the way people think and vote. Winter analyzes the political discourse in America and how that discourse has mapped unrelated issue frames with racial and gender considerations (2008, 8). Winter uses national survey data to demonstrate that opinion on government healthcare was strikingly more gender implicated when gendered issue frames were more prevalent. Similarly, the research group uses national survey data to test the influence of religion on gender related issues. Winter’s study also lends to this research by providing a method for framing certain variables and testing their significance.

It is plausible through these academic readings to see the correlation of religion and voting behavior. However, research is limited. Studies have not been able to see which issues are influenced more by religion and what political issues women/men place more of an emphasis on. Our hypothesis will hopefully address the incomplete information that the above readings overlooked. We will support that religion does indeed impact voting attitudes and there are some issues more important to some than others.


Kandiyoti, Deniz. “Disentangling Religion and Politics: Whither Gender Equality?” IDS       Bulletin 42.1 (2011): 10-14. Web.

Kimball, Richard M.S.N/M.P.H., Ph.D., R.N. Wissner, Michael M.S. 2015. “Religion, Poverty, and Politics: Their Impact on Women’s Reproductive Health Outcomes.” Public Health Nursing, 2015, Vol.32(6), pp.598-612.

Kirmani, Nida Nida. “The Unhappy Marriage of Religion and Politics: Problems and Pitfalls for Gender Equality.” Gender & Development 19.2 (2011): 325-27. Web.

Simien, Evelyn M., and Rosalee A. Clawson. 2004. “The Intersection Of Race and Gender: An  Examination of Black Feminist Consciousness, Race Consciousness, and Policy      Attitudes*.” Social Science Q Social Science Quarterly 85(3): 793–810.

The American National Election Studies ( The ANES Guide To Public Opinion And Electoral Behavior. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan, Center for Political Studies.

Wilcox, Clyde. Thomas, Sue. 1992. “Religion and Feminist Attitudes Among African-American Women: A View from the Nation’s Capital.” Women & Politics, Vol. 12(2), p.19(22).

Winter, Nicholas J. G. 2008. Dangerous Frames: How Ideas about Race and Gender Shape Public Opinion. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.



These materials are based on work supported by the National Science Foundation and a number of other sponsors.

Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in these materials are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the funding organizations.


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