American Politics & Public Policy Workshop: Michele Margolis (U Penn), “From Politics to the Pews: How Partisanship Affects Religious Behaviors and Identifications in America”
“From Politics to the Pews: How Partisanship Affects Religious Behaviors and Identifications in America”
Michele Margolis, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania
Abstract: This paper challenges the widespread assumption in American politics that core social identities-such as religion, race, and ethnicity-shape politics but are, themselves, largely impervious to political influence. I do this by looking at religion, a social identity whose political relevance is routinely discussed in both academic and non-academic circles. I develop a theory that there is a time period in an individual’s life when a fully formed political identity can have a meaningful effect on a weak religious identity. Using an experiment and two panel studies to test my theory, I find that when people are in the process of raising children—a time that pulls many back into the religious fold—their partisanship can change key aspects of their religious identity. Although many bemoan religion’s role in creating a polarized political arena, this blame may be unfairly assigned as partisans themselves help produce an increasingly polarized electorate.
Speaker Bio: Michele Margolis (MIT PhD, 2014) is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania. She studies public opinion, political psychology, and religion and politics. Her work has been supported by the National Science Foundation and appeared in the American Journal of Political Science, Electoral Studies, and Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. Her current book project explains the reciprocal relationship between political and religious identities. It not only identifies the conditions under which religious identities affect political stances but also when political identities influence religious beliefs, practices, and identification.
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