Perceptions of Threat to Religious Liberty

PSC49_03By Kirby Goidel (Texas A&M University), Brian Smentkowski (Queens University of Charlotte) and Craig Freeman (Oklahoma State University)

Religious freedom in the United States is widely enjoyed and vigorously protected. Yet, a substantial percentage of Americans believe that their religious liberties are threatened. This article investigates the origins of these perceptions, focusing on the role of political orientations, religious identities and behaviors, social issues (i.e., gay marriage and abortion), and news attentiveness. We find that individual perceptions of threat are related to political orientations (i.e., partisan affiliation, ideology, and Tea Party identification) and issue positions (i.e., opposition to gay marriage). Consistent with theories of elite cue-taking, the effects of political orientations are contingent on news attentiveness. Republicans who pay closer attention to the news are more likely to state that their religious liberties are threatened. Democrats, in contrast, become less likely to say their religious liberties are threatened as news attentiveness increases.

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PS: Political Science & Politics / Volume 49 / Issue 03 / July 2016, pp 426-432 / Copyright © American Political Science Association 2016