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Taking Stock of Conservative and Progressive Religious Activists

In recent times, much has been written about faith-based politics in the United States, and religious activists are typically at the center of such stories. Activists are literally where the action is in politics-the people who write checks, stuff envelopes, knock on doors, blog, and demonstrate on behalf of causes deeply rooted in their religious values.

Conservative religious activists, sometimes referred to as the “religious right” or the “Christian conservative movement,” are better known. They have become a staple of national politics in the last three decades, opposing same-sex marriage and abortion, and seeking to protect traditional moral values. These activists represent a long history of political action, dating back to the prohibition and anti-evolution movements in the early 20th Century.

More recently, progressive religious activists, sometimes referred to as the “religious left” or the “progressive religious movement,” have received renewed attention. They have become more visible and organized in the last several years, working for social justice and peace, and seeking to protect the environment. These activists also represent a long history of faith-based political activism, including playing integral roles in the civil rights and labor movements.

To cast light on the important role both conservative and progressive religious activists play in American politics today, Public Religion Research teamed up with well-known scholar John C. Green at the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron to field the 2009 Religious Activists Surveys, the first-ever mirrored surveys of conservative and progressive activists.

After we released our findings at a national press conference at the National Press Club on September 15, 2009, Dr. Green sat down with Kim Lawton of “Religion and Ethics Newsweekly” at PBS to discuss the implications of the findings for the future of religions activism, both left and right, in America.

To read the full Religious Activists Survey report, “Faithful, Engaged, and Divergent: Conservative and Progressive Religious Activists in the 2008 Election and Beyond,” click here.

The 2009 Religious Activists Surveys drew upon previous research on the conservative and progressive religious movements by the principal researchers on the study, Dr. Robert P. Jones and Dr. John Green. To read more, see their previously published books below.