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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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