The Religious Impact: Understanding the Influence of Religiosity on Attitudes Toward Policy Issues
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
The purpose of this dissertation is to shed light on the influence of religion on Americans’ attitudes toward policy concerns. How do denominational affiliation, religious participation, and religious beliefs influence one’s views on social and/or economic policies? I consider the impact of religious belonging, religious behaving, and religious believing—also known as the “3B’s” – on public opinion toward contemporary issues in the United States. In this comprehensive analysis, I discover the importance of including the religious dimensions in models of public policy attitudes. The first part of this project is to outline the current state of the literature and present existing theories concerning the influence of religion in politics. I offer considerations for developing a unified theory that involves (1) the influence of the clergy and religious social groups and (2) religious beliefs as the driving force behind (most) policy opinions. In the second part of this project, I model the effect of the three dimensions of religion on (1) moral policy issues, (2) economic policy issues, and (3) hybrid policy issues. Overall, I find that religious belonging, religious behaving, and religious believing influence moral policy concerns; however, religious beliefs are most useful in explaining economic policy issues. The influence of religion on hybrid policies—or those policies with both value-based and economic components—is largely dependent upon the nature of the hybrid issue. I find that policies regarding humanitarian—arguably value-based—concerns are influenced by all three religious’ dimensions; whereas, those issues that have predominately economic components are affected by religious beliefs.
Collectively, I demonstrate that religious belonging, religious behaving, and religious believing are important considerations when studying public opinion on policy concerns. I suspect that religious organization’s standings on moral or value-based issues are well-defined while doctrine on economic issues are generally ambiguous.
McCarthy, Angela Farizo, "The Religious Impact: Understanding the Influence of Religiosity on Attitudes Toward Policy Issues" (2019). LSU Doctoral Dissertations. 4993.