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Church Engagement, Religious Values, and Mass-Elite Policy Agenda Agreement in Local Communities


  • An earlier version of this article was presented at the 20th World Congress of the International Political Science Association, July 10, 2006, Fukuoka, Japan. We thank Patricia Hurley, Lyman Kellstedt, and the editor and reviewers for this journal for valuable comments on earlier versions of this article. Some of the data analyzed here were provided by Susan Hansen, John Petrocik, and Sidney Verba. Other data are from the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research.

Kim Quaile Hill is professor of political science, Texas A&M University, 4348 TAMU, College Station, TX 77843-4348 ( Tetsuya Matsubayashi is assistant professor of political science, University of North Texas, 125 Wooten Hall, P.O. Box 305340, Denton, TX 76203-5340 (


We provide evidence on two prominent but heretofore untested expectations about the relevance of religion for the democratic process: (1) that greater engagement in churches or comparable religious institutions and their organizational life enhances representational processes; and (2) that religious values in a community have greater influence on the latter processes, with more liberal religious values expected to enhance the responsiveness of community leaders to general public preferences. Using data on local communities in the United States in the late 1960s, we find strong support for the expected relevance of religious liberalism for representation, but none for the expected effect of church engagement. We provide evidence, too, that our findings about religious values are generalizable to present-day politics.

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