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Religion, Communication, and Social Capital
Unformatted Document Text:  Religion, Communication, and Social Capital --9-- fatalistic worldviews, McLeod, Sotirovic, and Holbert (1998) found fatalistic worldviews to be negatively related to efficacy. McLeod et al. (1998) also show that fatalistic worldviews are negatively related to public affairs media use and political discussions with non-likeminded others. This possible negative link between communication processes within the public sphere and strength of religious belief is also supported by a series of experimental studies based on the theory of cognitive dissonance (Festinger, 1959; 1960). In these studies, individuals with strong religious beliefs were likely to avoid secular news or entertainment media that might present ideas or information with which they disagree (Brock and Balloun, 1967; McFarland and Warren, 1992). The direct and indirect negative linkages between strength of religious belief and social capital are supported by the findings of Scheufele et al. (2001). After controlling for demographics and church attendance, individuals with strong religious beliefs were less likely to read the newspaper, had lower levels of political knowledge, and possessed lower levels of internal political efficacy. In total, previous research indicates that strength of religious belief will be negatively related to indicators of social capital both directly, but also indirectly, through various mediators, including political discussions with a diversity of others, public affairs media use, and political knowledge. This leads to the following set of hypotheses specific to the relationship between religion’s cognitive dimension and social capital indicators: H1a: Religion’s cognitive dimension, as measured by a respondent’s interpretation of the Bible, will have a direct negative effect on social trust. H1b: Religion’s cognitive dimension will have an indirect negative effect on social trustthrough other endogenous variables. H1c: Religion’s cognitive dimension will have a direct negative effect on political trust.

Authors: Nisbet, Matthew., Moy, Patricia. and Scheufele, Dietram.
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Religion, Communication, and Social Capital
--9--
fatalistic worldviews, McLeod, Sotirovic, and Holbert (1998) found fatalistic worldviews to be
negatively related to efficacy.
McLeod et al. (1998) also show that fatalistic worldviews are negatively related to public
affairs media use and political discussions with non-likeminded others. This possible negative
link between communication processes within the public sphere and strength of religious belief
is also supported by a series of experimental studies based on the theory of cognitive dissonance
(Festinger, 1959; 1960). In these studies, individuals with strong religious beliefs were likely to
avoid secular news or entertainment media that might present ideas or information with which
they disagree (Brock and Balloun, 1967; McFarland and Warren, 1992).
The direct and indirect negative linkages between strength of religious belief and social
capital are supported by the findings of Scheufele et al. (2001). After controlling for
demographics and church attendance, individuals with strong religious beliefs were less likely to
read the newspaper, had lower levels of political knowledge, and possessed lower levels of
internal political efficacy.
In total, previous research indicates that strength of religious belief will be negatively
related to indicators of social capital both directly, but also indirectly, through various mediators,
including political discussions with a diversity of others, public affairs media use, and political
knowledge. This leads to the following set of hypotheses specific to the relationship between
religion’s cognitive dimension and social capital indicators:
H1a: Religion’s cognitive dimension, as measured by a respondent’s interpretation of the
Bible, will have a direct negative effect on social trust.
H1b: Religion’s cognitive dimension will have an indirect negative effect on social trust
through other endogenous variables.
H1c: Religion’s cognitive dimension will have a direct negative effect on political trust.


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