a1 University of Notre Dame
a2 University of Akron
The public opinion literature shows that cues about the policy positions of social groups influence citizens’ political attitudes. We assess whether cues about religious groups’ positions affect attitudes on three issues: protection of homosexuals in the workplace, improving the socio-economic conditions of African-Americans, and government-provided health insurance. We argue that such cues should shape issue attitudes and condition the impact of religious and political orientations on those attitudes. That should be especially true on issues closely connected to religion and for citizens with low levels of political awareness. We assess this argument with a survey experiment pitting pairs of religious groups on opposite sides of issues. We find that religious group cues matter primarily for cultural attitudes, among less politically-aware individuals, and for the religiously unaffiliated, Democrats, and liberals. The dominant effect is negative, moving these groups away from the positions of religious leaders and especially evangelical leaders.
Todd Adkins is a PhD Candidate in Political Science at the University of Notre Dame. His focus is on attitudes toward cultural and social policy in the United States, and in particular, the impact of policy activity on mass opinion over time. Before attending graduate school, Todd worked in Washington, D.C. and several state capitals in various legislative advocacy roles.
Geoffrey C. Layman is a Professor of Political Science and Director of Graduate Studies at the University of Notre Dame. His research focuses on party politics, political behavior, and religion and politics in the United States.
David E. Campbell is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame, and the Director of the Rooney Center for the Study of American Democracy. He has published widely on civic engagement, political behavior, and religion and politics in the United States.
John C. Green is a Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Director of the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron, and a Senior Research Advisor at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. He has done extensive research on religion and American Politics.
A previous version of this paper was presented at the 2011 annual meeting of the Southern Political Science Association. The authors would like to thank James Guth, Katherine Knutson, and Stephen Mockabee as well as the anonymous reviewers for their comments on this research. Additional thanks to Tom Carsey and Ozan Kalkan for methodological assistance and advice. Support for the data collected in this study was provided by the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics (University of Akron) and the Rooney Center for American Democracy (University of Notre Dame).