RIPT 5 – Religion in Public Talks – Sarah Dreier on Big Data and Partisan Religious Rhetoric; Castle and Stepp on Religion and Polarization – April 4, 5-6pm (e)

Series Conveners

Paul A. Djupe, Denison University, Political Science,

Amanda J. Friesen, Western University, Political Science,

Avital Livny, University of Illinois, Political Science,

Matthew R. Miles, BYU-Idaho, Political Science,

We invite you to join us for a monthly set of talks about religion and public life. Across the pandemic, one of the innovations that should remain is virtual gatherings to accompany academic conferences. Though there are many groups and organizations now convening such gatherings, missing from this space has been one focused on religion in public life for the professoriate (that is, beyond the excellent work being done for those in their early career by Shayla Olson and Hilary Zedlitz). This has always been needed since those who study religion in political science and sociology tend not to work in departments that host more than one R&P scholar. 

  • Meetings will be the first Monday before the first Tuesday of every month, except during the summer months. 
  • They will last about an hour.
  • We hope to run them from 5-6pm (eastern) via Zoom.
  • Each session will feature two 15-20 minute talks (with 10-15 minutes of discussion).
  • We aim for subfield concentrations; that may be comparative vs. American vs. international relations, or may be political behavior vs. institutions vs. social psychology, etc. 
  • Anyone with a PhD (or advanced graduate students) in the social sciences studying religion and public life is welcome to propose a talk  –  contact any or all of our conveners (emails above). 

To receive the Zoom link, you will need to register here. You can register there for one talk or for all talks. If you have registered for all talks, you do not need to register again.

You can always find the list of future and past presenters at the page.

RIPT 5 will be April 4, 2022, 5-6pm (eastern), with Paul Djupe (Denison University) convening. The presenter and panelists are:

Religion in Congress: Combining Big Data and Qualitative Methods to examine the Partisan Politics of Religious Rhetoric
—Sarah Dreier, University of New Mexico; coauthored with Emily Gade, Lucy Lin, Sofia Serrano, and Noah Smith.

Abstract  The Internet Archive curated a 90-terabyte sub-collection of captures from the U.S. government’s public website domain (‘.gov’). In previous research, we leverage the Internet Archive to measure a novel dimension of U.S. federal legislators’ religiosity: their proportional use of religious rhetoric on official congressional websites between 2006 and 2012 (Gade, Dreier, Wilkerson and Washington 2020). This scalable, time-variant, and externally valid measure improves upon more costly, time-invariant conventional approaches to measuring legislators’ religiosity. Building on this work, we combine a carefully curated dictionary-based approach to identifying religious rhetoric with the development of natural language processing sentence vectors to identify how U.S. Members of Congress apply religious rhetoric to specific policy debates, and how this application varies along partisan lines. In doing so, this research provides a methodological framework for integrating qualitative methodologies into a computational pipeline to track political behavior in an age of big data.  

Sarah K. Dreier is an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of New Mexico. Before coming to UNM, she was a Data Science Fellow and an NSF Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Washington’s Department of Political Science and Department of Computer Science and Engineering. Dreier’s comparative research combines qualitative research and natural language processing to examine the interactions between state politics, human rights, and religious institutions. Dreier has conducted research in/about East Africa, Western Europe, and the United States. Her research has been published in the British Journal of Political Science, International Studies Quarterly, Politics and Religion, Democratization, Harvard Data Science Review, and Washington Post Monkey Cage. Dreier previously worked in public policy research and faith-based advocacy in Washington, D.C. She holds a Ph.D. from University of Washington (Seattle) and B.A. from Northwestern University (Evanston).

Religion and Polarization: A Social Identity Theory Approach
—Jeremiah Castle, Metropolitan State University of Denver, and
—Kyla Stepp, Central Michigan University

Abstract  While much has been written about both issue polarization and affective polarization, to date the links between the two types of polarization have been relatively unexplored. In addition, while observers have long asserted that religious identities play a role in polarization, scholarship has presented only mixed conclusions. This paper draws on Social Identity Theory to develop a series of hypotheses about how religious group identities impact various forms of polarization, uniting the affective and issue polarization literatures in the process. First, religious group identities lead to polarized attitudes towards religious groups. Second, once formed, these polarized religious group identities contribute to affective polarization toward the parties. Third, religion also has the potential to lead to issue polarization on issues where individuals have the constraint necessary to connect their religious group identities to the issue under consideration, including abortion and LGBT rights. On many other types of issues, we see little to no religious influence on issue attitudes. We test our hypotheses using an original dataset fielded via Dynata in May-June 2020 and find strong support for all three hypotheses. The results speak to the literatures on polarization and the “culture wars” by linking the affective and issue polarization literatures, as well as providing a systematic way of understanding where religion does, and does not, contribute to polarization.  

Jeremiah J. Castle (@CastlePoliSci) is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Metropolitan State University of Denver. Castle is the author of Rock of Ages: Subcultural Religious Identity and Public Opinion Among Young Evangelicals (Temple, 2019), as well as articles appearing in Political BehaviorAmerican Politics Research, and other journals.
Kyla K. Stepp is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Central Michigan University. Her research has been published in Political BehaviorThe Social Science JournalSage Research Methods Cases, and The Journal of Political Science Education. Dr. Stepp is also the founding advisor to Central Michigan’s Mock Trial Association.

To receive the Zoom link, you will need to register here. You can register there for one talk or for all talks. If you have registered for all talks, you do not need to register again. Zoom links will be sent out the afternoon before the talk. We will endeavor to record the session for posterity.

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