Religious Rhetoric, Public Opinion, and Economic Policy– part II.

Alright– I am back for round two! I figured that this time I would explain more thoroughly my surveying process.. and my surveying experiences.

Anyway, as I mentioned in my previous post, I’m approaching this project with the specific goal of answering three questions (reprinted below for convenience):

1) Are those participants primed with religious rhetoric more or less likely to support a reduction in income taxes, or does the priming seem to make little to no difference at all?
2) Secondly, are those who denote themselves as being more religious more susceptible to the religious priming than others, and thus more likely to respond favorably to the concept of a reduction in income tax after reading the passage including religious rhetoric?
3) Does the level of education of the participant have an effect on their susceptibility to the religious priming of the tax cut policy?

Both versions (control and treatment) of my survey collected the same information. First, the participant was asked to rate his level of agreement with two proposed statements on a scale of 1-5, with 1 representing “strongly disagree” and 5 representing “strongly agree.” These statements, on both surveys, were:
1) I am generally in favor of a reduction in income taxes.
2) The above passage provides an effective argument for the reduction in income taxes.

Next, the participant is asked his age, gender, highest level of education attained, and self-reported level of religiousity (again on a scale of 1-5).

So THAT is my survey in a nutshell.

Since beginning the surveying process, I have come to realize one very important thing:
200 is a VERY big number.

I had originally intended to collect 100 of each version of the survey, and have since realized that, given time constraints, this would not be possible. Luckily, a sample size of 200 was relatively large and fairly conservative for this type of study. Since I used a method of randomization (of treatment and control) rather than random sampling of participants, I did not collect the exact same number of each type of survey. This does not necessarily make for the most aesthetically appealing numbers, but as I will be dealing primarily in percents, I do not expect this to have a great effect on my study and/or its results.

On a final note– after collecting completed surveys, I have been “debriefing” participants and explaining to them the basis of my project (if they’re interested…). I keep running into the same type of general confusion, though. Many seem to interpret my project as a study to examine the effect of religious rhetoric on economic policy– as opposed to the effect of religious rhetoric on public opinion REGARDING economic policy. It seems almost as though, to some, public opinion and actual political policy are inseparable. I understand that the (much-simplified) concept of “democracy” is that the people effectively rule, and, in this sense, public opinion does translate more smoothly into public policy. The US, however, is a republic, and I would not necessarily argue that those elected to represent us always make their decisions based on the voice of the masses– nor should they. Thoughts?

Until next time– hopefully with something in the way of results!



  1. jrruckert says:

    This project is a fascinating idea. I found it interesting that you acknowledged that lines between public opinion and public policy are often blurred. This is especially problematic in cases like that of your project; if religious rhetoric can more or less directly affect public policy through public opinion, that creates an issue of church/state intermixing. Despite being a republic, I think the American government is much too easily swayed by mob rule. Take Proposition 8 as an example; the passage of the referendum, which was heavily campaigned for by religious groups, failed to uphold the tenants of pluralism found in the Constitution and intended to protect the rights of factions (i.e. the minorities who were stripped of their marriage rights). Anyway, I’m very excited to read your results. Best of luck!