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Title: The Social Influence of Religious Congregations on Political Behavior
Authors: Snell, Steven Andrew
Advisors: Mendelberg, Tali
Contributors: Politics Department
Keywords: political behavior
religion and politics
voting and elections
Subjects: Political Science
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: The main research question guiding this dissertation is "How does participation with a religious community shape Americans' political behavior?" This research stems from the longstanding finding that Americans participate with local places of worship at a rate that far exceeds participation rates with any other type of group and my observation that there is no scholarly treatment of how adherents from religiously and geographically diverse congregations are influenced by their local worship community. I seek to fill this void by systematically measuring congregation-level norms regarding political participation and partisanship across religious traditions and denominations and by evaluating the extent to which these norms constrain congregants' political behaviors, especially their levels of political participation and their vote choices. Building on a social theory of religious influence, I propose that congregations foster norms about politics and that these norms generally shape congregants' behavior. Furthermore, I theorize that social factors of embeddedness and surveillance moderate the extent to which congregants are constrained by these norms, the first operating primarily through norm internalization or conformity and the second leading to compliance or obeisance. Using a combination of new and existing survey data, I demonstrate that congregations are diverse in terms of their political norms and that traditional schema of religious tradition and denomination do not differentiate congregations in terms of their political norms. I also show that congregants exhibit a high level of norm constraint, participating in politics when the congregation promotes participation and reporting vote choices that are consistent with the congregation's partisan norm. Finally, I find that embeddedness predicts greater norm-consistent behavior, but surveillance generally does not. Nevertheless, there is one critical exception. Among congregants in right-leaning congregations, surveillance explains major differences in reported voting behavior: those congregants who say that others in their congregation will find out their political behavior are much more likely to comply with their perception of the political norm. This finding is confirmed in survey experiments: when simply primed with their congregational affiliation, congregants who perceive their congregation to be politically conservative are much less likely to say that they supported Democratic candidates.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Politics

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