Research

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Selected Recent Publications

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The Politics of Religious Prejudice and Tolerance for Cultural Others

We identify a distinct 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 and consistent relationship between high support for PRE, negative attitudes toward religious out-groups, and generalized intolerance. 

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From Existential to Social Understandings of Risk: Examining Gender Differences in Nonreligion

Social risk is relevant to understanding the relationship between gender and religiosity. We show that women and members of other marginalized groups avoid the most socially risky forms of nonreligion.

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Atheists and Other Cultural Outsiders: Moral Boundaries and the Non-Religious in the United States

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 about atheists 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 association 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 non-religious 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 individuals make political decisions.