Quin Monson on Norms, Religion, and Politics
Date: December 31st, 2017

How do people view other religions?  Are there norms of tolerance (or intolerance) that Americans hold in common?  If there are differences in these norms, do they cut across political affiliation?  These are some of the questions that Prof. Quin Monson, associate professor of political science at Brigham Young University, sets out to answer in a paper that he co-authored with his BYU colleagues Christopher Karpowitz and Kelly Patterson.  We discuss their recent findings published in the journal Politics & Religion entitled “Who’s In and Who’s Out: The Politics of Religious Norms.”  Before that, though, we include a bit of banter about what it is like being a political science professor and having to answer questions about why we can’t seem to predict the outcome of recent elections.  Prof. Monson shares some insights here and notes that scholars are trying to rectify some recent errors and are rediscovering some important research from the past.

We then jump into the world of norms and norm enforcement.  Quin defines what norms are — the collective consciousness of a community — and provides a few examples of norms and how they operate.  We talk about the norm of standing in line and “first come, first served” and  how violations of this commonly known rule are enforced.  Prof. Monson notes that the more that is at stake with respect to a norm, the more individuals will seek to sanction a norm violator.  He also mentions Tony’s recent work on tipping (gratuities), allowing him to post a link to that conversation below!  Quin further illustrates the role of norms in politics through an earlier study he conducted on how voters perceive privacy at the ballot box.  A field experiment conducted at polling sites, wherein tape was placed around voting booths to signify a private space had an effect on how poll workers interacted with citizens.  We then review the difficulty in measuring norms within a quantitative framework.

This conversation on measuring norms leads us into Quin’s recent survey experiment on the religious attitudes people hold and whether they are willing to sanction people with respect to “inappropriate” statements against certain denominations.  We briefly cover the history of religious discrimination in American that includes anti-Catholicism, anti-Mormonism, and anti-Semitism.  Prof. Monson leads us then through an interesting survey experiment he conducted with the help of the Cooperative Congressional Election Study, a research project involving some 50,000 subjects that can be broken down into 1,000 person modules for specific projects.  Quin reviews the pre- and post-test design of the study and explains how he and his colleagues sought to measure religious intolerance and the willingness to chastise other individuals for holding such views.  He reads a vignette that was given randomly to respondents which was based off of some comments that comedian and social commentator Bill Maher had made towards religion.  They modified this statement to include the religious categories of Catholics, Mormons, Jews, evangelical Christians, Muslims, and Mitt Romney.  The latter was added as an interesting control given the 2012 test surrounded the presidential election involving Mitt Romney, the first Mormon presidential candidate.   The findings from this study indicated that the level of anti-Semitism and anti-Catholicism was relatively low, and that individual respondents were often upset at people holding such views.  The largest effect, though, related towards whether or not individuals would sanction comments calling Muslims “weird.”  Democrats were more likely to disapprove or sanction negative statements against Muslims, whereas Republicans were not.  Quin mentioned that this may be have been a precursor of what happened in the political rhetoric of the 2016 election.  We finish off the podcast with Quin’s thoughts on how norms may be changing in society and what things he has most learned throughout his career.  Recorded: December 15, 2017.


Prof. Quin Monson’s bio at the Department of Political Science (Brigham Young University).

Who’s In and Who’s Out: The Politics of Religious Norms,” by Christopher Karpowitz, Quin Monson, and Kelly Patterson  (requires subscription).

Seeking the Promised Land: Mormons and American Politics, by David Campbell, John Green, and Quin Monson.

Cooperative Congressional Election Study.

Anthony Gill on Tipping (EconTalk podcast mentioned during discussion).


David Campbell & Quin Monson on Mormons and Politics in America.

Patrick Mason on Anti-Mormonism and Mitt Romney.

David Smith on Episodic Religious Persecutions.

Lynita Newswander on Mormons in America.

Jeremy Castle on Religion and Voting Behavior.

Luis Bolce and the Media and Anti-Fundamentalism.

Bradley Wright on Religion, Race, and Discrimination.

Laura Olson on Attitudes toward Religious Free Exercise.

Jason Jewell on John Locke and Religious Toleration.

Corwin Smidt on Religion, Elections, and the God Gap.

Gerald De Maio on the Electoral God Gap.

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