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Preaching to the Choir? Religious Leaders and American Opinion on Immigration Reform


  • Direct correspondence to Tatishe M. Nteta, 238 Thompson Hall, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003 ( Tatishe Nteta will share all data and coding for replication purposes. The authors thank Michael Crowley, Kate MacDonald, and Laurie Roberts for their research assistance on the project. The authors also thank Amel Ahmed, Jack Citrin, Jill Greenlee, Taeku Lee, Jesse Rhodes, Laura Stoker, Rachel Van-Sickle Ward, and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and technical assistance on the project.



Do the public declarations of religious leaders concerning immigration influence American public opinion on immigration reform?


In answering this question, we use the 2004 National Politics Study and employ ordered logistic regression techniques to test hypotheses derived from elite opinion theory.


We find that exposure to elite messages from religious leaders on immigration leads respondents to more strongly support increasing immigration to the United States, allowing immigrants to serve in the military, and allowing immigrants who serve in the military to gain citizenship.


Taken together, these results provide evidence that members of America's largest religious denominations are communicating support for liberal immigration reforms to their parishioners and, more importantly, that these signals subsequently influence the preferences of the parishioners exposed to these messages.