How Balloting in Churches Sways Attitudes and Votes

Source: Jordan P. LaBouff, Scholars Strategy Network, Key Findings, August 2014

Houses of worship have long been central to the functioning of American communities. Today, more than 350,000 congregations attended by more than 56 million people serve as centers of social as well as religious life in many U.S. towns and neighborhoods. Voting sites are also regularly located in church buildings. Some have challenged this practice as a violation of the separation between church and state enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, but several state and federal district courts have upheld the use of churches as polling places, pointing out that citizens who prefer to vote elsewhere can use available alternatives such as absentee ballots. Legalities aside, it may matter that balloting often takes place in churches. A growing body of social science research demonstrates that people are unconsciously influenced by the locations in which they vote. Balloting in churches skews attitudes and votes in conservative directions. …