Religion is a multi-dimensional phenomenon, and scholars have taken different approaches to measuring religion in seeking to study religion’s influence on political attitudes and behavior. One analytical strategy for assessing the influence of religion politically among members of the mass public has been to adopt what is known as the “3B” approach. Though this approach can be applied across different cultural contexts, it has been widely adopted in the American context because of the multiplicity of denominational affiliations present in American life. Associated with this approach in the American context is the concept of religious traditions, particularly the presence of subtraditions within the Christian faith, and the associated measurement strategy for assigning such affiliations to their specific religious tradition. The approach offers various analytical advantages, but it constitutes an analytical strategy and not a specific theoretical explanation about how different facets of religious life necessarily shape political attitudes and behavior.
Corwin E. Smidt
Christina Ladam, Ian Shapiro, and Anand Sokhey
As the most common form of voluntary association in America, houses of worship remain an unquestionably critical component of American civil society. Major approaches to studying religion and politics in the United States are described, and the authors present an argument for focusing more attention on the organizational experience provided by religious contexts: studying how individuals’ social networks intersect with their associational involvements (i.e., studying religion from a “interpersonal” perspective) may actually shed new light on intrapersonal, psychological constructs like identity and religiosity. Evidence is presented from two nationally representative data sets that suggests considerable variance in the degree to which individuals’ core social networks overlap with their houses of worship. This variance exists within and between individuals identifying with major religious traditions, and such networks are not characterized solely by agreement (as theories of self-selection might suggest).