Generational Conversion? The Politics of Evangelicals

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  • Included in: Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion
  • Published: September 22, 2015
  • Publisher: Wiley Online Library

The political environment for evangelical Protestants has changed substantially since the Christian Right reached its apex, as a more issue and ideologically diffuse political environment has emerged. The present study tests two different theoretical perspectives on whether these contextual changes may have altered Millennial evangelicals’ political perspectives vis-à-vis those of previous generations of evangelicals. On the one hand, theoretical perspectives related to differential political socialization processes across generations would lead to expectations of generational change among evangelicals. On the other hand, theoretical perspectives related to social identity theory would suggest far less change across generations. Using Pew's 2007 U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, we test these expectations by comparing the relationships between religiosity and political attitudes across three generations of evangelicals. Ordered probit and logistic regression models estimate the impact of religiosity on various political attitudes. These models reveal that Millennial evangelical religiosity continues to be strongly related to Republican Party identification and opposition toward abortion, which is largely consistent with the social identity perspective. Generational change is most evident in a variety of nonsocial issues in which religiosity is associated with less conservatism among Millennials. Additional analysis using the 2012 Religion and Politics Survey with a smaller sample of Millennial evangelicals confirms these results.


Pelz, M. L. and Smidt, C. E. (2015), Generational Conversion? The Role of Religiosity in the Politics of Evangelicals. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 54: 380–401. doi: 10.1111/jssr.12186



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