Lapsed Catholics and Pious Secularists: Religious Messaging and Voter Persuasion Among US Catholics

35 Pages Posted: 11 Sep 2013

See all articles by David T. Buckley

David T. Buckley

University of Louisville; Georgetown University

Date Written: 2013


To what extent do religious messages persuade Catholic voters to support progressive positions on issues beyond the typical boundaries of the culture wars, like budget reform? I argue that the effect of such messages should be conditioned not only by expected factors like religious tradition, but also by preexisting individual beliefs regarding the appropriate place of religion in politics. “Pious secularists,” those who attend regularly but value separation of politics from church life, should be particularly skeptical of religious-political messaging. Survey experiments conducted on a random sample of white Catholics in the Midwest during the 2012 election season test this and other theoretical claims. Results indicate various factors mediate the persuasive effect of religious messaging. Pious secularists do indeed stand out from other Catholics, as do lapsed Catholics and those born under the papacy of John Paul II. Highlighting this internal variation provides an avenue for future research into diversity within Catholic voting behavior, and helps to explain the limited success of attempts from both sides of the partisan spectrum to mobilize the Catholic vote in recent elections.

Keywords: Religion, Catholicism, Persuasion, Framing, Religious Left

Suggested Citation

Buckley, David T., Lapsed Catholics and Pious Secularists: Religious Messaging and Voter Persuasion Among US Catholics (2013). APSA 2013 Annual Meeting Paper, American Political Science Association 2013 Annual Meeting, Available at SSRN:

David T. Buckley (Contact Author)

University of Louisville ( email )

United States

Georgetown University ( email )

Washington, DC 20057
United States

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