Parties in the Pews in a Divided Nation

image of empty pews

Wolfe Lecture on Religion and American Politics

David Hopkins
Boston College

Kay L. Schlozman 
Boston College

Date: Wednesday, February 1, 2023
Time: 4 - 5:30pm    
Location: Stokes Hall S195

RSVPs Requested



Since the rise of political parties in the early days of the republic, religious commitments have been reflected in party competition. The growing strength of partisanship in American politics has coincided with a set of important changes in American religious life, from the rise in evangelical identity among Protestants to the increasing proportion of Americans who lack a formal denominational affiliation. Professors Schlozman and Hopkins examine how the relationship among partisan preference, religious denomination, and religious faith (or its absence) is changing in America today. They discuss that, in contrast to the usual pattern where religious denomination leads to party choice, there is evidence that a growing number of citizens are shifting their religious identities to match their political views.

Speakers Bios

Headshot David Hopkins

David A. Hopkins joined the Boston College political science department in 2010. His research and teaching interests include American political parties and elections, the U.S. Congress, voting behavior, public opinion, media and culture, and research methods.

His book Red Fighting Blue: How Geography and Electoral Rules Polarize American Politics (Cambridge University Press) explains how the rise of the culture war, in combination with winner-take-all elections, has produced a regionally divided electorate and an ideologically polarized party system in the United States. 

His previous book, Asymmetric Politics: Ideological Republicans and Group Interest Democrats (Oxford University Press), co-authored with Matt Grossmann, demonstrates how the distinct character of each major party—the Republican Party’s functioning as the agent of an ideological movement and the Democratic Party’s organization as a coalition of social groups—influences the behavior of voters, the conduct of campaigns, the role and influence of the news media, and the governing styles of politicians. Asymmetric Politics received the 2018 Leon Epstein Outstanding Book Award from the Political Organizations and Parties section of the American Political Science Association. 

Hopkins is also the co-author of Presidential Elections: Strategies and Structures of American Politics (with Nelson W. Polsby, Aaron Wildavsky, and Steven E. Schier, Rowman & Littlefield) and his research has appeared in Perspectives on Politics, Polity, and American Politics Research. He serves as the co-editor of The Forum: A Journal of Applied Research in Contemporary Politics.

Hopkins has written about contemporary political issues for news organizations such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Vox, and he frequently serves as an expert commentator on American politics for international, national, and Boston-area newspapers, magazines, websites, radio and television programs, and podcasts. He blogs regularly about current events at and can be found on Twitter at @DaveAHopkins.

Kay Schlozman headshot

Kay Lehman Schlozman serves as J. Joseph Moakley Endowed Professor of Political Science. She received a B.A. from Wellesley College and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. The winner of the American Political Science Association’s 2004 Rowman and Littlefield Award for Innovative Teaching in Political Science, she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in American politics.

She is co-author of Unequal and Unrepresented: Political Inequality and the People’s Voice in the New Gilded Age (with Henry Brady and Sidney Verba); The Unheavenly Chorus: Unequal Political Voice and the Broken Promise of American Democracy (with Sidney Verba and Henry Brady), which won two PROSE Awards (for Government and Politics and Excellence in Social Sciences) awarded to scholarly books by the American Association of Publishers; The Private Roots of Public Action: Gender, Equality, and Political Participation (with Nancy Burns and Sidney Verba), which was co-winner of the APSA’s Schuck Prize; Voice and Equality: Civic Voluntarism in American Politics (with Sidney Verba and Henry E. Brady), which was the winner of the APSA's Philip Converse Prize and the Book Award of the American Association for Public Opinion Research; Organized Interests and American Democracy (with John T. Tierney); and Injury to Insult: Unemployment, Class and Political Response (with Sidney Verba). She has written numerous articles in professional journals and is editor of Elections in America and co-editor of The Future of Political Science (with Gary King and Norman H. Nie).

Among her professional activities, she has served as Secretary of the American Political Science Association and as chair of the APSA’s organized section on Elections, Public Opinion and Voting Behavior. She is the winner of the APSA’s 2006 Frank Goodnow Award for Distinguished Service to the Profession of Political Science; the 2016 Samuel Eldersveld Career Achievement Award; and the American Political Science Association’s 2018 Warren E. Miller Lifetime Achievement Award, which honors an outstanding career of intellectual accomplishment and service to the profession in the field of elections, public opinion, and voting behavior. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Read More

Grossmann, Matthew, and David A. Hopkins. Asymmetric Politics: Ideological Republicans and Group Interest Democrats. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2016. 

Hopkins, David A. Red Fighting Blue: How Geography and Electoral Rules Polarize American Politics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2017. 

Polsby, Nelson W., Aaron B. Wildavsky, Steven E. Schier, and David A. Hopkins. Presidential Elections: Strategies and Structures of American Politics. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2020. 

Schlozman, Kay Lehman, Henry E. Brady, and Sidney Verba. The Unheavenly Chorus: Unequal Political Voice and the Broken Promise of American Democracy. Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 2013.

Schlozman, Kay Lehman, and John T. Tierney. Organized Interests and American Democracy. New York: Harper & Row, 1986. 

Verba, Sidney, Nancy Burns, and Kay Lehman Schlozman. “Unequal at the Starting Line: Creating Participatory Inequalities Across Generations and Among Groups.” The American Sociologist 34, no. 1/2 (2003): 45–69.

Wray-Lake, Laura, Erin H. Arruda, and David A. Hopkins. “The Party Goes On: U.S. Young Adults’ Partisanship and Political Engagement Across Age and Historical Time.” American Politics Research 47, no. 6 (2019): 1358–75.

In the News

In the Washington Post article, “The Party Label is What Matters Most to Voters,” David Hopkins explains the paradox of America’s political moment: Americans can access more information on candidates’ background then ever before, and yet, most citizens are strictly basing their votes on the candidates’ party affiliation. Hopkins credits this trend to the recent rise in polarization, which has infiltrated America’s political system.

image of Kay Schlozman

Kay Schlozman addressing the audience during the 4th Annual Wolfe Lecture on Religion and American Politics.

image of David Hopkins

David Hopkins addressing the audience during the 4th Annual Wolfe Lecture on Religion and American Politics.

image of Kay Schlozman with audience
image of David Hopkins addressing the audience

Photo Credits: Christopher Soldt, MTS

On Wednesday, February 1st, Drs. Kay Scholzman and David Hopkins of Boston College’s Political Science Department delivered the annual Wolfe Lecture on Religion and American Politics. This year’s event, titled “Parties in the Pews in a Divided Nation,” discussed the role of religion in America’s increasingly polarized political environment.

The event began with Schlozman introducing key statistics about the political affiliations of various religious groups. She noted how voting trends have evolved in recent decades, as Catholics, for example, are no longer a consistent voting block. While white Catholics tend to vote Republican, Schlozman stated that Latino Catholics typically support Democrats. Schlozman further revealed the complexities and nuances of examining voting patterns of religious groups, stating that Catholics who are Cuban and Venezuelan immigrants tend to vote Republican in contrast to Catholic Mexican immigrants, whose loyalties lie with the Democratic Party. Consequently, Schlozman suggested that we cannot infer peoples’ political beliefs solely based on their religious identification; race, ethnicity, and nationality are also key influences.

Hopkins then presented additional takeaways based on the data presented by Schlozman. While many assume that one’s religious beliefs shape their political beliefs, Hopkins contrastingly argued that peoples’ political beliefs shape their religious identities and levels of religiosity. He explained how Americans often depart from religion in their teenage years and remain relatively faithless until they have children–and then must confront the role they want religion to play in their childrens’ lives. During this time apart from religion, Americans’ political beliefs mold and take shape; ergo, when people reconsider their religious beliefs, their political beliefs are influencing them. Furthermore, Hopkins mentioned how, today, many people do not have an issue with marrying people of different religious backgrounds; however, many do have a problem with marrying those of opposing political beliefs, revealing the extent of political polarization in America.

Following Schlozman and Hopkins’ presentation, the event opened into a lively question-and-answer session. Mark Massa, S.J. initiated the conversation, asking why Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden–who are both very religious in their own lives–rarely engage in religious conversations during their campaigns compared to Trump–who infrequently attends church–but successfully captured the Evangelical vote? The question and answer segment also addressed whether political animosity has replaced religious animosity, which Hopkins believed to be true.