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Reltrad Coding Problems and a New Repository

  • Ed Stetzer (a1) and Ryan P. Burge (a2)

While there have been many approaches to classifying religious traditions in the social sciences (see Hackett and Lindsay 2008), the most popular approach is the religious tradition classification scheme, which was most carefully systematized by Steensland et al. (2000). Their widely-embraced article argued that the most accurate typology of religiosity was to sort individuals into seven distinct groups: evangelical Protestant, mainline Protestant, black Protestant, Jewish, Catholic, other religious groups, and no religion. This approach has become popularly known as “reltrad” and its usage in academic writing is voluminous. A brief search of Google Scholar indicates that over 900 published articles and books utilized the reltrad framework. However, the implementation of this typology has never been fully and accurately operationalized.

Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Ed Stetzer, LifeWay Research, 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN 37234. E-mail:; or to: Ryan P. Burge, Department of Political Science, Eastern Illinois University, Coleman Hall 2020, Charleston, IL 61920. E-mail:
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Burge Ryan. 2013. “Using Matching to Investigate the Relationship between Religion and Tolerance.” Politics and Religion 6:264281.
Hackett Conrad, and Lindsay D. Michael. 2008. “Measuring Evangelicalism: Consequences of Different Operationalization Strategies.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 47:499514.
Johnson David, Scheitle Christopher, and Ecklund Elaine. 2015. “Individual Religiosity and Orientation towards Science: Reformulating Relationships.” Sociological Science 2:106124.
Putnam Robert D., and Campbell David E.. 2012. American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
Steensland Brian, Park Jerry Z., Regnerus Mark D., Robinson Lynn D., Bradford Wilcox W., and Woodberry Robert D.. 2000. “The Measure of American Religion: Toward Improving the State of the Art.” Social Forces 79:291318.
Stetzer Ed. 2015a. “In a Dramatic Shift, the American Church Is More Evangelical than Ever.” (Accessed on September 1, 2015).
Stetzer Ed. 2015b. “The Rise of the Evangelical ‘Nones’ -” (Accessed on September 1, 2015).
Woodberry Robert D., Park Jerry Z., Kellstedt Lyman A., Regnerus Mark D., and Steensland Brian. 2012. “The Measure of American Religious Traditions: Theoretical and Measurement Considerations.” Social Forces 91:6573.
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Politics and Religion
  • ISSN: 1755-0483
  • EISSN: 1755-0491
  • URL: /core/journals/politics-and-religion
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