Research

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Selected Recent Publications

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Secularized Evangelical Discourse

We analyze how Americans of all religious backgrounds evaluate a secularized evangelical discourse (SED)—a repertoire of political statements that have roots in evangelical Christian history. We find that a majority of Americans, not just evangelicals, respond positively to propositions that employ SED. 

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The Politics of Religious Prejudice and Tolerance

We identify a cultural style that structures Americans’ attitudes toward religious others: support for public religious expression (PRE). Using data from a recent nationally representative survey, we find a strong relationship between high support for PRE, negative attitudes toward religious out-groups, and generalized intolerance. 

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Gender Differences in Nonreligion

Social risk is relevant to understanding the relationship between gender and religiosity. Using nationally representative survey data, we show that women and members of other marginalized groups avoid the most socially risky forms of nonreligious identification. 

 

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Atheists and Other Cultural Outsiders

We analyze anti-atheist sentiment in the United States in 2014, finding that it is strong, persistent, and driven by moral concerns and national identity. These concerns also spill over to shape attitudes toward those who are spiritual but not religious (SBNRs) and influence evaluations of recent declines in religious identification.

Current Projects

No Church in the Wild: The Politics of American Nonreligion

Dissertation Abstract: The number of Americans with no religious identification has grown dramatically in recent years, from just 9% of the population in 1990 to 23% in 2016. Current research argues that much of this growth is political, because one of the key motives for disaffiliation has been a backlash to the relationship between organized religion and conservative politics forged by the New Christian Right in the late 1970s and 80s. If this is the case, will the growth of nonreligious Americans have a substantive political impact? If not, why not? Using two unique, nationally representative survey data sets and a comprehensive study of nonreligious advocacy groups, my dissertation addresses a gap in our knowledge about democratic engagement among both strongly identified nonreligious Americans and the majority who prefer to be just "nothing in particular." We do not know what issues this later group cares about or whether their interests align with the work of nonreligious community organizations. More broadly, my interdisciplinary work in sociology, political science, and social psychology allows this research to answer bigger questions about how culture shapes the way people make political decisions.