Date of Graduation

5-2013

Level of Access

Open Access Thesis

Department or Program

Government and Legal Studies

First Advisor

Jeffrey Selinger

Abstract

While most white evangelicals in America have advocated moral, cultural, and social conservatism since the Founding, the group’s fiscal and social welfare preferences have been more volatile. Early 20th century evangelicals tended to be socially conservative, fiscally liberal, and, to the extent that they were politicized, mostly Democratic partisans. Since that time, not only have white evangelicals abandoned the Democratic Party, but also they have largely become fiscal and social welfare conservatives. I attempt to explain that transformation. I first examine the dynamics of white evangelical politicization and GOP incorporation, providing social and historical context to the political and partisan calculations of white evangelicals since the 1970s. Further, I propose a party affiliation effect that helps to explain white evangelical fiscal and social welfare conservatism. This effect asserts that partisanship penetrates individual conceptions of political issues. In the case of white evangelicals, I argue that the group affiliated with the GOP largely on the basis of socio-moral issues and concerns. Partly as a result of that affiliation, group opinion on fiscal policy began to drift to the right, toward the Republican Party status quo. Consistent with this claim, I provide longitudinal analyses of ANES and GSS data that shed light on the timing of opinion changes. As we would expect, white evangelical opinion on economic issues was closer to Democratic partisans during the 1960s and moved moved toward Republicans during the 1980s-1990s.