Political Science Religion, Politics, and Civic Engagement in the United States
by
J. Tobin Grant
  • LAST REVIEWED: 04 May 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 July 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0071

Introduction

Though church and state are constitutionally separated, religion and politics are often intertwined. As Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in his classic Democracy in America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011), the nation is both highly religious and unapologetically democratic. Some of the most effective political movements in the US political development included the active involvement of churches and religious communities. One reason is that churches and other religious communities in the United States often encourage civic engagement. Civic engagement is a broad concept that includes any activity aimed at changing society, government, or policy. Education and psychology often focus on civic activities such as volunteering or participating in a nonprofit organization. Political science and sociology often use the term “civic engagement” more narrowly to mean “political participation.” This would include activities whose aim is to affect political outcomes. Political participation includes voting, persuading others to vote, campaign contributions, working for a campaign, contacting or lobbying public officials, and protesting. A consistent empirical finding in the study of religion and civic life is that those who are involved in religion are more likely to be more civically engaged as voters, volunteers, and activists. Churches and other religious communities can become active as organizations. They can also increase the civic engagement of their adherents by mobilizing them, providing the skills to participate, or fostering democratic values. Political parties and candidates target religious voters to bring them into the political process. Studies of religion and civic engagement continue to examine the many ways religion affects civic engagement in the United States.

General Overviews

The study of religion in the United States is wide ranging, as is the literature on civic engagement. Sources that are able to adequately review the nexus of religion and civic engagement are valuable but rare. Smidt, et al. 2008 provides a comprehensive study of religion and political participation in the America. For coverage of specific issues in American religion and politics—including Weilhouwer 2009 on political participation—see Smidt, et al. 2009 on religion and politics in the United States. Essays on more specific questions on religion and civic engagement in American democracy can be found in Wilson 2007 and Wolfe and Katznelson 2010.

  • Smidt, Corwin E., Kevin R. den Dulk, James M. Penning, Stephen V. Monsma, and Douglas L. Koopman. Pews, Prayers, and Participation: Religion and Civic Responsibility in America. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2008.

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    Assesses religion’s influence on political participation in American society, exploring behavior, knowledge, and ideals. Argues that religion plays a major role in fostering civic responsibility in the United States.

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  • Smidt, Corwin E., Lyman A. Kellstedt, and James L. Guth, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Religion and American Politics. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

    DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195326529.003.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Collection of primarily quantitative essays on religion and politics in America. Presents the “Three B’s” (belief, behavior, and belonging) paradigm for understanding religion’s influence on political participation and behavior.

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  • Weilhouwer, Peter W. “Religion and Political Participation.” In The Oxford Handbook of Religion and American Politics. Edited by Corwin E. Smidt, Lyman A. Kellstedt, and James L. Guth, 394–426. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

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    Chapter reviewing literature on political participation in the United States and how religion shapes citizen involvement in politics.

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  • Wilson, J. Matthew, ed. From Pews to Polling Places: Faith and Politics in the American Religious Mosaic. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2007.

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    Collection of essays exploring the role of specific faiths in American political action. Chapters include analysis of evangelical and mainline Protestant, Catholic, Mormon, Jewish, and Muslim traditions. By including a variety of religious traditions and ideologies, including secularists, this collection broadly tackles the important question of how faith informs political activity.

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  • Wolfe, Alan, and Ira Katznelson, eds. Religion and Democracy in the United States: Danger or Opportunity? Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010.

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    Discusses the effects of religion on the American system of government by considering religion’s role in a liberal society, how religious ideas affect political views, and so on. The authors, a diverse collection of scholars in American religion and politics, helpfully discuss the state of the literature on their subject, providing a nice introduction to and overview of the topics presented.

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Reference Works

Reference works help answer the detailed questions that arise in the study of religion and civic engagement. Djupe and Olson 2008 provides an expansive review of over six hundred topics in religion and politics. Alstrom 1972 provides insight into religious groups in America and their role in broader American history. The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life provides both analysis and data on religion and politics in American politics. The Association of Religious Data Archives, as its name suggests, is a clearinghouse for data sets on religion. Religion & Politics provides daily news updates and scholarly studies of religion and politics in the United States.

Textbooks

There are no textbooks focused exclusively on religion and civic engagement in the United States, but there are two excellent texts on religion and politics more broadly. Wald and Calhoun-Brown 2010 provides both a comprehensive review of scholarship and original data analysis. Fowler, et al. 2010 differs from Wald and Calhoun-Brown 2010 by focusing less on church-state issues and institutions and more on political behavior. Both texts, however, provide an excellent overview of religion and politics.

  • Fowler, Robert Booth, Allen D. Hertzke, Laura R. Olson, and Kevin R. Den Dulk. Religion and Politics in America: Faith, Culture, and Strategic Choices. Boulder, CO: Westview, 2010.

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    Explores religious political engagement from various contexts, while also discussing the political realities that religious people and organizations must face in contemporary society.

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  • Wald, Kenneth, and Alison Calhoun-Brown. Religion and Politics in the United States. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2010.

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    Broad overview of the role of religion in American society, discussing religion’s influence in various domains of politics and policy. Discusses political behavior of various religious traditions, both majority and minority in stature.

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Journals

Those wanting to search through specific academic journals for articles on religion and civic engagement have several options. The first are journals that focus on religion and politics. The Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion is an interdisciplinary journal that covers the social science of religion. The journal regularly includes articles from political scientists or sociologists who examine religion and civic engagement. Politics and Religion is the official journal of the American Political Science Association section on religion and politics. Second, there are journals that focus on studies of civic engagement or American politics: Electoral Studies and American Politics Research. Finally, one can examine broader journals that are likely to cover religion and civic engagement. This would include Social Forces, American Journal of Political Science, American Political Science Review, Journal of Politics, and Political Research Quarterly.

History of Religion and Politics in the United States

Unlike European nations where religion and democracy were often at odds, the United States has a long history of both religiosity and civic engagement. De Tocqueville 2000 noted this curious relationship in his classic examination of American life in the 19th century. Noll and Harlow 2007 and Lambert 2010 each provide a broad historical view of religion and politics in America. Witte and Nichols 2011 trace the development of freedom of religion in the US Constitution. Wuthnow 1989 and Putnam and Campbell 2010 chart more recent developments. Jelen 2010 reviews the relationship between church and state in America. Smith 2009 provides a unique historical view of religion and politics with his history of the religion of US presidents.

  • de Tocqueville, Alexis. Democracy in America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

    DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226924564.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Originally published in 1835, this classic work gives a visitor’s perspective on, among other things, the influence of religion during the earliest days of the American republic. Discusses the importance of religious pluralism in a democratic society such as the then newly established United States.

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  • Jelen, Ted G. To Serve God and Mammon: Church-State Relations in American Politics. 2d ed. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2010.

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    Provides a comprehensive look at church-state relations in American politics, exploring the normative, constitutional, and political questions central to the debate over religion in the public square.

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  • Lambert, Frank. Religion in American Politics: A Short History. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010.

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    Traces the relationship between religion and American politics, from the country’s founding to the 21st century, suggesting that the tensions between religion and politics have existed since the dawn of the new nation.

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  • Noll, Mark A., and Luke E. Harlow, eds. Religion and American Politics: From the Colonial Period to the Present. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195317145.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Collection of essays on the interaction of religion and politics in the United States, with particular emphasis on the historical development of this relationship.

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  • Putnam, Robert D., and David E. Campbell. American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2010.

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    Using a unique series of survey data, this book explores the role of religion in politics and American life. Mixes quantitative data with qualitative vignettes of religion’s influence in various settings.

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  • Smith, Gary Scott. Faith and the Presidency from George Washington to George W. Bush. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

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    Explores the personal faiths of eleven American presidents, discussing how their religious commitments informed and shaped their presidencies.

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  • Witte, John, Jr. and Joel A. Nichols. Religion and the American Constitutional Experiment. 3d ed. Boulder, CO: Westview, 2011.

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    Provides a meticulous history of the intellectual development of religious liberty in America; the authors describe the foundational thinking for the U.S. Constitution’s provisions on religion, offer interpretations of the original intent of the founders by dissecting each word and phrase of the First Amendment, and show the development and current state of jurisprudence on religious liberty.

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  • Wuthnow, Robert. The Restructuring of American Religion. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989.

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    Argues that since World War II religious divisions have shifted from interdenominational (e.g., Catholics versus Protestants versus Jews) to intradenominational (e.g., religious conservatives versus religious liberals) in nature. Wuthnow suggests education levels and increasing mobility led to this restructuring.

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Religious Behavior and Civic Engagement

The study of religion and political behavior categorizes religion as being one of the three concepts. The so-called Three B’s of religion consist of belief, behavior, and belonging. Leege and Kellstedt 1993 provides the foundation for this tripartite view of religion using some of the first scientific survey data with both high-quality religion data and political items. Studies that use a similar approach to understand religion and civic engagement include Smidt 1999, a comparison of the United States and Canada; Driskell, et al. 2008a, which studies political participation; Campbell 2004, an examination of evangelicals; and McDaniel and Ellison 2008, an analysis of Republican mobilization of religious groups (see also Wuthnow 1999 and Driskell, et al. 2008b).

  • Campbell, David E. “Acts of Faith: Churches and Political Engagement.” Political Behavior 26 (2004): 155–180.

    DOI: 10.1023/B:POBE.0000035961.78836.5fSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explores the unique case of evangelical Protestants in political mobilization, suggesting that while their behavior does not facilitate engagement to the same extent as other Christians, their tight networks make it more likely for rapid political activity.

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  • Driskell, Robyn, Elizabeth Embry, and Larry Lyon. “Faith and Politics: The Influence of Religious Beliefs on Political Participation.” Social Science Quarterly 89 (2008a): 294–314.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6237.2008.00533.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Utilizes in-depth measures of religiosity and their effects on political participation and engagement. More refined measures than simply attendance and denominational affiliation.

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  • Driskell, Robyn L., Larry Lyon, and Elizabeth Embry. “Civic Engagement and Religious Activities: Examining the Influence of Religious Tradition and Participation.” Sociological Spectrum 28 (2008b): 578–601.

    DOI: 10.1080/02732170802206229Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Shows that being an evangelical Protestant or a black Protestant is negatively related to civic engagement and political participation. Dismisses attendance and affiliation as the primary indicators of religiosity, opting for more in-depth measures.

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  • Leege, David C., and Lyman A. Kellstedt. Rediscovering the Religious Factor in American Politics. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 1993.

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    Leege and Kellstedt worked with the American National Election Study to pilot test and then adopt more refined measures of denominational membership and attendance. This work includes examinations of voter turnout and other forms of participation.

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  • McDaniel, Eric L., and Christopher G. Ellison. “God’s Party? Race, Religion, and Partisanship over Time.” Political Research Quarterly 61 (2008): 180–191.

    DOI: 10.1177/1065912908314197Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Finds that the modern GOP has been most successful in recruiting whites, followed by Latinos and then blacks. The role of religious conservatism in these recruitment efforts is the central focus of this study.

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  • Smidt, Corwin E. “Religion and Civic Engagement: A Comparative Analysis.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 565 (1999): 176–192.

    DOI: 10.1177/0002716299565001012Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Finds that religious tradition and, more importantly, church attendance play a significant role in civic involvement. Uses survey of 3,000 Americans and 3,000 Canadians, allowing for comparative analysis across countries.

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  • Wuthnow, Robert. “Mobilizing Civic Engagement: The Changing Impact of Religious Involvement.” In Civic Engagement in American Democracy. Edited by Morris Fiorina and Theda Skocpol, 331–363. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1999.

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    Shows how the relationship between religion and civic engagement has not changed since the 1970s. Evangelicals, while civically engaged, are less likely than more liberal mainline Protestants to participate in nonchurch organizations.

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Religion’s Effects on Quality of Democratic Society

Religion can improve democracy. Or it can hurt democracy. Sometimes it does both at the same time. But on balance, most studies find religion has a positive effect on civic engagement. De Tocqueville 2000 was one of the first to note the importance of religion in American civic life. He found that the religious pluralism found in America strengthened its democracy. Conger and McGraw 2008 finds that religion can negatively impact citizenship but also finds that one positive effect is greater autonomy. Kniss and Numrich 2007 and Levitt 2008 show that religion can provide new immigrants a path into civic engagement and active citizenship.

  • Conger, Kimberly H., and Bryan T. McGraw. “Religious Conservatives and the Requirements of Citizenship: Political Autonomy.” Perspectives on Politics 6 (2008): 253–266.

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    Suggests that political mobilization and integration into deliberative bodies makes religious conservatives better citizens; draws on interviews with religious conservative activists at the state level.

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  • de Tocqueville, Alexis. Democracy in America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

    DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226924564.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A visitor’s perspective on, among other things, the influence of religion in American society, written during the early days of the American republic. Discusses the importance of religious pluralism in a democratic society such as the United States.

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  • Kniss, Fred, and Paul D. Numrich. Sacred Assemblies and Civic Engagement: How Religion Matters for America’s Newest Immigrants. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2007.

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    This ethnographic study—set in Chicago—suggests that religious differences among immigrants play just as important a role in civic accommodation as do class, race, and ethnicity.

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  • Levitt, Peggy. “Religion as a Path to Civic Engagement.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 31 (2008): 766–791.

    DOI: 10.1080/01419870701784489Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Based on a study of various immigrants living in the metropolitan Boston area, this paper examines how these citizens of the world actually think about who they are and what they want to do about it. Concludes that religion is an under-utilized, positive force that social scientists and activists can no longer afford to ignore.

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Political Engagement of Religious Communities

Churches and other religious communities are also political communities. Wald, et al. 1988 is a seminal study that shows how churches are important political contexts that shape civic engagement. Djupe and Gilbert 2009 builds on this research and shows how the social structure of churches shapes the politics of members. Some churches are more active than others: Beyerlein and Chaves 2003 provides a representative study of church political activity. Jones-Correa and Leal 2001 finds that it is the denomination or religious tradition that affects political participation—it is the local church.

  • Beyerlein, Kraig, and Mark Chaves. “The Political Activities of Religious Congregations in the United States.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 42 (2003): 229–246.

    DOI: 10.1111/1468-5906.00175Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Study of the political activity found within religious congregations. Shows that congregations vary in how they become involved in political life. Engagement often varies by religious tradition with white evangelicals mobilizing voters, African American churches registering voters, and Catholic parishes lobbying public officials.

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  • Djupe, Paul A., and Christopher P. Gilbert. The Political Influence of Churches. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

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    Explores how the social infrastructures of churches influence their members, utilizing statistical analysis. Samples from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and Episcopal Church bodies, questioning fifty clergy and 1,600 members in a random sample.

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  • Jones-Correa, Michael A., and David L. Leal. “Political Participation: Does Religion Matter?” Political Research Quarterly 54 (2001): 751–770.

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    Churches, not denominations, play a central important role for Hispanics’ political mobilization and participation. Data taken from the American National Election Studies (ANES) and the Latino National Political Survey.

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  • Wald, Kenneth D., Dennis E. Owen, and Samuel S. Hill Jr. “Churches as Political Communities.” American Political Science Review 82 (1988): 531–548.

    DOI: 10.2307/1957399Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Contextual study of religious congregations showing that religious groups provide a place for political discussions and that they often encourage political participation.

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Building Civic Skills and Resources within Religious Communities

One of the most important ways that churches and other religious communities foster civic engagement is by providing a place for members to develop the skills necessary for participation in politics. Verba, et al. 1995 is a comprehensive study of political participation finding that church activity encourages political activity because churches are places where people who otherwise would lack skills can learn how to work in groups, organize, and do the other things necessary for political action. Djupe and Gilbert 2006 and Djupe and Grant 2001 further examine this role of churches as skill builders. Djupe, et al. 2007 finds that there are important gender differences in the types of skills men and women learn in churches, differences that shape their political participation.

  • Djupe, Paul A., and Christopher P. Gilbert. “The Resourceful Believer: Generating Civic Skills in Church.” Journal of Politics 68 (2006): 116–127.

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    Finds that church activities successfully foster civic skills. Churches are, therefore, useful institutions for generating civic skills and responsibility among members, who then act in the political sphere.

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  • Djupe, Paul A., and J. Tobin Grant. “Religious Institutions and Political Participation in America.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 40 (2001): 303–314.

    DOI: 10.1111/0021-8294.00057Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Finds that church-gained civic skills and religious tradition do not directly affect political participation among those currently active in religious institutions. Instead, churches bring their parishioners more effectively into the political process through the recruitment of members to politics and linking church activity with political consequences.

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  • Djupe, Paul A., Anand E. Sokhey, and Christopher P. Gilbert. “Present but Not Accounted For? Gender Differences in Civic Resource Acquisition.” American Journal of Political Science 51 (2007): 906–920.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-5907.2007.00288.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explores how men and women differ in acquiring civic skills in church. Provides a more nuanced treatment of the mobilization process and suggests broad implications for the relationship between political difference and participatory democracy.

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  • Verba, Sidney, Kay L. Schlozman, and Henry E. Brady. Voice and Equality: Civic Volunteerism in American Politics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995.

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    Groundbreaking survey on political participation shows that people learn civic skills by being actively involved in religious groups. These civic skills are necessary for time-intensive forms of participation.

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Political Mobilization of Religious Communities

Political parties and candidates target those likely to participate and support their campaigns. Rosenstone and Hansen 1993 examines mobilization and participation across a range of political activities. They find those who attend church are more likely to be contacted by a political party and that being contacted is a strong predictor of participation. Monson and Oliphant 2007 explains how religious voters are mobilized by campaigns using nuanced microtargeting. Wielhouwer 2003 charts the mobilization of religious voters over the past few decades.

  • Monson, J. Quinn, and J. Baxter Oliphant. “Microtargeting and the Instrumental Mobilization of Religious Conservatives.” In A Matter of Faith: Religion in the 2004 Presidential Election. Edited by David E. Campbell, 95–119. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2007.

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    Provides evidence that campaigns can focus mobilization on religious voters. In the 2004 presidential election, religious people were specifically targeted with communications that framed the race in religious terms.

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  • Rosenstone, Steven J., and John M. Hansen. Mobilization, Participation, and Democracy in America. New York: Macmillan, 1993.

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    A general study of mobilization’s effects on political participation shows that those who attend church are more likely to be targeted by political groups and thus more likely to participate in politics.

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  • Wielhouwer, Peter W. “In Search of Lincoln’s Perfect List: Targeting in Grassroots Campaigns.” American Politics Research 31 (2003): 632–669.

    DOI: 10.1177/1532673X03255171Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The relationship between church involvement and being contacted by political parties has varied over time. The Democratic Party has targeted churchgoers since the 1970s; the Republican Party, however, began contacting church attenders in the 1980s.

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Clergy as Political Mobilizers

Some of the most important actors in religion and politics are from the professional clergy. Pastors, priests, rabbis, and imams lead and influence their religious communities. Guth, et al. 1997 and Smidt, et al. 2003 provide insights into the political activities of clergy across mainline and evangelical denominations. Jelen 2003 examines Catholic priests and finds that a priest’s commitment to social justice and the similarity between the politics of the priest and his congregation increase political participation of priests. Brown 2011 finds that congruity between clergy and parishioners also affects the participation of members.

  • Brown, R. Khari. “Religion, Political Discourse, and Activism among Varying Racial/Ethnic Groups in America.” Review of Religious Research 53 (2011): 301–322.

    DOI: 10.1007/s13644-011-0013-6Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Assesses the roles that political encouragement from clergy and lay involvement in political discussions play in the activism of racial/ethnic groups. Ideological symmetry between clergy and parishioners may account for the degree to which political appeals from clergy motivate varying groups to action.

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  • Guth, James L., John C. Green, Corwin E. Smidt, Lyman A. Kellstedt, and Margaret M. Poloma. The Bully Pulpit: The Politics of Protestant Clergy. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1997.

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    Gives insights into the sources of the political mobilization of Protestant conservatives and uses surveys of clergy from eight Protestant denominations: Assemblies of God, Southern Baptist Convention, United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church in the United States, Evangelical Covenant Church, Christian Reformed Church, Reformed Church in American, and Disciples of Christ.

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  • Jelen, Ted G. “Catholic Priests and the Political Order: The Political Behavior of Catholic Pastors.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 42 (2003): 591–604.

    DOI: 10.1046/j.1468-5906.2003.00205.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Political participation among priests was predicted by the importance attached to social justice concerns, and by congruence between the social and economic views of each priest and his congregation.

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  • Smidt, Corwin, Sue Crawford, Melissa Deckman, et al. “The Political Attitudes and Activities of Mainline Protestant Clergy in the Election of 2000: A Study of Six Denominations.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 42 (2003): 515–532.

    DOI: 10.1046/j.1468-5906.2003.00200.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Many factors influence how engaged mainline clergy are in political activities, with certain constraints acting upon their ability to be politically active.

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Religion and Civic Engagement in American Elections

Religion is most influential in electoral politics, although religious groups often vote differently from each other. Religious people are more likely to be politically active than other citizens. As a result, parties and candidates for office pay heed to religion when running for office. Green 2007 provides an overview of the study of religion in American elections. For studies of specific national elections, see Smidt, et al. 2010; Campbell 2007; Green, et al. 2006; Guth and Green 1991; and Tate 1991. Religion’s influence is not limited to national elections, of course. Olson, et al. 2003 examines one example in their study of the role of religion in a statewide referendum in South Carolina on the state lottery.

  • Campbell, David E., ed. A Matter of Faith: Religion in the 2004 Presidential Election. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2007.

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    Collection of empirical essays documenting different roles religion played in the 2004 presidential election. Sophisticated use of survey data and analysis to show religion’s effect on election from various perspectives.

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  • Green, John C. The Faith Factor: How Religion Influences American Elections. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2007.

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    Uses surveys and polls from recent presidential elections to show how religion influences electoral politics in a variety of ways. Explores religion gaps, gender, age, and activism, and their effects on American elections.

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  • Green, John C., Mark J. Rozell, and Clyde Wilcox, eds. The Values Campaign? The Christian Right and the 2004 Elections. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2006.

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    Examines activities of the Christian Right at state level during the 2004 elections. Combines survey/polling data and interviews with activists.

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  • Guth, James L., and John C. Green, eds. The Bible and the Ballot Box: Religion and Politics in the 1988 Election. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1991.

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    Collection of essays and reports about religion in the 1988 election. Utilizes surveys of various religious groups, elite interviews, and analysis of more familiar exit polls and data sources.

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  • Olson, Laura R., Karen V. Guth, and James L. Guth. “The Lotto and the Lord: Religious Influences on the Adoption of a Lottery in South Carolina.” Sociology of Religion 64 (2003): 87–110.

    DOI: 10.2307/3712270Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explores the extent to which involvement in evangelical Protestantism, political salience of religion, and clergy cues affected public support for a state lottery. Uses data from a poll of 450 South Carolinians who had voted in two previous elections.

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  • Smidt, Corwin, Kevin den Dulk, Bryan Froehle, James Penning, Stephen Monsma, and Douglas Koopman. The Disappearing God Gap? Religion in the 2008 Presidential Election. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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    Suggests that it is not denominational gaps that matter in political behavior, but rather the level of religious traditionalism or conservatism across denominations and traditions. From this perspective, the “God gap” is still around.

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  • Tate, Katherine. “Black Political Participation in the 1984 and 1988 Presidential Elections.” American Political Science Review 85 (1991): 1159–1176.

    DOI: 10.2307/1963940Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Shows the importance of church membership and involvement in black political organizations in motivating black turnout in two presidential elections. Uses telephone survey data of black eligible voters.

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Engagement beyond Politics: Volunteerism and Trust

Civic engagement can be equated with political participation, but it can also be seen as more than politics. Civic engagement can include any participation in civic life. One of the most common forms of nonpolitical civic engagement is volunteerism. Wuthnow 1991 finds that the religious are more likely to volunteer, but often this volunteerism is to help those within the religious community. Liedhegener and Kremp 2007 provides additional understanding of the relationship between religion and volunteerism through the study of Catholicism in the United States. Civic engagement is also about trust in others. Mencken, et al. 2009 finds that perceptions of God shape how people trust others. In their study of youth, Crystal and DeBell 2002 finds that religiosity may not improve political participation, but it does shape community service and understandings of citizenship.

  • Crystal, David S., and Matthew DeBell. “Sources of Civic Orientation among American Youth: Trust, Religious Valuation, and Attributions of Responsibility.” Political Psychology 23 (2002): 113–132.

    DOI: 10.1111/0162-895X.00273Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Presents the factors contributing to American students’ sense of civic responsibility. Among these, religious valuation plays a role in effective understandings of community service and engagement, and in how one conceptualizes citizenship.

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  • Liedhegener, Antonius, and Werner Kremp, eds. Civil Society, Civic Engagement, and Catholicism in the U.S. Papers presented at a symposium titled “Civil Society, Civic Engagement and Catholicism in the U.S.,” held in Lambrecht/Pfalz and Mainz, Germany, 18–20 May 2006. Atlantische Texte 27. Trier, Germany: WVT Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2007.

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    A collection of essays exploring the link between the Catholic faith and civic engagement and volunteerism, set in the US context.

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  • Mencken, F. Carson, Christopher Bader, and Elizabeth Embry. “In God We Trust: Images of God and Trust in the United States among the Highly Religious.” Sociological Perspectives 52 (2009): 23–38.

    DOI: 10.1525/sop.2009.52.1.23Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Uses the 2005 Baylor Religion Survey to explore how various perceptions of God influence levels of social trust: a loving conception of God breeds higher trust, while an angry conception of God breeds lower trust.

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  • Wuthnow, Robert. Acts of Compassion: Caring for Others and Helping Ourselves. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991.

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    Finds church attendance may be related to greater volunteerism because those who attend will have stronger social ties to others in the church and will be more likely to know the needs of others in their religious group.

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Religious Coalitions in Politics

Political parties and social movements have always included religious groups. Historically, religious divisions often fell along ethnic lines. In recent decades, there has been a reorganization of religion and politics in the United States. Wuthnow 1989 shows how religion in the United States has been restructured since the 1940s. Green 2010; Layman 2001; and Kohut, et al. 2000 describe changes in religious coalitions and the current religious makeup of the parties. There is debate about the existence of a “God gap” in politics, with more religious voters supporting the Republicans. Olson and Green 2006 finds evidence of a “God gap” beginning in 1992. Sullivan 2008 finds that Democrats may be closing this gap. Smidt, et al. 2010 finds that party coalitions are less about denomination and more about religiosity.

  • Green, John. “The Party Faithful: Religion and Party Politics in America.” In The Oxford Handbook on American Political Parties and Interest Groups. Edited by L. Sandy Maisel and Jefferey M. Berry, 143–161. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

    DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199542628.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Describes the religious coalitions within the Republican Party and Democratic Party. Compares the coalitions in 2008 with those in 1952. While religious coalitions were important in both years, the coalitions have changed. In 2008 the Democratic coalition was made up of African American Protestants, less observant white Christians, and seculars. The Republican Party was largely white evangelical Protestant and more observant members of other Christian traditions.

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  • Kohut, Andrew, John C. Green, Scott Keeter, and Robert C. Toth. Diminishing Divide: Religion’s Changing Role in American Politics. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2000.

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    Utilizing a broad collection of survey data from various academic sources, explores the evolving role of religion in politics in the United States. Outlines the history of religion’s role in American politics, while also making predictions about the place of religion in the future of the American polity.

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  • Layman, Geoffrey. The Great Divide: Religious and Cultural Conflict in American Party Politics. New York: Columbia University Press, 2001.

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    Explores the role of religion in the Republican and Democratic parties, suggesting that the landscape of religion and American politics is more complex than “culture war” rhetoric would have us believe. Utilizes multiple data sources (including American National Election Studies, ANES, survey data) on party members, activists, and elites to draw conclusions.

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  • Olson, Laura R., and John C. Green. “The Religion Gap.” PS: Political Science & Politics (July 2006): 455–459.

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    Charts the development of a “God gap” in American politics in which more religious voters aligned more with the Republican Party and its candidates while more secular voters sided with Democrats.

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  • Smidt, Corwin, Kevin den Dulk, Bryan Froehle, James Penning, Stephen Monsma, and Douglas Koopman. The Disappearing God Gap? Religion in the 2008 Presidential Election. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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    Suggests that it is not denominational gaps that matter in political behavior, but rather the level of religious traditionalism or conservatism across denominations and traditions: from this perspective, the “God gap” is still around.

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  • Sullivan, Amy. The Party Faithful: How and Why Democrats Are Closing the God Gap. New York: Scribner, 2008.

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    Uses interviews with Democratic politicians and campaign advisers, as well as religious leaders, to explore how the Democratic Party came to alienate the religious in American society and what they are doing to win them back.

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  • Wuthnow, Robert. The Restructuring of American Religion. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989.

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    Argues that since World War II, religious divisions have shifted from interdenominational (e.g., Catholics versus Protestants versus Jews) to intradenominational (e.g., religious conservatives versus religious liberals) in nature; Wuthnow suggests education levels and increasing mobility led to this restructuring.

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Christian Right Movement

The most influential religious political movement of the past four decades is the Christian Right movement. Beginning in the late 1970s, this movement has changed the nature of the Republican Party, particularly at the state level. Wilcox and Robinson 2010 gives the history and describes the current state of this movement. Conger 2009 and Green, et al. 2003 analyze the movement’s influence at the state level. Green, et al. 2000 and Deckman Fallon 2004 show how Christian Right groups shaped local and state elections.

  • Conger, Kimberly H. The Christian Right in Republican State Politics. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230101746Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A study of the Christian Right political movement at the state level. Compares the influence of the Christian Right on state Republican parties. Uses case studies of Indiana, Missouri, and Arizona, as well as quantitative data from other states to show how political opportunity and resources shape the strategies of Christian Right activists.

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  • Deckman Fallon, Melissa. School Board Battles: The Christian Right in Local Politics. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2004.

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    Highly original study of the Christian Right’s influence on local school board elections. Drawing on interviews and surveys (plus two case studies) to explore how the Christian Right has affected American politics via school boards, this study paints a complex picture of the relationship (or lack thereof) between Christian conservative candidates and the national Christian Right organization.

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  • Green, John C., Mark Rozell, and Clyde Wilcox, eds. Prayers in the Precincts: The Christian Right in the 1998 Elections. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2000.

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    Focuses on the Christian Right’s performance in the 1998 elections, trying to explain why the movement was not as successful as many thought it would be. Highlights state and local elections, providing broad coverage of the movement in this particular election.

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  • Green, John C., Mark Rozell, and Clyde Wilcox, eds. The Christian Right in American Politics: Marching to the Millennium. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2003.

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    In-depth historical analysis of the Christian Right in American politics, from 1980 to 2000, exploring the movement’s activity in fourteen states across the country, from Maine to California and Washington to Florida.

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  • Wilcox, Clyde, and Carin Robinson. Onward Christian Soldiers? The Religious Right in American Politics. 4th ed. Boulder, CO: Westview, 2010.

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    Presents the history of the Christian Right in American politics, focusing on the movement’s rise (and possible fall) in the 20th and 21st centuries. Discusses the key individuals and organizations comprising the Christian Right over time, and what recent history can tell us about the future of the movement.

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African American Churches

Churches in the African American community have been highly influential in both social movements and politics. McDaniel 2008 provides a comprehensive study of the reasons for politicalization of African American churches. Harris 1999 shows how African American churches promote political activity. McClerking and McDaniel 2005 provides a close look at how politically engaged churches are organized and how they operate. Such churches are often engaged in different ways than white churches. Brown 2006 finds that politically engaged African American churches are more likely to register voters and work with candidates than white churches are. Cavendish 2000 finds that differences between white and black congregations is not a Protestant-only phenomenon; African American Catholic parishes differ in their civic engagement from white parishes. Calhoun-Brown 1996 and Brown and Brown 2003 show some of the ways that African American religion provides the social and psychological resources to members, resources that help make up for the lack of material resources that would otherwise prohibit civic engagement (see also McDaniel 2003).

  • Brown, Khari R. “Racial Differences in Congregation-based Political Activism.” Social Forces 84 (2006): 1581–1604.

    DOI: 10.1353/sof.2006.0045Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Despite a lack of resources relative to white churches, black churches are more effective in carrying out voter registration efforts. This is due to the expectations for black congregations’ political activity, as well as the low cost of mobilizing voter registration drives.

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  • Brown, Khari R., and Ronald E. Brown. “Faith and Works: Church-based Social Capital Resources and African American Political Activism.” Social Forces 82 (2003): 617–641.

    DOI: 10.1353/sof.2004.0005Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Simply attending church will not lead to increased political mobilization or activity among blacks. Rather, it is membership in black churches with particular cultures of civic responsibility or political discussion that leads to political engagement among African Americans.

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  • Calhoun-Brown, Allison. “African American Churches and Political Mobilization: The Psychological Impact of Organizational Resources.” Journal of Politics 58 (1996): 935–953.

    DOI: 10.2307/2960144Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Finds that while church attendance alone is not a sufficient motivator for political activity among blacks, attendance at a particularly political black church had a significant impact on voter turnout during the 1984 elections.

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  • Cavendish, James C. “Church-based Community Activism: A Comparison of Black and White Catholic Congregations.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 39 (2000): 64–77.

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    Shows that black churches are significantly more likely than white churches to engage in social service and social action activities. Supports the argument that the extra-religious functions of black churches—both Protestant and Catholic—are more deeply ingrained in these religious institutions than is suggested by some analysts.

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  • Harris, Frederick C. Something within: Religion in African-American Political Activism. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

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    Uses mixed-methods (ethnography, history, and survey research) to explore how religion plays a role in black political activism and posits that “Afro-Christianity” encourages political mobilization among African Americans.

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  • McClerking, Harwood K., and Eric L. McDaniel. “Belonging and Doing: Political Churches and Black Political Participation.” Political Psychology 26 (2005): 721–733.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9221.2005.00441.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explores the organizational and institutional structures of “political churches” in the black community. Finds these factors to matter a great deal in when/how political churches mobilize.

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  • McDaniel, Eric. “Black Clergy in the 2000 Election.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 42 (2003): 533–546.

    DOI: 10.1046/j.1468-5906.2003.00201.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Finds that black clergy readily embrace their roles as community leaders, while also finding real differences among denominations in terms of their policy preferences and what their role actually is. Uses data from a survey of black clergy.

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  • McDaniel, Eric. Politics in the Pews: The Political Mobilization of Black Churches. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2008.

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    Explores the relationship between political action and religion in predominantly black churches, suggesting that institutional, traditional, and cultural factors influence the degree to which a black church is more or less political.

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Civic Engagement of Specific Religious Traditions

Studies of specific religious traditions help show what features of a religion are unique and which ones are similar to other traditions. Wilson 2007 provides essays covering many religious traditions in the United States. Studies of specific traditions include Wuthnow and Evans 2002 on mainline Protestantism, Heyer, et al. 2008 and Liedhegener and Kremp 2007 on American Catholics, and Djupe and Sokhey 2003 on Jewish rabbis. Finally, since 9/11, scholars have studied whether Muslim religious communities improve civic engagement and citizenship or whether they inhibit engagement with the broader polity. Amaney 2005 finds that, as in other religions, involvement in a mosque increases political participation (see also Ayers 2008).

  • Amaney, Jamal. “The Political Participation and Engagement of Muslim Americans Mosque Involvement and Group Consciousness.” American Politics Research 33 (2005): 521–544.

    DOI: 10.1177/1532673X04271385Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that the mosque involvement increases political participation. Mosques mobilize and teach civic engagement. Mosques also promote and foster group consciousness among both Arab and black Muslims.

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  • Ayers, John W., and C. Richard Hofstetter. “American Muslim Political Participation Following 9/11: Religious Belief, Political Resources, Social Structures, and Political Awareness.” Politics and Religion 1 (2008): 3–26.

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    Among American Muslims, religious beliefs may decrease political participation. Religious resources, however, may increase civic engagement. Uses a nationwide survey of American Muslims conducted in 2004.

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  • Djupe, Paul A., and Anand E. Sokhey. “American Rabbis in the 2000 Elections.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 42 (2003): 563–576.

    DOI: 10.1046/j.1468-5906.2003.00203.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Reports on a survey of American rabbis in the 2000 election, which included the first Jewish vice-presidential candidate. Rabbis, regardless of their religious conservatism, supported Democrats. Support for the Democrat ticket was greatest among rabbis with greater civic engagement.

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  • Heyer, Kristin E., Mark J. Rozell, and Michael A. Genovese, eds. Catholics and Politics: The Dynamic Tension between Faith and Power. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2008.

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    Social scientific, historical, and moral essays on Catholicism in American politics. Essays cover four broad themes: Catholic leaders; Catholics in the public; Catholics and the Federal Government; and international policy and the Vatican.

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  • Liedhegener, Antonius, and Werner Kremp, eds. Civil Society, Civic Engagement, and Catholicism in the U.S. Papers presented at a symposium titled “Civil Society, Civic Engagement and Catholicism in the U.S.,” held in Lambrecht/Pfalz and Mainz, Germany, 18–20 May 2006. Atlantische Texte 27. Trier, Germany: WVT Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2007.

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    Explores the link between the Catholic faith and civic engagement and volunteerism, set in the US context.

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  • Wilson, J. Matthew, ed. From Pews to Polling Places: Faith and Politics in the American Religious Mosaic. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2007.

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    Collection of essays exploring the role of specific faiths in American political action. Chapters include analysis of evangelical and mainline Protestant, Catholic, Mormon, Jewish, and Muslim traditions. By including a variety of religious traditions and ideologies, including secularists, this collection broadly tackles the important question of how faith informs political activity.

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  • Wuthnow, Robert, and John H. Evans, eds. The Quiet Hand of God: Faith-based Activism and the Public Role of Mainline Protestantism. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.

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    Collection of essays on the civic engagement of mainline Protestants. Long the most powerful religious group in American culture, the mainline tradition continues to be politically engaged on a wide variety of issues including poverty, environmentalism, family, civil rights, and sexuality. Chapters cover a wide breadth of issues and approaches to the study of the mainline tradition in America.

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