Religion and the 2012 Presidential Election
About This Event

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What is the role of religious groups in U.S. electoral politics? How do they vote? Do religious groups vote differently in midterm elections than in presidential elections? At this event, four experts on religion and politics in America will discuss the impact of religious groups on the midterm elections and how religious affiliation and beliefs will influence the upcoming presidential election. Panelists include Laura R. Olson of Clemson University, Norman J. Ornstein of AEI, Kenneth D. Wald of the University of Florida, and Clyde Wilcox of Georgetown University. The event will be moderated by Harvard professor and AEI visiting scholar Rachel M. McCleary.


Speaker biographies

Rachel M. McCleary is a senior research fellow at the Taubman Center in the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, where she directs the Political Economy of Religion Program. Her research focuses on how religion interacts with economic performance and the political and social behavior of individuals and institutions across societies. She studies how religious beliefs and practices influence productivity, economic growth, and the maintenance of political institutions such as democracy. Ms. McClearly's work has appeared in numerous journals, and she has written four books: Seeking Justice: Ethics and International Affairs (Westview Press, 1992), Dictating Democracy: Guatemala and the End of Violent Revolution (University Press of Florida, 1999), Global Compassion: Private Voluntary Organizations and U.S. Foreign Policy since 1939 (Oxford University Press, 2009), and The Oxford Handbook of the Economics of Religion (Oxford University Press, 2010). She is currently working on a longitudinal study of religious competition, conversion, and syncretism in Guatemala from 1880 to the present, as well as a project on the political economy of religion, particularly as it applies to Evangelicals.

Laura R. Olson is a professor of political science at Clemson University. Her research focuses on contemporary religion, civic engagement, and American politics, especially the political attitudes and behaviors of the clergy. Ms. Olson's work has appeared in leading scholarly journals, including Political Research Quarterly, Social Science Quarterly, and the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. She is the author, coauthor, or coeditor of nine books, most recently Religion and Politics in America: Faith, Culture, and Strategic Choices (Westview Press, 2010). A frequent source for various media outlets, Ms. Olson has been interviewed on CNN, National Public Radio, and BBC Radio and quoted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and USA Today. She also won Clemson University's campuswide Fluor Daniel Student Government Excellence in Teaching Award in 2003. 

Norman J. Ornstein is a long-time observer of Congress and politics. He writes a weekly column for Roll Call and is an election analyst for CBS News. He also serves as codirector of the AEI-Brookings Election Reform Project and as a senior counselor to the Continuity of Government Commission. Mr. Ornstein led a working group of scholars and practitioners that helped shape the law known as McCain-Feingold, which reformed the campaign-financing system. He was elected as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2004. His many books include The Permanent Campaign and Its Future (AEI Press, 2000); the coauthored The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track (Oxford University Press, 2006); and, most recently, Vital Statistics on Congress, 2008 (Brookings Institution Press, 2008), also coauthored.

Kenneth D. Wald, an expert on religion and politics, is a distinguished professor of political science at the University of Florida. He is the coauthor, with Allison Calhoun-Brown, of Religion and Politics in the United States (Rowman & Littlefield, 2010, 6th ed.), as well as author of numerous studies in leading academic journals. His articles, focusing on the relationship between religion and politics in the United States, Great Britain, and Israel, have appeared in the American Political Science Review, the Journal of Politics, the American Journal of Political Science, the British Journal of Political Science, Social Science Quarterly, and many other journals. Mr. Wald has lectured widely at academic institutions both within the United States and internationally, and has held visiting appointments at Harvard, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Haifa University, and the University of Strathclyde. His current research focuses on the political behavior of Jewish-American communities. Mr. Wald coedits the Cambridge University Press book series Studies in Social Theory, Religion and Politics.

Clyde Wilcox is a professor of government at Georgetown University. He has written and edited a number of books and articles on individual contributors to presidential campaigns, the changing role of interest groups in American elections, abortion politics, and gender politics in the United States and Europe. Mr. Wilcox has delivered lectures internationally, in countries such as Kenya, France, Russia, Turkey, China, Jordan, Japan, and Poland. He is the author of Onward Christian Soldiers: The Christian Right in American Politics (Westview Press, 2010, 4th ed.).

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