Belief or Belonging? Untangling Evangelical Religiosity and Its Impact on Affective Polarization



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While previous research has shown that evangelicals are seemingly more polarized than other religious groups and secular Republicans, less is known about why this might be the case, and what impact, if any, distinct aspects of religiosity play in driving these high levels of affective polarization. This dissertation examines the relationship between evangelical religiosity and affective polarization by disaggregating religiosity into discrete categories of belief and belonging to better understand how each influences polarized political behavior, as well as how they interact with one another. Through the use of a novel survey and a systematic historical analysis, this dissertation finds that deep religious belonging tends to produce high levels of bonding social capital, something that often produces mistrust and animosity toward the outgroup. Additionally, bridging social capital, or one’s connection to their civic community, does not appear to have much of an influence on affective polarization, particularly in the face of deep levels of belonging to one’s own religious community. While claims of causality are muted, this dissertation finds important patterns within American evangelical religious belonging, its relationship to the production and maintenance of bonding social capital, and the subsequent influence on affective polarization.



American Politics, Evangelical, Polarization, Religion, Religiosity, Social Capital