Holy ABCs! The Impact of Religion on Attitudes about Education Policies

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Abstract

Objective. To examine the impact of religion on attitudes about three controversial education policies: creationism, school prayer, and vouchers. Methods. Using a unique, national survey of school board candidates that I undertook in 1998, I use regression analysis to examine which factors, especially religion, explain support for these three policies. Results. This study finds that conservative Christians are more likely to support such policies than mainline Protestants. Additionally, church attendance appears to have an amplifying effect on evangelicals with respect to support for these issues. By contract, those candidates with non-Judeo-Christian religious identifications have much lower levels of support for creationism and school prayer. However, conservative political ideology remains the strongest predictor of support for creationism, prayer in school, and vouchers. Conclusion. Religious beliefs, sometimes enhanced by church attendance, can have a powerful, direct effect on attitudes about creationism, school prayer, and vouchers among school board candidates. Demonstrating such a link becomes important when considering that school board members play a large role in shaping local education policy.

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