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Religion, Communication, and Social Capital
Unformatted Document Text:  Religion, Communication, and Social Capital --2-- Religion, Communication, and Social Capital In this article we examine religion’s influence on indicators of social capital. We conceptualize the influence of religion as multidimensional, involving associational effects through church attendance and church-based networks, cognitive effects through biblical interpretation, and denominational effects specific to white evangelical and white mainline Protestants. We demonstrate that while there exist direct influences for the various dimensions of religion on indicators of social capital, there also exist powerful indirect relationships that are mediated by various communication processes. Understanding Social Capital Putnam (1993) uses the term social capital to describe elements of social life such as networks, norms, and trust that provide the means for citizens to resolve collective action problems. Accordingly, a society's general level of engagement and trust are component parts of the aggregate social capital concept. For a community, frequent cooperation by its members leads to tighter social linkages and increased trust in one another -- a “virtuous circle” of participation and trust (Scheufele & Shah, 2000). In this study, we focus on Putnam’s key indicators of social capital – social and political trust. The two are inextricably linked and yet very different conceptually. The social dimension of trust usually refers to the ideas that other people can be trusted, while the political dimension measures people’s trust in government and its institutions. Previous research has largely focused on the decline in social capital (for an overview, see Putnam, 2000) and on the reasons for this decline. Putnam himself offered what he called

Authors: Nisbet, Matthew., Moy, Patricia. and Scheufele, Dietram.
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Religion, Communication, and Social Capital
--2--
Religion, Communication, and Social Capital
In this article we examine religion’s influence on indicators of social capital. We
conceptualize the influence of religion as multidimensional, involving associational effects
through church attendance and church-based networks, cognitive effects through biblical
interpretation, and denominational effects specific to white evangelical and white mainline
Protestants. We demonstrate that while there exist direct influences for the various dimensions
of religion on indicators of social capital, there also exist powerful indirect relationships that are
mediated by various communication processes.
Understanding Social Capital
Putnam (1993) uses the term social capital to describe elements of social life such as
networks, norms, and trust that provide the means for citizens to resolve collective action
problems. Accordingly, a society's general level of engagement and trust are component parts of
the aggregate social capital concept. For a community, frequent cooperation by its members
leads to tighter social linkages and increased trust in one another -- a “virtuous circle” of
participation and trust (Scheufele & Shah, 2000).
In this study, we focus on Putnam’s key indicators of social capital – social and political
trust. The two are inextricably linked and yet very different conceptually. The social dimension
of trust usually refers to the ideas that other people can be trusted, while the political dimension
measures people’s trust in government and its institutions.
Previous research has largely focused on the decline in social capital (for an overview,
see Putnam, 2000) and on the reasons for this decline. Putnam himself offered what he called


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