Conflicted Religionists: Measuring Political Backlash on Salient Issues

Abstract:

Scholars have pointed to “political backlash” as a key reason for why people leave religion in the United States. This study adds to the growing body of work that emphasizes backlash to localized conditions, rather than national-level phenomena, by demonstrating the importance of conflict on salient issues within churches. Using data from the Baylor Religion Survey, the author exploits a unique set of items to analyze what he calls “conflicted religionists”—those who experience attitudinal conflict with their churches—and measures conflict on two salient issues: same-sex marriage and abortion. The author finds that there is a considerable proportion of conflicted religionists and that the probability of experiencing conflict varies drastically across different groups in the sample. In line with past work, he demonstrates that experiencing conflict is significantly associated with lower church attendance. He concludes with a discussion of the possible pathways available to conflicted religionists.