Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on ReligionInstitute for Studies of Relgion
IJRR :: 2011 Volume 7 :: Article 10
2011 Volume 7, Article 10
Catholics and the Death Penalty: Religion as a Filter for Political Beliefs

Author: Thomas K. Bias (West Virginia University), Abraham Goldberg (University of South Carolina Upstate), and Tara Hannum (West Virginia University)

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Research has shown that public opinion about the death penalty can be largely attributed to the tone of media stories and the number of murders that happen around the time the surveys are conducted. However, not all citizens react similarly to new information such as media stories. Political awareness can help people to filter out new information that might otherwise sway their opinions. Those who lack such awareness are more easily persuaded by new information, resulting in rather unstable, easily changed opinions. We hypothesize that strongly held religious beliefs also serve as such a filter, creating stability in opinions regardless of political awareness. Using the issue of capital punishment, we examine how strongly held Catholic beliefs might affect opinions on the death penalty. We show that Catholics with a strong religious attachment are less likely to be persuaded by current events and political discussion than is the norm. Strongly religious Catholics tend to filter out such information and seemingly ground their opinions in the social doctrine of their church.

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