My primary research agenda focuses on how peoples’ identities affect their political behaviors and opinions. I am particularly interested in exploring how identities intersect and interact with one another and how social identities impact political inequality. This encompasses three related themes: 1) how individuals, especially those from historically marginalized or underrepresented groups, gain political voice, 2) how churches and other linkage institutions mobilize members for political action, and 3) how inequality is reflected in political institutions and affected by a range of public policies.
In my dissertation work, I examined the ways that religion mobilizes or demobilizes Latinos for political participation, particularly emphasizing the development of civic skills, the effect of recruitment and social contexts, and religious theologies that support or discourage political activism. This work shows that, although political parties have made little substantive outreach to Latinos and other underrepresented groups, churches and other civic organizations have started to fill the mobilization vacuum to bring new groups into the American political system.
In my work on religion and politics more broadly, I have maintained a focus on individual religious beliefs and practices in motivating one’s politics, as well as the role of congregations as catalysts for political action. By doing so, I seek to clarify the processes for how each contribute to political behavior. In work on political congregations and intra-church movements, I argue that, while politically relevant information can be gained through an individual’s religious affiliation, political scientists should also be aware of the particular religious context in which people develop their beliefs about politics.
In addition to political opinions and behaviors, I am further interested in the relationship of identity to political inequality in formal institutions and public policy. As part of this research, I consider how various groups are portrayed and represented in American politics and institutions, and have also conducted research on the social effects of states’ welfare and environmental policies.