Are Pastors More Partisan?

Joe Carter | June 14, 2017

The Story: A new paper reports that American clergy tend to be more partisan than their parishioners are. But the evidence to support that claim is shockingly flawed.

The Background: A new paper released this week by a pair of political scientists claims, as The New York Times reports, that, “pastors are even more politically divided than the congregants in their denomination.” As the abstract of the paper states:

Pastors are important civic leaders within their churches and communities. Several studies have demonstrated that the cues pastors send from the pulpit affect congregants’ political attitudes. However, we know little about pastors’ own political worldviews, which will shape the content and ideology of the messages transmitted to congregants. In this paper, we employ a novel methodology to compile a database of over 130,000 American clergy across forty religious denominations. These data provide us with a sweeping view of the political attitudes of American clergy. Using CCES data, we compare pastors’ partisanship to congregants’ political affiliation and policy views. The results demonstrate that pastors’ denominational affiliation is much more informative of their partisanship than for congregants. These results provide a nuanced understanding of the relationship between clergy’s political orientations and those of…

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