Objective. What factors shape public support for service refusals carried out in the name of the free exercise of religion? Existing analyses treat the businesses refusing to serve LGBT citizens as fungible. We hypothesize that the religious context does not matter and that reactions are consistent with the role of socialized disgust. Methods. We engage the same experimental design in two 2019 samples, one of 800 Colorado adult residents and one of 1,010 Protestants. The 1 × 2 × 2 design enables a contrast between a control, conditions that vary the business between a florist and photographer, and conditions that vary the religious nature of the event. Results. The results suggest that the religious nature of the context is immaterial and that reactions generally conform with the role of disgust, especially for those socialized to feel it—high attending evangelicals. Conclusion. We affirm the importance of the context of service delivery for religious freedom attitudes and discuss the role of religion.
A persistent concern for democratic theorists is the degree to which religious authority trumps democratic authority. This is often assessed using generic measures of religiosity or religious beliefs ill-suited to the task. Moreover, while religion is linked to dogmatism and authoritarianism, this begs the question how much influence religion has independent of psychological dispositions. We attempt to add to these debates with a new measure of religious authority. We draw on data gathered from three samples—a sample of Christian clergy from 2014, a national sample of 1,000 Americans from Spring 2016, and a national sample of 1,010 Protestants from 2019. We examine the distribution of the religious authority measure and then compare its effects of the measure in the context of authoritarian child-rearing values, deliberative values, and democratic norms. The results indicate religious authority values represent a distinct measurement of how people connect to religion in politically salient ways.
An abundance of research examines Americans’ attitudes toward abortion legality and morality with particular attention to polarization around this issue and the influence of social movements, religious organizations, the media, and political leaders. There is a relative dearth, however, of research focusing on attitudes toward the public funding of abortion services. Using three national, random samples of American adults, we address this gap in the literature. We find that the oft-cited “bipartisan consensus” around opposition to public funding of abortion is a myth. In fact, there is more bipartisan consensus around abortion legality than abortion funding, across religious traditions. As national debates about abortion funding intensify, these findings underscore the importance of future surveys consistently measuring Americans’ attitudes toward public funding of abortion, above and beyond abortion legality or morality.
The term “Protestant” is used extensively by scholars of religion and has been included in surveys about American religion for decades. Yet it is possible that many Americans do not have a full understanding of the meaning of this term and its inclusion may be introducing measurement error on surveys. Two recent survey efforts provide illumination to this question. The Nationscape question on religion replicates all the options included in the Cooperative Survey, but also includes an option for “Christian.” This provides an ideal opportunity to assess the implications of adding this response choice. When the “Protestant” and “Christian” groups are combined in the Nationscape and compared to the “Protestant” group in the Cooperative Election Study (CES), there is
a great deal of similarity between the two samples. But, the results from the Nationscape indicate that the term “Protestant” is becoming increasingly unfamiliar to younger Americans, especially for racial minorities.
This article analyzes the politics of older Americans in the 21st century. Older Americans have been significantly involved in American politics, relative to younger generations. Political participation typically increases with age, even ramping up during the early period of older adulthood. However, past work has indicated that political participation drops off due to frailty and loss of cognition in the latest years of the life span. And, yet, people are living longer than in previous decades when much of the past research on this relationship was conducted. We want to know whether these relationships remain consistent and want to especially analyze the old–old, a growing age group that has been difficult to study in the past due to their low numbers in traditional surveys. With tens of thousands of respondents, survey data from the Cooperative Election Studies from 2008 to 2020 allow us to analyze these older groups in recent years, across types of participation and party affiliation. We find that there is not much of a dip in political activity among the old–old. They are still quite active, particularly when it comes to donating money to campaigns and voting. Additionally, through analyzing birth cohorts, we find that political activity gradually increases as people age through their 60s and 70s and does not notably decline when they move into the old–old age group.
The fastest growing segments of the American religious landscape are atheists, agnostics, and nothing in particulars. In 2008, these three groups together (often called the Nones) represented 22% of the population, but just twelve years later their numbers surged to 34% of the populace. Given that one in three adults is a None, it stands to reason that they are having a growing influence on electoral politics. To that end, this analysis focuses on how those three types of unaffiliated Americans shifted their political ideology, partisanship and voting patterns from 2016 to 2020. The results indicate that Donald Trump’s baseline of support dropped among all types of Nones, and that the drop was especially acute for nothing in particulars who had high household incomes in 2020.
RELTRAD is the most popular and widely used classification scheme for sorting religious traditions in the social sciences, however it struggles with how to sort non-denominational Protestants into one of the existing categories, with a growing number falling into an often ignored “unclassified” category. Purpose To demonstrate the growing problem of excluding non-denominational protestants who attend infrequently in the current iteration of RELTRAD. We assess the assumption that the “unclassified” respondents are akin to those who select a
“don’t know” option and should be excluded. We also propose several ways to reintroduce low attending non-denominationals back into the larger sample.
As a means to assess the political and religious characteristics of these “unclassified” respondents, we compare non-denominationals to a prototypical evangelical denomination—the Southern Baptist Convention and a prototypical mainline denomination—the United Methodist Church using General Social Survey data from 2000 to 2018. We also re-run models of social and political phenomena, originally shown by Steensland et al. (Soc Forces 79:291, 2000), with the new and old RELTRAD categories.
Analyses indicate that non-denominational Protestants who attend church at least once a month have similar characteristics to evangelicals, justifying their current classification. However, non-denominationals who attend less frequently are more difficult to sort cleanly as they are more conservative than United Methodists but more liberal than Southern Baptists. However, the gaps caused by attendance among the three groups is comparable, undermining the RELTRAD assumption that low attending non-denominationals should be excluded from the sample.
Conclusions and Implications
We reject the decision to exclude low attending nondenominationals from samples. Combined with other analyses of non-denominational Christians that show differences by denominationalism, we conclude that the best way forward may be creating an entirely new RELTRAD category for nondenominational Protestants that would solve the problem of the unclassifieds and not lose measure specificity. This choice brings new questions into focus as researchers can acknowledge the rapidly growing non-denominational category and assess the degrees of overlap and distinction with traditional religious families in the United
State action to curtail the spread of the coronavirus has meant advising, and sometimes mandating, houses of worship to close to in-person worship. While mostly cooperative, the religious response has been varied and has exposed a hardened, defiant core. Informed by gendered religious worldviews, religious defiance is led by men and disproportionately supported by men. In this article, we document the extent of the defiance as of late March 2020 with our survey data and then investigate how gendered religious worldviews serve to track men to public roles and women to private ones. We attempt to confirm the nature of these effects with a gendered nationalism item and parallel gender gaps in political participation.
This article analyzes the use of religious language on Twitter by members of the U.S. Congress (MOCs). Politicians use various media platforms to communicate about their political agendas and their personal lives. In the United States, religious language is often part of the messaging from politicians to their constituents. This is done carefully and often strategically and across media platforms. With members of Congress increasingly using Twitter to connect with constituents on a regular basis, we want to explain who uses religious language on Twitter, when, and how. Using 1.5 million tweets scraped from members of Congress in April of 2018, we find that MOCs from both major political parties make use of a “religious code” on Twitter in order to send messages about their own identities as well as to activate the religious identities of their constituents. However, Republicans use the code more extensively and with Judeo-Christian-specific terms. Additionally, we discuss gender effects for the ways MOCs use “religious code” on Twitter
Anyone who has ever written and distributed a survey knows that the process can oftentimes be drawn out and incredibly tedious. It is almost inevitable that the survey author will realize that they forgot to ask about a specific topic, did not offer enough response options, or did not fully investigate a possible question ordering effect. However, oftentimes these oversights can be seen as opportunities. In the 2010 wave of the Cooperative Congressional Election Study, when individuals were asked about their present religion, the response options did not include a choice for atheists, which is present in all other waves of the CCES. If an atheist was taking the questionnaire in 2010 and did not see the optimal choice that described their religious affiliation, what was their backup option? Using both descriptive analysis and machine learning techniques, we try to determine where these misplaced atheists went in the 2010 CCES. In general, we found that the vast majority chose one of the other religiously unaffiliated options: agnostics or nothing in particular, but a significant minority chose another religious tradition. We believe that these results help illuminate how atheists think about their religious affiliation and give researchers more insight into the religious landscape of the United States.
While there has been a great deal of media focus recently on the rise of those without religious affiliation (also known as the “nones”), there is an underlying issue facing this line of research: different surveys come to completely different conclusions about how many nones actually exist in the United States. Using the General Social Survey (GSS) and the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES) this work details how each of these instruments measures religious affiliation in a different manner and how that results in an estimate of the nones that diverges by over eight percentage points in 2018. Statistical analysis reveals that the GSS has a much higher share of Protestants who never attend church than that found in the CCES. In addition, the CCES Protestant subsample is more Republican, while the nones in the GSS are more to the left of the political spectrum than the nones in the CCES. Some advice and caution is offered to researchers who are interested in studying the religiously unaffiliated in these two surveys.
The sweep of the coronavirus pandemic across the world and the United States offers an almost unparalleled opportunity to study how social systems cope with the threat and opportunities for collective action. In this paper, we draw on survey data collected as the United States flailed in response and before a general consensus among executive officeholders developed in the following weeks. In particular, we assess how holding prosperity gospel views strongly shaped perceptions of the virus and reactions to state responses to the virus. Research on the prosperity gospel is slowly expanding and this paper helps to highlight some missing dimensions. At a time when concerted action for the social good could be uniting the country, prosperity gospel beliefs systematically undermine that possibility by augmenting threat, raising outgroup barriers, and decreasing social trust.
The process of becoming a born-again Christian is one that has intrigued social scientists for decades but has never been studied in a large-scale way, using panel data. While sociologists have tried to conceptualize and operationalize how one converts to a new religious experience, many political scientists have used “having a born-again experience” as a way to classify evangelical Protestants. While there is a great deal of scholarship devoted to understanding how born-again Christians navigate the social and political world, the direct impact of adopting a born-again status has eluded scholars. Using panel surveys from three different polling organizations, this work analyzes how those who convert and de-convert to born-again Christianity change their political and religious behaviors in after the switch. Analysis indicates that conversion and deconversion is not uncommon among the population, occurring in approximately 1 in 10 survey respondents. Results indicate that women, younger Americans, and those with less educations are more likely to change their conversion status. Of those who do make a switch, few significantly change their partisanship, while shifts in church attendance are more common and this is confirmed through statistical modeling. These findings fill a gap in scholars’ previous understanding of the changes in behavior and political orientation following a shift in born-again status—something that was only studied at the aggregate level in prior work. This research offers an additional angle for scholars who are seeking to understand the caused by religious switching in the United States.
In the United States, women often show less interest in politics, and under some conditions, perform worse than men on political knowledge tests. In an age where education levels have reached parity, we suggest one of the explanations for gender differences in political engagement might be due to selection of occupation. Past research has shown women and men segregate into different occupations due to early gender socialization, differences in interest, and structural barriers. It is possible that due to these segregation effects, women in traditional female occupations (e.g. education, health care, service work) may have less access to personal internet use and news sources during their work days. Using the 2014 General Social Survey, we create a new occupational typology based on access to the internet to explore whether individuals in certain sectors differ in their political engagement and how these occupations are also divided by gender, race and class. Then we apply the technology use measure to the 2016 American National Election Study and find that technology access on the job does not seem to be related to political knowledge, once we account for education, which offers some insight into the mechanisms by which individuals gain this knowledge. In addition, the interaction between total media consumption and tech use suggests that the gap in political knowledge between men and women is stubbornly persistent.
Over 60 percent of Americans have some sort of family pet. Although studies have explored the personality and demographic correlates of pet ownership, none have considered whether religious characteristics may influence not only pet ownership, but the kind of pet Americans own. Drawing on data from the 2018 General Social Survey, we examine the religious antecedents of pet ownership in general as well as owning a cat or a dog, taking into account factors previously associated with owning certain pets (e.g., urban vs. rural residence, political affiliation). Although religious tradition and biblical literalism generally do not predict pet ownership, frequent worship attendees and the most conservative evangelicals report owning fewer pets. Religious characteristics also predict Americans’ ownership of particular pets. Most notably, we find a strong, negative association between worship attendance and cat ownership. We theorize potential mechanisms. On the one hand, certain personality types might simultaneously attract some Americans toward religious participation and away from pets, and cats in particular. Alternatively, to the extent that pet ownership is a partial substitute for human bonding and interaction, Americans more deeply embedded within a religious community may have less need (or time) for pets generally, and specifically more independent “roommate pets,” like cats.
One of the most important shifts occurring in the religious landscape is a significant increase in the number of churches that are ordaining and calling women to the ministry. While a tremendous amount of work in communication has studied the differences in speech by male and female speakers, that analysis has not turned to the level of the sermon. Using nearly 900 sermon transcripts collected from pastors of both genders, this paper uses a number of text analysis techniques including natural language processing and sentiment analysis to understand the differences in sermon delivery between the genders. Our findings note that while sermons delivered by males are significantly longer, female speakers are more likely to use first person pronouns and tentative speech than their male counterparts. Overall, our sentiment analysis finds that women are more likely to use positive words; however, sentiment varies dramatically across the entire arc of the sermon.
Social media is altering how some religious leaders communicate with their followers and with the public. This has the potential to challenge theories of religious communication that have been developed through the study of traditional modes such as sermons. This study examines how leaders in U.S. evangelicalism take advantage of the public platform provided by Twitter. Using over 85,000 tweets from 88 prominent evangelical leaders, we find that these leaders often use their social media platforms as a natural extension of their current modes of communication. More specifically, evangelical leaders use their account to encourage and inspire their followers, while also conveying information about upcoming personal projects such as tours and book
releases. In a small number of cases, evangelical leaders do make reference to political issues, but those individuals are ones who have already built a brand based on political commentary. Speaking broadly, the usage of political language by evangelical leaders is rare. The paper concludes with a discussion of how this analysis advances theories of religion and communication
While there are many identities that individuals associate themselves with, none may be more powerful than sexual orientation and religious beliefs. Previous scholarship has described how lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) individuals try to reconcile their sexual orientation with their evangelical theology using the framework of cognitive dissonance, yet these LGB evangelicals have never been assessed in a randomly sampled survey. Using the 2016 Cooperative Congressional Election Study this research describes how LGB evangelicals grapple with the cognitive dissonance that occurs in many facets of their lives. Two issues are analyzed that could tap into their religious identity (abortion) or sexual orientation (gay marriage). The findings indicate that LGB evangelicals are often more liberal than their evangelical counterparts but are more conservative than the LGB community.
Evangelicals garner much attention in polling and public opinion research, yet measuring white evangelicals remains elusive, even opaque. This paper provides practical guidance to researchers who want to measure or analyze evangelicals. In the social sciences, many have adopted a detailed religious affiliation approach that categorizes evangelicals based on the religious tradition of the denominations to which they belong. Others have used a simpler self-identification scheme, which asks respondents if they consider themselves “born-again or evangelical”. While the affiliation and self-identification schemes are predominant, a practical examination of these approaches has been absent. Using several waves of the General Social Survey and the Cooperative Congressional Election Study, we compare them. We find almost no statistical differences between the two measurements in prominent demographic, political, or religious factors. Thus, we suggest that for most a simple question about broad religious affiliation followed by a born-again or evangelical self-identification question will suffice.
Although there have been several attempts to study the dimensions of the Emerging Church movement (ECM) through close observation and survey data, we know little about its diffusion into American religious cultures. We undertook this project by attempting to capture whether Christian clergy thought about the movement and how consistently they considered it. Our analysis of survey data from several denominations suggests that the ECM is less well known among the clergy they are reacting against (evangelicals). Opinions turn not on partisan identity, but on religious authority, which is precisely the ground on which the ECM presents its challenge to evangelicalism. In this way, the ECM appears to be following a path paved by the decline of denominationalism
The purpose of this paper is to examine the influence of Christian theology on feelings or attitudes toward liberal and conservative political-ideological groups. We know how religious affiliations, behaviors, and beliefs in the United States influence voting behavior, political party affiliation and specific issue attitudes, but we do not fully understand how Christian theology influences one’s favorable / unfavorable attitudes to groups across the ideological spectrum. Using the 2012 ANES data, we test logit models for favorable / unfavorable scores toward four different groups. While progressive Christians are linked with liberal political ideology and considered more likely to be tolerant of groups that are different than themselves, our results do not support this contention. Rather, progressive Christians are more likely to exhibit an unfavorable attitude toward groups with political differences while conservative Christians are not. On the other hand, conservative Christians are more likely to exhibit an unfavorable attitude toward groups with religious differences while progressive Christians are not.
While American clergy have been understood as political actors in some capacity, the precise understanding of their representation has been debated. Some argue that clergy may be seen as fidei defensor, representing a particular set of values and beliefs to the world—a trustee model. Others see the potential for clergy to advocate for the interests of local congregations embedded in particular communities—a delegate model. Neither approach has had concrete evidence to address this question, nor has any work explicitly documented clergy adopting a representational role. To remedy this defect, we polled a sample of clergy in order to gauge the degree to which they are functionally and explicitly considered representatives of their congregations. From these data, 70% have been contacted by congregation members with political concerns and 40% consider themselves or believe they are considered by congregants as representatives to government officials. Several factors increase the probability that clergy take on a representative role including holding a high view of religious authority. Clergy also consider carefully their relationship with the congregation and community before taking on the role of representative, supporting the delegate model.
With its postmodern foundation and profound critique of established Protestant Christianity, the emergent church movement has attracted relatively few converts but has gained a significant amount of media attention. The Emergent Church offers an opportunity to assess how the movement’s core tenets have diffused into other religious populations. Drawing from a sample of Protestant clergy, we find that diffusion of the emergent church movement is surprisingly low, especially among the targets of the emergent critique – pastors from evangelical backgrounds. But, among those with an opinion, approval of the movement lies along the lines of the emergent critique, garnering support from those with strong democratic norms, political engagement, liberalism, and antagonism for authority in the pulpit and textual interpretation.
In the last 15 years a small but growing movement organized under the label ‘‘emergent church’’ has begun to help push the church through what many of them believe to be the first careful steps that will usher in a new understanding of Christianity for the twenty-first century. An emergent church model is quite a radical one that prioritizes the agency of those in attendance to determine the beliefs and direction of the church. In this way, emergent churches, at least in theory, are radical deliberative democrats in orientation, which may have profound effects on how the church is run and how members view the church, each other, and society as a result. Using the first dataset known to acquire this identity of Protestant clergy, we assess whether emergent Christian clergy adhere to a different set of religious beliefs, values, and deliberative norms than those in the modern church.
The emergent church movement has fashioned itself as an alternative for Christians who do not want to walk away from their faith, but feel uncomfortable with the dogmatic conservatism found in mainstream evangelicalism. The emerging church movement has portrayed itself as diverse and inclusive, which is a direct result of evading ingroup-outgroup boundaries. However, despite the desire for a plurality of opinions, the movement’s leaders have been known to take political positions that are largely left-leaning. We use the first dataset known to gather this identity from a sample of Protestant clergy, and assess whether denominationally connected emergent church clergy do, in fact, present a distinctive political profile. Emergent clergy are what they say they are—diverse and inclusive—while they are, on average, more liberal than nonemergent clergy in the sample.
Examining religion in the study of political behavior has produced varied results because of a lack of clarity on the conceptualization of religion and a methodology that cannot adequately untangle the multiple meanings of religion. Using the technique of propensity score matching, this work breaks apart the three B’s in a number of analyses in order to properly understand how behavior, belief, and belonging impacts political tolerance. The results of this analysis indicate that a belief in biblical literalism decreases political tolerance, while church attendance often increases tolerance.