Essays on the Role of Politics for Religious Affiliation and Identity
CitationMalina, Gabrielle. 2020. Essays on the Role of Politics for Religious Affiliation and Identity. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
AbstractPolitical and religious identities are tightly interwined in the U.S. today. Political attachments causally affect decisions to join and leave organized religion. While the effect of politics on broad religious affiliation is well-documented, the effect on churchgoers' decisions to join individual congregations, and the importance relative to other factors, is less clear.
In this dissertation, I argue that political factors are integral to churchgoers' decisions about congregation affiliation, though these factors do not influence all churchgoers' decisions explicitly. The explicit effect of political considerations depends on churchgoers' ideological orientation and perspective on the relevance of politics for religious practice and identity. For researchers, the extent and nature of political influence depends greatly on the methods chosen to study it.
The first essay focuses on the political relationship between U.S. clergy and the churchgoers they serve. Using original data on clergy's partisanship linked with mass surveys, neighborhood-level vote shares, and surveys of clergy's congregants, the chapter assesses the extent to which churchgoers' are lead by clergy who share their political affiliations. Congregants in mainline Protestant denominations are often lead by out-party clergy, while Catholics are more likely to be lead by co-partisan clergy.
While denomination-level analyses are illustrative, they obscure the processes by which churchgoers select into particular congregations. The second and third essays focus on measuring churchgoers' demand for political fit with congregations. Chapter three uses quantitative and qualitative survey data to demonstrate that liberal churchgoers are much more likely to explicitly consider politics when choosing congregations, compared to conservative and moderates. However, I demonstrate that churchgoers are divided regarding the relevance of politics for religious practice and identity broadly, and that this divide cuts across ideological and theological lines.
Chapter four assesses the causal effect of politics on congregational choice using a conjoint experiment. I demonstrate that churchgoers are significantly more sensitive to avoiding politically incongruent congregational environments than selecting congruent environments. Importantly, churchgoers do not strongly prefer congruent congregations over politically neutral congregations. These results suggest that when churchgoers are given the option, they strongly prefer to avoid environments that cut against their political identity.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37368955
- FAS Theses and Dissertations