In the 2020 Democratic primaries for president, little-known Mayor Pete Buttigieg rose to national prominence after televised townhalls and debates in which he discussed his Christian values at length, despite identifying as gay. The end of the 20th century gave way to the “Religious Right” who voted for political candidates that promised to secure their religious freedoms and fight against abortion and same-sex marriage, thus creating a “culture war” between liberals and conservatives. Since same-sex marriage was legalized in the United States in 2015, scholars have seen an emerging acceptance of LGBTQ people by religious institutions, but how did Buttigieg turn that into continued support among a deep Democratic field of candidates? My Independent Study project explores how the use of religious appeals affects the electability of queer political candidates. There is an extensive literature covering the success of religious cues in political campaigns, but it neglects to examine the intersection of religion and sexual orientation. Despite increasing secularism, the U.S. remains a Christian nation and finding common ground based on a shared religious identity could offer a way for LGBTQ candidates to circumvent negative feelings some voters may have about their sexual orientation. Additionally, voters who are likely to support an LGBTQ candidate may “strategically discriminate” against a non-religious gay politician because they are perceived as electable in a general election. These concepts are explored using a survey experiment that presents respondents, assigned to treatments based on political ideology, with a fictional gay candidate’s “About” webpage which either includes or does not include religious cues. The results indicated that there is significant support for the gay religious candidate among conservative voters in one of the measures.


Corral, Álvaro


Political Science


Social and Behavioral Sciences


Electability, Religious Appeals, Survey Experiment, LGBTQ

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2021 Samuel J. Casey