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Demand for God and Government: The Dynamics of Religion and Public Opinion

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 January 2013

Philip Habel*
Affiliation:
Southern Illinois University Carbondale
J. Tobin Grant*
Affiliation:
Southern Illinois University Carbondale
*
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Philip Habel, Department of Political Science, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Mail code 4501, Carbondale, IL 62901-4501. E-mail: habel@siu.edu; or J. Tobin Grant, Department of Political Science, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Mail code 4501, Carbondale, IL 62901-4501. E-mail: grant@siu.edu
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Philip Habel, Department of Political Science, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Mail code 4501, Carbondale, IL 62901-4501. E-mail: habel@siu.edu; or J. Tobin Grant, Department of Political Science, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Mail code 4501, Carbondale, IL 62901-4501. E-mail: grant@siu.edu

Abstract

We explore the relationship between religiosity and public support for greater government services. We theorize that increases in religiosity and public opinion both reflect demands from citizens in the face of insecurity. We argue that religiosity is comprised of two factors: responses to insecurity; and long-held preferences for religion, or secularity. We show that previous studies that have observed increased religiosity leading to decreased support for government spending have not distinguished among religiosity as driven by secularity versus insecurity. To test our theory, we first estimate a series of simulations, and we then turn to the dynamics of aggregate religiosity and public opinion in the United States over the past fifty years, an environment where long-held preferences for religious goods have remained relatively stable. Consistent with our theory, religiosity and public opinion respond to insecurity; the series are positively correlated, move together through time, and react in similar ways to changes in GDP per capita. Our findings indicate that during times when there is greater insecurity, both religiosity and demand from government increase.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Religion and Politics Section of the American Political Science Association 2012 

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