Religious elites and immigration policy attitudes

In 2009 I published one of the first empirical analyses of the relationship between religion and immigration attitudes. I provided statistical evidence that those who attend church more often are more likely to have more liberal immigration policy preferences, once accounting for other important factors like partisanship, ideology, demographics, etc. I theorized that this is because religious elites generally take a more humane approach to immigration and communicate these stances to their parishioners, who then adopt the views of their religious leaders. This theory could not be supported with the evidence at hand, though. All I was able to empirically show was that more church = more liberal immigration preferences.

Drs. Tatishe Nteta and Kevin Wallsten recently published the results of a study that directly examined my theory. They specifically found that those who are exposed more often to immigration-related discourse in their places of worship are more likely to have more liberal immigration policy preferences, all other things being equal. This is the theoretical mechanism through which levels of church attendance are related to immigration attitudes.

I’m glad that our understanding of the relationship between religion and immigration attitudes is continuing to develop!

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