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The Political Mobilization of Seculars, 1980-2008

40 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2011  

Susan B. Hansen

University of Pittsburgh - Department of Political Science

Date Written: 2011


This paper uses ANES data to analyze changes in religious political mobilization since the 1980s. Religious Traditionalists, Moderates, and Seculars will be defined in terms of church attendance, beliefs in Biblical inerrancy and the importance they attach to of religion. Both Secularists and Traditionalists have increased in number since 1980, and differ considerably in party identification, vote choice, and opinions on social issues. According to most recent research, secular perspectives are less likely to be articulated in mass political behavior than the views of more religious Americans. Yet while Seculars are still less partisan, and less likely to vote in primaries, their political involvement and interest have increased considerably. By 2004 and 2008 they were equally or more likely than Traditionalists or Moderates to register, vote, convince others how to vote, and be involved in campaigns. Church attendance has less independent impact on political involvement than in previous decades. While religious Traditionalists have become significantly more Republican, white Seculars are more likely now than in 1980 to vote for Democrats, despite their lack of strong partisanship. A pooled regression analysis, 1988-2008, will show that even with controls for other factors predicting political participation, antipathy to ‚ÄúChristian fundamentalists‚ÄĚ (based on the ANES thermometer scores) is a significant predictor of political activism by Seculars as well as by religious Moderates. Demographic trends and survey data suggest what an increasingly secular America might look like.

Keywords: Seculars, religion and politics, voting behavior

JEL Classification: J11, D72

Suggested Citation

Hansen, Susan B., The Political Mobilization of Seculars, 1980-2008 (2011). APSA 2011 Annual Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN:

Susan Blackall Hansen (Contact Author)

University of Pittsburgh - Department of Political Science ( email )

4445 Posvar Hall
University of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States
412-648-7272 (Phone)
412-648-7277 (Fax)

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