Sectarian religion and political tolerance in the United States

Philip Schwadel, Christopher R.H. Garneau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Many Americans oppose granting civil rights to stigmatized outgroups. This lack of political tolerance is strongly associated with sectarian Christianity. We argue that the association between sectarian religious affiliation and political tolerance has diminished but that the effects of sectarian belief on tolerance remain prevalent. Using more than three decades of repeated cross-sectional survey data and hierarchical age-period-cohort models, we find precipitous across-period and across-cohort convergence in political tolerance between affiliates of evangelical Protestant denominations and other Americans. The effects of biblical literalism on political tolerance also decline, but remain relatively robust. Additional models show how both religious affiliation and views of the Bible influence tolerance of specific outgroups in the contemporary context. We conclude by discussing the implications of the results for both social scientific research and the vibrancy of American democracy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)168-193
Number of pages26
JournalSociology of Religion: A Quarterly Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2019



  • Civil society/public sphere
  • Conservative Protestantism
  • Evangelical Protestantism
  • Measurement
  • Politics
  • Social change

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

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