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From Politics to the Pews: How Partisanship and the Political Landscape Shape Religious Identity

Eggers Hall, 220 (Strasser Legacy Room)

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Michele Margolis is an associate 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 numerous outlets, including: American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Public Opinion Quarterly, Political Behavior, Politics & Religion. Her book, "From Politics to the Pews" (University of Chicago Press, 2018), won the Distinguished Book Award from the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion.

Margolis will present "From Politics to the Pews: How Partisanship and the Political Landscape Shape Religious Identity."

One of the most substantial divides in American politics is the “God gap.” Religious voters tend to identify with and support the Republican Party, while secular voters generally support the Democratic Party. Conventional wisdom suggests that religious differences between Republicans and Democrats have produced this gap, with voters sorting themselves into the party that best represents their religious views.

This talk challenges the conventional wisdom, arguing that the relationship between religion and politics is far from a one-way street that starts in the church and ends at the ballot box. Instead, political identity has a profound effect on social identity, including religion. Whether a person chooses to identify as religious and the extent of their involvement in a religious community are, in part, a response to political surroundings. In today’s climate of political polarization, partisan actors also help reinforce the relationship between religion and politics, as Democratic and Republican elites stake out divergent positions on moral issues and use religious faith to varying degrees when reaching out to voters.

This event is part of a series of discussions hosted by the Hicker Family Professor in Renewing Democratic Community to promote civil discourse and mutual understanding. Michele will take the stage with Chris Faricy, associate professor of political science and the inaugural Hicker Family Professor in Renewing Democratic Community.


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