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Renewalist Christianity and the Political Saliency of LGBTs: Theory and Evidence from Sub-Saharan Africa

One key political development in the past decade in many, but not all, countries across Africa has been the growing saliency of morality politics in general, and of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) politics in particular. I argue that the uneven upward trend in the political saliency of LGBTs is closely related to two recent political processes: (1) a rapid growth of Pentecostal, Evangelical, and related Renewalist or Spirit-filled churches (demand-side factor) and (2) a democratization process leading to heightened political competition (supply side). To evaluate the above proposition, I created an original, fine-grained longitudinal dataset of media coverage of LGBTs in Africa, which I use as a measure of issue saliency. Using a series of negative binomial regression models, I find robust evidence that the saliency of LGBTs increases with a country’s population share of Renewalist Christians and that this effect increases with rising levels of political competition.