Happy Sunday − and welcome to the best of The Conversation U.S. Here are a few of our recently published stories:

As the new year begins, so does the 2024 election season, with the first nominating contest a little more than a week away on Jan. 15, in Iowa. Readers are already paying very close attention, at least based on two of last week’s most engaging stories on our website. Although on different if overlapping themes, both articles follow our coverage plan, focused on equipping readers to navigate what’s likely to be a very messy and long election cycle.

Religion frequently plays a large role in U.S. elections, and religious voters will help determine the next president. Tobin Miller Shearer, a historian and a religious studies scholar at the University of Montana, for example, highlights three key ways religion will play out on the campaign trail: “intensified end-times rhetoric, more claims of divine support and relative silence from the evangelical community on the rise in Christian nationalism.”

Pundits are another group that plays an outsized role in elections. But is their role good for democracy or are they partisan spewers of opinion who destroy trust? The answers, according to University of Colorado Boulder journalism professor Mike McDevitt, depend on what’s motivating their verbal combat. “Pundits can play a productive role by focusing on issues rather than identities,” he writes. “Recent scholarship has demonstrated that issue polarization is less of a problem as long as opponents see humanity in the other side.”

Bryan Keogh

Managing Editor

Readers' picks

Attendees at evangelist Franklin Graham’s ‘Decision America’ tour in Turlock, Calif., in 2018. The tour was to encourage Christians to vote. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

How religion and politics will mix in 2024 – three trends to track

Tobin Miller Shearer, University of Montana

The 2024 elections may see a more intense end-times rhetoric, claims of divine support and a failure to condemn the rise in Christian nationalism, writes a religion scholar.

Editors' picks

Many commercial fishing boats do not report their positions at sea or are not required to do so. Alex Walker via Getty Images

We used AI and satellite imagery to map ocean activities that take place out of sight, including fishing, shipping and energy development

Jennifer Raynor, University of Wisconsin-Madison

A new study reveals that 75% of the world’s industrial fishing vessels are hidden from public view.

News Quiz 🧠

  • The Conversation U.S. weekly news quiz

    Fritz Holznagel, The Conversation

    Test your knowledge with a weekly quiz drawn from some of our favorite stories. Questions this week on Iowa, Israel, the economy and the pope.

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