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Religion and Secularism among American Party Activists

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 February 2016

Geoffrey C. Layman*
Affiliation:
University of Notre Dame
Christopher L. Weaver*
Affiliation:
University of Notre Dame
*
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Geoffrey C. Layman, Department of Political Science, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556. E-mail: glayman@nd.edu; or to: Christopher L. Wever, Department of Political Science, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556. E-mail: cweaver4@nd.edu
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Geoffrey C. Layman, Department of Political Science, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556. E-mail: glayman@nd.edu; or to: Christopher L. Wever, Department of Political Science, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556. E-mail: cweaver4@nd.edu

Abstract

Prior work has shown party activists and religious divisions to be two of the leading causes of party polarization in American politics. Using the Convention Delegate Studies, we examine the interaction between these two culprits and their impact on party polarization. We leverage a novel measure of secularism in the latest wave of the Convention Delegate Studies to demonstrate that active secularism is distinct both conceptually and statistically from low religiosity. Furthermore, we show that both religiosity and secularism drive party activists to take more extreme policy positions, to identify themselves as more ideologically extreme, and to exhibit less support for compromise. As the Democratic and Republican Parties have become more secular and religious, respectively, these results suggest religious polarization may compound existing divisions between the two parties and exacerbate the partisan divide in American politics.

Type
Symposium: The Politics of Religious Alliances
Copyright
Copyright © Religion and Politics Section of the American Political Science Association 2016 

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