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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Faith and Politics in Iowa

The Sioux City Journal reports that religion will be an important element in the important Iowa caucuses:
Morningside College political science professor Patrick McKinlay said a significant number of Northwest Iowans want to back a candidate possessing a deep religious faith. Many of those Iowans are social conservatives, to whom defending traditional marriage and scaling back abortion are important, he said.

"It is necessary to understand a candidate's personal faith as more of a lens through which both the candidate and the voters see the world in a similar way," McKinlay said. "That shapes how you see matters of the economy and matters of foreign policy and so forth."
But McKinlay said candidates and Iowans don't have countless hours to sit down and get to know one another, so campaign speeches often contain "cues" to elicit support.

For professed Christian officeseekers looking to connect to evangelicals, the words "God" and "faith" are used repeatedly, McKinlay said. He said one of the best examples was when President George W. Bush, running for re-election in 2004, relied heavily on such words when making a Tyson Events Center before thousands in Sioux City.

"I could hear in his narrative very important and very clear indicators: 'Here is where I am.' I can tell you, the crowd was there with him," McKinlay said.

"Language and politics are very much entwined. We use language to communicate deeper meanings about what we believe. Especially, when it is something about faith, something about values, then these candidates need to help the caucusgoer perceive where they are."