Choosing constituent cues: Reference group influence on clergy political speech


Objective. Though constituent reference groups have been shown to impact clergy political behavior, studies have largely cast group influence as a fixed effect. In an update of how specific constituent groups may affect clergy political speech, I assess whether clergy intentionally select cues from specific constituencies in determining whether to sermonize on an issue of political controversy. Method. Data were collected from a 2006 survey of clergy in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). I use a series of maximum likelihood models to determine the effect of group cues on clergy behavior. Results. Results show that clergy look to cues from both their congregations and denominational leaders when electing to deliver a sermon. What is more, clergy report feeling pressure from their congregational constituencies to behave in ways that they do not prefer. This pressure also impacts their decision to sermonize. Conclusion. Taken together, these findings suggest that clergy, who are beginning to receive systematic attention for their role as framers and motivators of political deliberation among their followers, are subject to the influence of varied constituencies in exercising this deliberative role.


Political Science

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Social Science Quarterly