How Will Voters’ Religious Identity Impact the 2020 Presidential Election?

Tags: Currents Crux, Election, Elections, Elections 2020, Joe Biden, Media, President Trump

Currents News Staff

Both camps are fighting hard to win over Americans with no religious identity. Nones, as they’re called, make up one-fifth of the U.S. population and tend to skew the younger generation with less interest in religion and in voting.

Catholic voters and their religious identity are on the ballot this year with Joe Biden being only the fourth major party Catholic candidate in U.S. history.

“My Catholic faith has helped me through the darkness,” Biden has said. 

A win in November would make him the second Catholic to ever hold the nation’s highest political office since John F. Kennedy. That’s something Chris Vogt, the Chair of Theology and Religious Studies Department at St. John’s University, thinks could reinvigorate Catholics in this country.

“As Catholics, we are called to be attentive to Church teaching, but really it is in our conscience where God speaks to us and where we need to come to a decision about the person we need to support in this election,” he told Currents News.

Religion can be central to a voter’s identity. Studies conducted by the Pew Research Center show that Catholics, just like many other religious groups, want a president who lives an ethical and moral life more than a president who shares their own religious beliefs. 

Sixty-two percent of them say it’s “very important,” compared to just 14 percent for the latter. The faithful also view religious organizations as forces for good in society. A majority – 62 percent – believe churches and other religious institutions should stay out of politics, versus 37 percent who do not.

While the Catholic vote is critical, non-Christian faiths will play a role too. Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, President of The National Jewish Center For Learning and Leadership, thinks the Jewish vote will reflect the hard choices all voters have to make come November.

“What we have at their best in each community are voters who are seeking to live their values as deeply as possible,” says Rabbi Brad, “and to appreciate that a single value can be lived in politically diametrically opposed ways.”

Those divisions resonate with non Judeo-Christian faiths too, like Muslims, Buddists and Hindus – who make up two to four percent of the U.S. population. A tiny slice that could make a big difference.

“Someone’s deeply held faith should help them seek their conscience and lift up the values they most dearly hold,” says Rabbi Brad. “I actually think that is incredibly beautiful for many of us people of faith. It’s as natural as breathing.”

Religious identity could also affect the vice-presidential debate, starting with the candidates. Kamala Harris is a Baptist, but her mother was a practicing Hindu. Both are diverse religious beliefs that could attract voters to the Biden camp.

Vice President Mike Pence has a strong Evangelical following. Pence is a self-described “Born Again Evangelical Catholic” with strong ties to the Catholic cultural tradition and moral teachings of the Church.

“It’s hard to talk about the religious sensibilities of either Vice President Pence or Senator Harris,” says Rabbi Brad. “The fact of the matter is that they have an opportunity to show us all that – regardless of affiliation with the party or views –  on particular issues. Their commitment again to dignity, decency and democracy transcends their desire to win an office.”

The Pence/Harris faceoff is the only vice-presidential debate this election season. With the fate of the two remaining presidential debates still hanging in the balance, it’s impact could be more important than ever.