Religious Social Networks, Indirect Mobilization, and African-American Political Participation

By McKenzie, Brian D. | Political Research Quarterly, December 2004 | Go to article overview

Religious Social Networks, Indirect Mobilization, and African-American Political Participation


McKenzie, Brian D., Political Research Quarterly


This study examines the mobilizing effects of informal political discussions among African-American church attenders. Specifically, I focus on indirect political encouragement through congregant social networks. I utilize data from the 1993-1994 National Black Politics Study to test models of indirect mobilization effects on voting and non-voting political activism. Findings from regression analyses demonstrate that informal political communication in churches is a more effective stimulus of political involvement than clergy messages. In particular, I argue that discussions in religious social networks increases black activism by overcoming the paradoxes of participation, developing a motivating political consciousness in citizens, and producing responsiveness to religious group civic norms. My results suggest that frequent church attendance and expectations of regular contact with fellow parishioners serve as important mechanisms for monitoring and reinforcing civic norms, while clergy messages may be less effective due to their more detached connection with black church attenders.

Much has been written about how religious institutions increase the democratic capacities of American citizens. Scholars from Tocqueville ([1835] 1969) through Verba, Schlozman, and Brady (1995) have lauded churches for teaching democratic norms, civic skills, serving as sites for political recruitment, and mobilizing church attenders through informal social connections. A crucial assumption of this research is that social interaction in religious settings helps communicate important political information and transforms citizens into more active participants in the political process. This general framework has often been applied to the study of African-American political participation.

Prior research shows that black churches mobilize African Americans for political action directly through clergy political messages (Calhoun-Brown 1996; Reese and Brown 1995; Harris 1999) and indirectly through clerical organizational networks (McAdam 1982; Morris 1984; Harris 1999). However, the religion and black political activism literature overemphasizes the motivating role of ministers' direct communication with church attenders through messages from the pulpit.1 These works fail to highlight the distinct participatory significance of informal social relationships among black congregants.

Interaction in churches is not limited to communication from ministers to the laity. Church attenders also listen to and act on political information they receive from fellow worshipers. Iniormal conversations can be particularly effective mobilizing factors for African Americans who are very involved in religious activities. For devout individuals, the impact of political discussion is heightened because frequent religious participation helps to communicate information on a regular basis, in a setting where other group members can easily enforce conformity to civic norms. These important distinctions represent an alternative (and neglected) perspective on how churches increase black political participation.

In this article, I explore how informal political discussion in churches functions as a source of indirect political mobilization. I examine two related questions: (1) Does political discussion among African-American church attenders influence voting and other forms of activism, independent of clergy messages? and (2) How does inlormal discussion influence black political participation? Using regression analyses of the f993-1994 National Black Politics Study, I find that informal political dialogue in religious settings has a more consistent positive impact on political activity than clergy messages. In particular, I posit that conversations in religious social networks increase black political involvement by overcoming the paradoxes of participation, developing a motivating political consciousness in citizens, and producing responsiveness to group civic norms.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Religious Social Networks, Indirect Mobilization, and African-American Political Participation
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.