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The Gospel of Reform: The Social Gospel and Health Care Reform Attitudes

  • Eric L. McDaniel (a1) and Kenneth M. Miller (a2)

Most research on the social gospel, a religious interpretation that obliges people to care for the less fortunate and correct social inequalities, has focused on elite rhetoric. However, it is not clear the extent to which members of the public also adhere to this socioreligious philosophy. The moralistic tone of the 2010 health care reform debate has led many to argue that there is a revival of the social gospel. To what extent has this debate gained traction among citizens writ large? Which individuals will be most likely to be influenced by elite discourse that draws social gospel? Using two unique surveys and an experiment, we demonstrate that Social Gospel adherents have distinctive political attitudes. Specifically, they are more attentive to social policy issues and are more supportive of expanding the social safety net. Second, we demonstrate that elite rhetoric that draws from the Social Gospel tradition can influence policy preferences.

Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Eric L. McDaniel, University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station A1800 Austin, Texas 78712. E-mail:
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