The Political Impact of Message Attributes from Religious Elites

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Principal investigators:

Paul Djupe

Denison University



Gregory Gwiasda

Denison University


Sample size: 1045

Field period: 5/26/2006-5/31/2006


In this project, we study the impact of message attributes from religious sources on global warming opinions and orientations. Specifically, we investigate the impact of a new stance favoring greater resources to combat environmental degradation taken by the National Association of Evangelicals. Three aspects of this project contribute to its importance: 1) to our knowledge, experimental designs have not been employed in religion and politics research to date; 2) this question concerns an important constituency at a historic moment when new information is being provided to them; and 3) we test the mechanisms by which group influence might occur, including group and identity, while adding a new possible mechanism: the process of reaching a decision.
[1]There is one study we can find, almost unknown in the subfield: McKeown, Bruce and James M. Carlson. 1987. "An Experimental Study of the Influence of Religious Elites on Public Opinion." Political Communication and Persuasion 4(2): 93-102.


A. Group ID (NAE affiliation of the cue-giver) should boost support for addressing global warming among evangelicals.
B. The provision of a process cue (i.e., that the decision to support global warming was produced through "thoughtful prayer with others and reading Scripture") should boost support for addressing global warming among evangelicals.
C. Group ID and process cues should undermine support for addressing global warming among out-group members.

Experimental Manipulations

Survey respondents were presented with a statement to read. Words encircled by "[]" are source cues, words encircled by "{}" are process cues. The cues were each delivered to half the sample in classic 2x2 fashion.
[Reverend] Rich Cizik, vice president of governmental affairs for [the National Association of Evangelicals], {stated that after thoughtful prayer with others and reading Scripture he had a "conversion" on climate change so profound that he likened it to an "altar call." As a result, he} urged the "government to encourage fuel efficiency, reduce pollution, encourage sustainable use of natural resources, and provide for the proper care of wildlife and their natural habitats."


At this point, we would like to get your thoughts on this issue. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement. The U.S. government needs to do more to address the issue of global warming. 1. Strongly Agree, 2. Somewhat Agree, 3. Neither Agree nor Disagree, 4. Somewhat Disagree, 5. Strongly Disagree.

Summary of Results

We found few effects from source cues in any subgroup and more from process cues.


The results do not present a sanguine picture of elites changing the minds of millions of evangelicals on the need to address global warming.


Djupe, P. A., and G. W. Gwiasda. 2010. "Evangelizing the Environment: Decision Process Effects in Political Persuasion." Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 49:73-86.