An agenda for research on American religion in light of the 2016 election

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Abstract

In the 2016 presidential election, Americans who shared core religious beliefs and salient religious identities, but who differed in racial identification, sharply diverged in their voting patterns. While media accounts emphasized a generic "evangelical" support for Mr. Trump, it was actually White evangelicals and Catholics who supported him in record numbers; people of color in these traditions did not. Thus, the election provides an opportunity to critically examine both scholarly and popular assumptions about the link between religiosity and political preferences. Such a re-examination must involve a rejection of insider narratives that focus on religious belief as a primary causal mechanism that has a unitary and straightforward effect on political action, policy preferences, and social attitudes. I propose a research agenda that forefronts feminist and critical theoretical insights and argue that the most urgent research question for sociologists of religion is an intersectional one: "How do religion, race, gender, sexuality, social class, and other aspects of social location intersect to constitute people's understandings of their identities and interests?" Such an approach acknowledges religious belief as an important component of meaning-making, but calls on researchers to investigate how social location influences which aspects of religious belief are understood as relevant and to analyze the culture work that links specific beliefs to political preferences, social attitudes, and behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalSociology of Religion: A Quarterly Review
Volume78
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017

Keywords

  • Culture
  • Elections
  • Feminist theory
  • Politics
  • Religion

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