Divine Intervention? The Influence of Religious Value Communication on U.S. Intervention Policy

Abstract

Opinion about U.S. foreign intervention depends on both one’s belief about how the world works and those cognitively available value conceptions about how it should work. Consistent with social identity theory, we argue that values can shape social group boundaries and that these boundaries are analogous to the position of the U.S. in the world. Thus, the religious values we explore neatly map onto opinion about whether U.S. intervention should be qualified in its scope and rationale. In this investigation, we first provide experimental tests of religious value priming conducted on Christians, Muslims, and Jews. We then assess the degree to which American Protestant clergy communicate these values. The results of both investigations support the efficacy of considering the communication of religious values in shaping public opinion on U.S. foreign intervention.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    For instance, a 2007 Gallup poll (Newport 2007) found explicit support that people look for guidance from their house of worship—23 % attended church “for spiritual growth and guidance” and 20 % attended because it “keeps me grounded/inspired.” The remainder suggested they attend “because it’s my faith” (15 %), “to worship God” (15 %), for “the fellowship of other believers/the community” (12 %), “believe in God/believe in religion” (12 %), and because they were “brought up that way/a family value/tradition” (12 %), all of which are not incompatible with the value setting potential of churches.

  2. 2.

    These areas were selected because of proximity to the authors.

  3. 3.

    This was also a stated condition of the Institutional Review Board’s permission to sanction this project.

  4. 4.

    These items load heavily on two factors split along the expected inclusive/exclusive lines. There are no other items in use that tap these concepts. We draw heavily on Finke and Stark (2005) for broad conceptual development and include an economic item in the exclusive battery given a growing literature on the ingroup reinforcing effects of participation in the Christian economy (e.g., Park and Baker 2007; Wuthnow 1998).

  5. 5.

    We thank an anonymous reviewer for raising this possibility.

  6. 6.

    We also elected to include these controls to address any concern that the random assignment mechanism may have been less effective than in a lab setting. We created interaction terms between the controls and stimuli and found no significant effects.

  7. 7.

    The denominations surveyed (the primary sponsor for each denomination is in parentheses followed by the final n and the response rate) included the Assemblies of God (John C. Green, n = 208, response rate(rr) = 21.1), Christian Reformed Church (Corwin Smidt, n = 370, rr = 53.3), Disciples of Christ (Christopher Devine, n = 335, rr = 34.9), Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (Laura Olson; n = 272, rr = 34.1), Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (Jeff Walz and Steve Montreal; n = 359, rr = 41.7), Reformed Church of America (Corwin Smidt, 312, rr = 50.9), Southern Baptist Church (James Guth, n = 248, rr = 25.4), United Methodist Church (John C. Green, n = 282, rr = 28.7), and the Mennonites (Kyle Kopko, n = 520, rr = 53.6).

  8. 8.

    Inclusive and exclusive value presentations are significantly and positively correlated with each other within each denomination as well, all at least at the .05 level with the exception of the CRC, in which r = .09 and p = .09.

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Acknowledgements

We wish to thank Phaik See Lim, Kris Kanthak, and Cathy Johnson for their assistance with this project, and David Barker, Jeff Kurtz, Dave Peterson, David Woodyard, and Ted Jelen for helpful suggestions along the way. We also thank the editors and the three anonymous reviewers for a very productive review process.

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Djupe, P.A., Calfano, B.R. Divine Intervention? The Influence of Religious Value Communication on U.S. Intervention Policy. Polit Behav 35, 643–663 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11109-012-9211-3

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Keywords

  • Values
  • Priming
  • Religion and politics
  • Foreign policy attitudes
  • Clergy politics
  • Experiments