Monday, May 21, 2007

Religion and Knowledge

A study of mine will soon be published that asks a fairly straightforward (and maybe obvious) question: shouldn't people with strong religious beliefs be better able to answer questions about a candidate's religion than those without strong religious beliefs?

Let me explain, hopefully without too much theory stuff.

The argument is simple. When something matters to you a great deal, you are primed to pick up on that information. I taught at Oxford last summer, so when Oxford pops up in the news, I am primed to attend and recall that info. Same way with religion.

I looked at two sets of questions from the presidential election, whether people could correctly answer questions about a candidate's religious affiliation and his state of residence. I figured people with strong religious invovlement would be more accurate about various candidate's religious affiliations. They'd know Bush was a Methodist, etc. Keep in mind that people with strong religious involvement generally do pretty lousy on tests of political knowledge.

The results? Kinda okay. While generally strong religious people do awful on tests of knowledge, they managed to not do so badly when asked for the candidate's religious affiliation. They sucked at regular knowledge questions that we traditionally ask, so there was some support for my idea that religion, for these people, is a ( PhDweeb alert! ) chronically accessible construct. Simply put, religion matters to them and they pick up on the religion of candidates, even those they do not plan on supporting.

The article will be published soon in the Journal of Media and Religion.

No comments: