Doctrine, discussion and disagreement : Evangelical Protestant interaction with Catholics in American politics
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Georgetown University, 2008.; Includes bibliographical references. In this dissertation, I examine the Christian Right as a cross-cutting network and assess the impact of Catholics' participation in this social movement on evangelical Protestant political attitudes. After reviewing the historical animosity that previously defined this political partnership, I outline the areas of disagreement that remain even in the context of today's religious conservative movement. These areas of disagreement are significant, according to deliberative democratic theorists, because exposure to rationales for opposing viewpoints might lead to opinion change and greater political tolerance. Therefore, I conduct a survey-experiment to investigate the effect of exposure to dissonant Catholic rationales on evangelicals' policy preferences and their political tolerance.; In general, the results of the survey-experiment suggest that evangelical supporters of the Christian Right are unlikely to change their policy opinions in light of Catholic claims regarding capital punishment and immigration policy, but exposure to these cross-cutting messages does have the potential to increase tolerance. Moreover, I find that exposure to these same cross-cutting messages attributed to a political out-group (mainline Protestants) actually decreases tolerance. Finally, my empirical results make clear that evangelicals are not uniformly affected by Catholic arguments in the information environment. Specifically, previous contact with Catholics appears to moderate how these messages are received, perhaps by altering the perceived credibility of the source of the message.; In this way, the study deepens our understanding of source credibility and cross-cutting exposure by demonstrating how the source of a dissonant message moderates its effect. The empirical results are supplemented with in-depth interviews with elites as well as a case study of one evangelical-Catholic network that I use to trace the causal mechanisms behind the increase in tolerance. In closing, I argue that the Christian Right has the potential to contribute to the goals of deliberative democracy by uniting citizens across lines of religious difference.
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