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Acting for God? Types and Motivations of Clergy Political Activity

  • Rebecca A. Glazier (a1)

Clergy members are often important political actors. Yet, scholars rarely distinguish among different types of clergy political activities. Here, I argue for three disaggregated categories of clergy political activity: personal, general congregation level, and election-specific congregation level. Data from two sources—the Cooperative Clergy Study and the Little Rock Congregations Study—demonstrate that important differences exist across these categories, with the majority of model variables significantly influencing different clergy political activities in different directions. For instance, a conservative ideology and affiliation with a Black Protestant church both negatively influence personal political activities, like donating to a campaign, while also positively influencing election-related political activities in the congregation, like distributing voter guides. Similarly, providential religious beliefs increase general congregation-level political activities, while decreasing personal and electoral activities. These relationships are obscured when political activity is considered in the aggregate, suggesting that clergy political activities are nuanced; different activities are driven by different motivations.

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Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Rebecca A. Glazier, School of Public Affairs, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Little Rock, AR. E-mail:
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The author wishes to thank M. Kent Jennings, Greg Shufeldt, Corwin Smidt, and Jacob Neiheisel for comments on previous versions of this article. The data from the Cooperative Clergy Study were collected through a cooperative effort led by the Henry Institute at Calvin College and were accessed through the Association of Religion Data Archives. The data from the Little Rock Congregations Study were collected with the support of an Alma Ostrom and Leah Hopkins Awan Civic Education research grant, administered by the American Political Science Association's Centennial Center for Political Science and Public Affairs. Data are available from the author upon request.

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