Three Papers on the Political Attitudes of Evangelical Protestants at the Beginning of the New Millennium
The politics of evangelical Protestants in America impacts its broader political landscape. For one, evangelical membership remains steady at one in four Americans, even as other religious traditions have declined. Second, prior research has consistently found a correlation between evangelicals and conservative politics, particularly regarding their political attitudes on social issues and partisanship. However, there are plausible expectations, such as cohort replacement, broader cultural influences, and the recent racial and ethnic diversification among evangelicals, that these relationships may be changing, but they have yet to be empirically and rigorously tested. Consisting of three stand-alone papers, this dissertation seeks, then, to answer this broader research question. In the first paper, I address a theoretical and methodological gap in the existing literature on the young evangelicals liberalizing thesis; I propose possible explanations for a Millennial political cohort, then robustly test the liberalizing thesis. Contrary to popular conception, Millennial evangelicals do not constitute a distinctive political generation, but they have moved away from the Gen X cohort’s particularly Republican identification and anti-abortion position. In the second paper, I ask if the cultural tide that has lifted many Americans’ support for marriage equality has moved evangelicals’ stance as well. The results suggest that evangelicals across the board have shifted. To explain, I offer the theories of “dual citizenship,” that evangelicals are navigating a course between their spiritual and civic roles on the issue of same-sex marriage, and religious reinforcement, both of which receive empirical support. In the third paper, I build a multi-level theory of immigration attitudes at the intersection of religion and race/ethnicity, as one-quarter of evangelicals are now non-white, on whom the research is only emerging. My results support the “dual conversion” hypothesis that the acculturation and religious conversion experiences may blend to form distinctive political views among non-white evangelicals from relatively recent immigrant backgrounds. Together, these findings suggest discernible shifts in evangelical politics, with implications for American politics in the coming decades.
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