Dissertation Defense: Christine Kim
Wednesday, May 24 at 11:00am to 1:00pm
Edward B. Bunn, S.J. Intercultural Center, 305-A 37th and O St., N.W., Washington
Candidate Name: Christine Kim
Advisor: Clyde Wilcox, Ph.D.
Title: Three Papers on Evangelical Politics at the Beginning of the New Millennium
Abstract: The politics of evangelical Protestants in America impacts its broader political landscape. For one, evangelical membership remains steady at one in four Americans, even as other religious traditions have declined. Second, research consistently finds a correlation between evangelicals and conservative politics, particularly on social issues and partisanship. However, the durability of these relationships in the new millennium has yet to be examined empirically, as there are plausible expectations for changing evangelical politics, such as broader cultural influences, cohort replacement, and recent racial and ethnic diversification among evangelicals. This dissertation, which consists of three papers, seeks to answer this broader research question. In the first paper, I ask if the cultural tide that has increased many Americans’ support for same-sex marriage has moved evangelicals’ stance as well, despite religious factors that should anchor their views. I find that their religiosity does provide some anchoring, but nearly all evangelicals, except those moored by multiple dimensions of religiosity, have shifted. To explain, I advance a “dual citizenship” theory, which receives empirical support, that evangelicals in the new millennium are navigating a course between their spiritual and civic roles. In the second paper, I address a methodological gap in the literature and robustly test the young evangelicals liberalizing thesis using multiple rigorous cohort analytical methods. Here, I find that, contrary to popular conception, Millennial evangelicals do not constitute a distinctive political generation, but have moved away from the previous cohort’s particularly Republican identification and anti-abortion position. In the third paper, I build a multi-level theory of immigration attitudes at the intersection of religion and race/ethnicity, as one-quarter of evangelicals are now nonwhite. The results support my “dual conversion” hypothesis that the acculturation and religious conversion experiences may blend to form distinctive political views among nonwhite evangelicals from relatively recent immigrant backgrounds. Together, these findings suggest discernible, albeit not yet massive, shifts in evangelical politics, which have broader implications for American politics at the beginning of the new millennium.
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