Article

Authoritarianism and Public Opinion on Church and State in the United States (2016)

in: Politics and religion, Volume 10, Issue 01

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Abstract

Abstract
Despite the continued debate over the relationship between church and state in American politics, our understanding of the sources of attitudes on controversies over religious establishment and religious free exercise is limited. I argue that authoritarianism is an unrecognized but important predictor of mass-level attitudes on church and state. I argue that individuals with higher levels of authoritarianism are more likely to support religious establishment as a means of maintaining social conformity and reinforcing the existing social order. Likewise, those with higher levels of authoritarianism should exhibit reduced support for religious free exercise when minority groups are in question as a means of imposing greater costs on social out-groups. Using data from the 2008 Cooperative Campaign Analysis Project, I find strong support for my theory. Even after controlling for a variety of alternative explanations, authoritarianism remains an important factor in attitudes toward both religious establishment and religious free exercise.

Publisher

Cambridge University Press (CUP)

ISSN

1755-0483 (print)
1755-0491 (electronic)

Pages

57-81

DOI

10.1017/s1755048316000432

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