The intersection of religion and politics : a two-way street
Author(s)Margolis, Michele F. (Michele Francine)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Political Science.
Adam J. Berinsky.
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My dissertation reexamines the relationship between religious and political attitudes and challenges the conventional wisdom that religious identities are impervious to politics' influence. I not only identify the conditions under which religious identities affect political stances but also when political identities influence one's religious beliefs, practices, and identification. My research refutes the claim that religious sorting into the political parties-that seculars support the Democrats while the devout join the Republican ranks-explains the current polarized political arena. Partisans themselves help produce these religious gaps. Moreover, this finding should not come as a surprise to researchers. Combining insights from the religious and political socialization literatures, I create a novel, yet intuitive, theory about how partisanship can come to shape religious beliefs and behaviors. In brief, the distinct timings of the religious and political socialization processes create a window during which partisanship can. shape religious beliefs and behaviors. Political identities typically crystallize in adolescence and early adulthood, which is the very time when many people have distanced themselves from religion. As young people emerge into adulthood, however, they must decide whether to remain on the outskirts of religion or re-enter the religious sphere. Political identity, which for many has been solidified since young adulthood, can shape this new religious identity. The influence of politics is then continually felt, as an individual's resultant religious identification and practices are often stable throughout adulthood. To test my theory, I develop new survey measures of religious identification; use panel data to track changes in beliefs and practices over time; design randomized experiments to uncover how heightening the salience of one's partisanship subsequently influences reported identification with religion; and take advantage of natural experiments to see how changes in the political world subsequently impact religious practices. Using different data and analytic strategies, I consistently find the same results: there are times in an individual's life when political identities shape religious practices and beliefs, and there are other times when the reverse is the case. All told, my research presents a new way of thinking about the contemporary political and religious landscapes.
Thesis: Ph. D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Political Science, 2014.Cataloged from PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (pages 255-279).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Political Science.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology