God’s Influence on the Caucus of a “God’s Country” State

Posted: September 18, 2019 | By: Mallory McQueen Tagged: Blog

People across the nation have been arguing about the fact that Iowa is the first state in the country to hold its caucus since Iowa became the first caucus state in 1972. Critics argue that Iowa is too white, too rural, and too religious compared to the rest of the nation. Though some of these demographics may stand true, Iowa remains the first state in the nation to participate in the caucus process every four years. People continue to argue these claims, but what is the true influence of these claims? The claims about race and urban settlement are heavily examined, but what about the claim about religion? Even if Iowa is statistically more religious than the rest of the country, does religiosity influence the esteemed first-in-the-nation caucus or the way candidates interact with the state?

“Vying for the faithful in Iowa”, a column published by USA Today, examines the actions of religious candidates. Most presidential candidates in the United States history have followed Thomas Jefferson’s example in keeping their faith private. Most democratic candidates hold to Jefferson’s idea that religion is “a private matter between the individual and God” and should never be publicized for political gain. Republicans have become more public with their faith after the emergence of the religious right in the late 1970s. Democrats have been more open with their faith after George W. Bush beat John Kerry in the presidential election with the support of “value voters”. Regardless, some candidates are not afraid to be outspoken about their faith. During his campaign for president in 2016, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) said, “I’m a Christian first, American second, conservative third and Republican fourth.” That seems like a bold claim to make while trying to secure the Republican nomination for president, though Ted Cruz did come out on top in the Iowa caucus in 2016 with 27.7 percent of votes, edging out Donald Trump by 3.3 percent. Cruz went on to lose the nomination to Donald Trump, but yet it is possible that his openness about his faith helped secure his victory in the Iowa caucus.

According to an article published by Time in January 2016, religion does play a role in politics in Iowa. Citing a Pew Research Center study, the article states that four out of five adults in Iowa are Christians. Historically, the Time article notes, religious voters most often support religious candidates. According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2016, 64 percent of Republicans and 41 percent of Democrats feel that it is very/somewhat important to have a president that shares their religious beliefs. That being said, it is possible that the religious beliefs of the current presidential candidates could influence the Iowa caucus this February. Many of the democratic presidential candidates have either outwardly or implicitly pointed to their faith throughout their campaigns. Mayor Pete Buttigieg has openly expressed his episcopal faith and how his religious beliefs affect his political views, stating “I think it’s unfortunate [the Democratic Party] has lost touch with a religious tradition that I think can help explain and relate our values.” Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) has also been extremely open about his faith, even appearing as a guest on a religious podcast. Some believe that Booker could draw sizeable support from the religious left. Regardless of who comes out on top in the 2020 Iowa caucus, religion may play a role, even a small one, in the choice of voters in “God’s Country”.