Social and Political Attitudes among Religious Groups: Convergence and Divergence over Time


Conservatism, Protestantism, Political attitudes, Liberalism, Catholicism, School prayer, Political protests, Premarital sex, Gender roles, Marijuana


Studies indicate that religious affiliation has a significant effect on political and social attitudes in the United States. A conservative-liberal continuum exists among religious groups, with certain Protestant groups demonstrating relatively consistent conservative, moderate, and liberal attitudes toward several issues. Moreover, Catholics tend to report moderate attitudes, with Jews and nonaffiliates reporting the most liberal positions. However, research that has delineated this continuum has not examined changes over time. This paper examines two competing viewpoints, which we label convergence and divergence, that are derived primarily from contemporary theories of religious change, with 20 years of data from the General Social Survey, to examine whether attitudes regarding several relevant issues have shifted significantly both between and within religious groups. We find that a within-group convergence of attitudes has occurred for issues such as women's roles in society and marijuana use, divergence between groups but convergence within groups has occurred for abortion attitudes, and a clear divergent pattern has emerged between conservative Protestants and other groups in attitudes toward school prayer. Inter- and intragroup changes over time vary from issue to issue and suggest that a complex interplay of religious and secular forces have affected changing attitudes among religious adherents.

Original Publication Citation

Miller, Alan S., and John P. Hoffmann. 1995. “Risk and Religion: An Explanation of Gender Differences in Religiosity.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 34(1): 63-75.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion




Family, Home, and Social Sciences



University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor