Faith in Numbers: How Religion Promotes and Undermines Democracy
Why does religion sometimes increase support for democracy and sometimes do just the opposite? In this project, I present a theory of religion, group interest, and democracy. Focusing on communal religion, I demonstrate that the effect of communal prayer on support for democracy depends on the interests of the religious group in question. For members of groups who would benefit from democracy, communal prayer increases support for democratic institutions; for citizens whose groups would lose privileges in the event of democratic reforms, the opposite effect is present. I test these claims both observationally and experimentally using a variety of data sources, including an original nationally-representative survey in Lebanon. I find that communal religion increases the salience of sectarian identity, and therefore pushes respondents' regime attitudes into closer alignment with the interests of their sect.
This manuscript is based on my Ph.D. dissertation, which won the 2018 Aaron Wildavsky Award for the best dissertation in religion and politics from the American Political Science Association.
Publications and Past Projects
"Religion, Sectarianism, and Democracy: Theory and Evidence from Lebanon," accepted at Political Behavior.
"Religion and Government Legitimacy," Oxford Encyclopedia of Politics and Religion, 2018.
Review of Joanne Nucho, Everyday Sectarianism in Urban Lebanon: Infrastructures, Public Services, and Power (Princeton University Press, 2016), in Bustan: The Middle East Book Review 9:1 (2018), pp. 89-93.
"The Diverse Effects of Diversity on Democracy". 2018. British Journal of Political Science 48:2, pp. 283-314 (with John Gerring and Dominic Zarecki).
"Communal Religious Practice and Support for Armed Parties: Evidence from Lebanon". 2017. Journal of Conflict Resolution 61:4, pp. 869-902 (with Elizabeth Nugent).
"Arab Muslim Attitudes toward Religious Minorities". 2016. In Allen D. Hertzke and Timothy Samuel Shah, eds., Christianity and Freedom, Volume II: Contemporary Perspectives. New York: Cambridge University Press (with Amaney Jamal).
"Religion in the Arab Spring: Between Two Competing Narratives". 2014. Journal of Politics (Lead Article) 76:3, pp. 593-606 (with Amaney Jamal). Replication Data and Code
"Political Attitudes of Youth Cohorts". 2014. In Marc Lynch, ed., The Arab Uprisings Explained: New Contentious Politics in the Middle East. New York: Columbia University Press (with Amaney Jamal).
"The Youth and the Arab Spring: Cohort Differences and Similarities". 2012. Middle East Law and Governance 4, pp. 168-188 (with Amaney Jamal).
"Military Extrication and Temporary Democracy: The Case of Pakistan". 2011. Democratization 18:1, pp. 75-99.
"Religion, Conflict, and Regimes: A Two-Branch Model of Non-Democracy". 2010. Senior Thesis, University of Notre Dame. Winner of 2010 Helen Kellogg Institute Prize for Best Senior Thesis in Comparative Politics.
Ongoing Research and Working Papers
"What Shapes Support for Democracy in the Middle East? An Experimental Approach," (with Nathanael Sumaktoyo and M. Tahir Kilavuz)
"Abortion Attitudes and Catholic Partisanship," (with Matthew Tokeshi)
"Fertility and Economic Development in the Muslim World," (with Amaney Jamal, Irfan Nooruddin, and Michael Ross, 2011).
"Religion, Gender, and Political Participation in Africa: Lessons from Nigeria, Senegal and Uganda," presented at the annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago, IL, April 4, 2009 (with Robert Dowd).