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Religion, Communication, and Social Capital
Unformatted Document Text:  Religion, Communication, and Social Capital --3-- the “time-displacement hypothesis,” i.e., the idea that increases in television viewing over the past decades were responsible for the decline in social capital since they took time away from other, more civic-minded activities. Moy, Scheufele & Holbert (1999), however, showed early on that time displacement was not the driving factor behind declining levels of social capital. Rather, they argued that the effects of mass media were far more complicated than what Putnam had argued. Overall, two lines of reasoning can be distinguished. The first line stems from cultivation research (for an overview, see Shanahan & Morgan, 2001) and argues that frequent television viewing, especially entertainment television, tends to paint a bleak view of various social realities. As a result, frequent television viewers tend to be more pessimistic and less trusting in their social environment. This is consistent with findings by Moy et al. (1999) who found certain types of television viewing to be directly negatively related to social capital. The second line of reasoning, however, argues that mass media can also promote social capital. McLeod, Scheufele & Moy (1999), for example, established a link between different types of hard news use and various forms of political activities. This link worked both directly, but also indirectly through political efficacy and current-events knowledge. More recently, some researchers have suggested that it might be useful to examine more stable personal predispositions and socio-structural variables as antecedents of social capital (e.g., Scheufele & Shah, 2000). By focusing on religion as a key antecedent of social capital this paper addresses this suggestion. This includes an examination of religion not only as a personal belief, but, more importantly, as a socio-structural variable. Religious networks, in other words, might serve as important networks of recruitment (e.g., Verba, Schlozman, & Brady, 1995) that increase levels of political engagement and ultimately trust among citizens. At the same time,

Authors: Nisbet, Matthew., Moy, Patricia. and Scheufele, Dietram.
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Religion, Communication, and Social Capital
--3--
the “time-displacement hypothesis,” i.e., the idea that increases in television viewing over the
past decades were responsible for the decline in social capital since they took time away from
other, more civic-minded activities. Moy, Scheufele & Holbert (1999), however, showed early
on that time displacement was not the driving factor behind declining levels of social capital.
Rather, they argued that the effects of mass media were far more complicated than what Putnam
had argued.
Overall, two lines of reasoning can be distinguished. The first line stems from cultivation
research (for an overview, see Shanahan & Morgan, 2001) and argues that frequent television
viewing, especially entertainment television, tends to paint a bleak view of various social
realities. As a result, frequent television viewers tend to be more pessimistic and less trusting in
their social environment. This is consistent with findings by Moy et al. (1999) who found certain
types of television viewing to be directly negatively related to social capital.
The second line of reasoning, however, argues that mass media can also promote social
capital. McLeod, Scheufele & Moy (1999), for example, established a link between different
types of hard news use and various forms of political activities. This link worked both directly,
but also indirectly through political efficacy and current-events knowledge.
More recently, some researchers have suggested that it might be useful to examine more
stable personal predispositions and socio-structural variables as antecedents of social capital
(e.g., Scheufele & Shah, 2000). By focusing on religion as a key antecedent of social capital this
paper addresses this suggestion. This includes an examination of religion not only as a personal
belief, but, more importantly, as a socio-structural variable. Religious networks, in other words,
might serve as important networks of recruitment (e.g., Verba, Schlozman, & Brady, 1995) that
increase levels of political engagement and ultimately trust among citizens. At the same time,


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