Posted: 29 Mar 2010
For many Americans church membership represents their primary local community, but this religious identification is embedded within, and inseparable from, the larger American society. We examine the role of church membership in encouraging individuals to develop policy positions on national issues, and we explore the conditions under which religiously active Americans are willing to alter their policy preferences. We conduct focus groups in Evangelical and non-Evangelical Christian congregations in Los Angeles and Orange County, CA, which are home to a strong Evangelical presence that coexists with high levels of religious, class, and ethnic diversity in the larger population. The focus groups center on discussions of three contentious issues: health care, immigration and gay marriage. We have selected these because we observed important variations among Evangelical participants in previous research and these issues address the notion of community in interesting and important ways. The focus groups probe conditions under which the sense of responsibility for the congregation expands to include identification with those outside the church. When do individuals think more narrowly of the impact of government policy on fellow congregants, and when does their frame of reference broaden to include the larger local, state, and national community? To what extent do congregants alter public policy positions as the frame of reference of their community broadens or contracts?
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
Haesly, Richard and Haas, Liesl, My Neighbor's Keeper: Religious Identity, Community Membership, and the Creation of Policy Preferences. Western Political Science Association 2010 Annual Meeting Paper . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1580944