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Who's In and Who's Out: The Politics of Religious Norms

  • Christopher F. Karpowitz (a1), J. Quin Monson (a1) and Kelly D. Patterson (a1)


What are the boundaries for discussing a candidate's religion? In the 2008 and the 2012 presidential campaigns, the religious beliefs and practices of at least one of the candidates became a subject of intense scrutiny from the media and the public. To ascertain the limits of social discourse for religious out-group, we conducted a survey experiment on the 2012 CCES survey. We find strong evidence that norms of social discourse do not apply to all religions equally. Furthermore, the application of norms differs by political party because Democrats and Republicans express concerns about different religious groups. Overall, there is a large difference for Muslims when it comes to social discourse. Finally, individuals have internalized the norms because most of them are willing to sanction those who violate them, even if the norms on social discourse are not applied equally among American voters.


Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Christopher F. Karpowitz, Brigham Young University, Department of Political Science, Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy, 745 SWKT, Provo, UT 84602. E-mail:; or to: J. Quin Monson, Brigham Young University, Department of Political Science, Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy, 745 SWKT, Provo, UT 84602. E-mail:; or to: Kelly D. Patterson, Brigham Young University, Department of Political Science, Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy, 745 SWKT, Provo, UT 84602. E-mail:


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