Why do people lose trust in institutions and decide to stop participating in them? Does opting out of one institution lead people to opt out of others?

My research focuses on how our understandings of community and authority shape how we participate in civic life. This research currently focuses on two areas:

The Politics of Nonreligion

The number of Americans with no religious identification has grown dramatically from just 9% of the population in 1990 to 23% in 2018. Does this have a substantive political impact? My dissertation examines voter turnout, public opinion trends, and political advocacy from forty nonreligious groups to advance what we know about democratic engagement among both strongly identified nonreligious Americans and the majority who prefer to be just "nothing in particular."


Recent Publications:

Edgell, Penny, Jacqui Frost, and Evan Stewart. 2017. “From Existential to Social Understandings of Risk: Examining Gender Differences in Nonreligion.” Social Currents 4(6):556–74.

Edgell, Penny, Douglas Hartmann, Evan Stewart, and Joseph Gerteis. 2016. “Atheists and Other Cultural Outsiders: Moral Boundaries and the Non-Religious in the United States.Social Forces 95(2):607–38.

Stewart, Evan. 2016. “The True (Non)Believer? Atheists and the Atheistic in the United States.” Pp. 137–60 in Annual Review of the Sociology of Religion, edited by R. Cipriani and F. Garelli. Brill.

Public Religious Expression

How do people use religious commitments to make sense of politics? This work focuses on how religious authority in public life is a better way to explain political preferences, rather than focusing on personal religious beliefs or practices.


Recent Publications:

Edgell, Penny, Evan Stewart, Sarah Catherine Billups, and Ryan Larson. 2019. “The Stakes of Symbolic Boundaries.The Sociological Quarterly. In Press.

Delehanty, Jack, Penny Edgell, and Evan Stewart. 2019. “Christian America? Secularized Evangelical Discourse and the Boundaries of National Belonging.Social Forces 97(3):1283–1306.

Stewart, Evan, Penny Edgell, and Jack Delehanty. 2018. “The Politics of Religious Prejudice and Tolerance for Cultural Others.The Sociological Quarterly 59(1):17–39.