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The Influence of Priests on the Political Attitudes of Roman Catholics

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For years, scholars in religion and politics have worked under the assumption that clergy wield significant political influence with their congregations. Until recently, however, this assumption had gone largely uninvestigated and undemonstrated. This article helps correct this shortcoming by analyzing the Notre Dame Study of Catholic Parish Life for evidence of priestly influence on the political attitudes of Catholic parishioners. Though the data indicate that Catholic priests do, indeed, appear to influence the political attitudes of their parishioners, the nature of this influence is more complex than previously demonstrated. Specifically, pastor ideology is the key predictor of both parishioners' issue positions and political ideology, and influence appears to be restricted to politically liberal pastors.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Gregory A. Smith is Research Associate at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, 1615 L Street, NW, Suite 700, Washington, DC 20036., Email:

Publication date: September 1, 2005


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