This led me (Everton 2007) to track where the 2004 candidates for President (and Vice-President) visited in the lead-up to the election in November. Consistent with Beyerlein and Chaves's findings, the Democratic candidates (John Kerry and John Edwards) visited and spoke at far more churches than the Republican candidates (George W. Bush and Dick Cheney). Specifically, Kerry and Edwards visited 19 churches; Bush and Cheney visited only one (see the figure above). Unsurprisingly, most of these appearances occurred at Black Churches. In fact, the one time that President Bush appeared and spoke at a church, it was an African-American one. Perhaps more interestingly, the only candidate to speak at a conservative Protestant church was John Edwards, who spoke at First Baptist Church, Canton, North Carolina.
Mark Chaves (Chaves and Anderson 2008, 2014) has conducted two additional surveys of religious congregations since 1998: one in 2006-07 and another in 2012. He is currently in the midst of a fourth, all of which raises the question if patterns of congregational activism have changed over the last 20 years. The short answer is, yes and no. The two most common forms of church activism are (1) telling people at worship about opportunities for political activity and (2) distributing voter guides. Both appear to be in decline, except among Roman Catholic churches. Voter registration drives and organizing groups to demonstrate or march are the next most common forms of political activism. The former were quite popular in 2006-07, but in 2012 this type of political activity fell back close to the 1998 level. There has been an increase in congregations organizing groups to march or demonstrate, but it largely reflects the efforts of Roman Catholic churches to express their concerns about abortion, same-sex marriage, and immigration (Everton 2015). Other forms of political activism are much less common. Less than 10 percent of congregations formed groups to discuss politics, lobby government officials, or invite elected officials or someone running for office as a visiting speaker. These low levels do not hold for all religious traditions, however. Black Protestant congregations still routinely invite individuals running for political office and government officials to speak at their worship services.
Chaves, Mark and Shawna L. Anderson. 2008. "Continuity and Change in American Congregations: Introducing the Second Wave of the National Congregations Study." Sociology of Religion 69:415-40.
______. 2014. "Changing American Congregations: Findings from the Third Wave of the National Congregations Study." Journal for the Scientific of Religion 53:676-86.
______. 2015. "Church Activism." Pp. 368-71 in The Sage Encyclopedia of Economics and Society, Vol. 1, edited by F. F. Wherry and J. Schor. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.