Title

Research in Religion and Mass Political Behavior in the United States Looking Both Ways After Two Decades of Scholarship

Document Type

Article

Abstract

This article attempts to assess the extent of "scientific progress" in the study of religion and political behavior in the United States. Using three models of scientific enterprise, I find that the empirical study of religion and politics has been quite successful in an inductive, cumulative sense and has been moderately successful in providing interpretive, verstehen explanations as well. In general, research in religion and politics has not produced much in the way of "covering laws," "paradigms," or "research programs," in which religious variables are central theoretical concepts. Rather, explanations using religious phenomena are typically special cases of more general theoretical perspectives. I suggest that the last characterization does not reflect intellectual failure on the part of researchers; rather, the phenomena of religious politics appears essentially decentralized, and our best theories of religious behavior help account for the lack of parsimonious explanations in this area.

Disciplines

American Politics | Political Science | Religion