Institutional Confidence in the United States: Attitudes of Secular Americans

Isabella Kasselstrand, Tiana Couse, Shanell Sanchez

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The First Amendment to the United States’ Constitution addresses freedom of religion and the separation of church and state. However, the historical influence of religion in laws, policies, and political representation have left secular individuals feeling excluded. At the same time, levels of confidence in social and political institutions in the United States are at an all-time low. This begs the question: Is there a relationship between secularity and confidence in various social and political institutions (e.g. the armed forces, churches, major companies, government, police, and political parties)? This question is examined using data on the United States from the World Values Survey from 1995–2011. While controlling for a range of key demographics, the findings show a negative relationship between secularity and institutional confidence. More specifically, atheists and nonreligious individuals are less likely than those who are religious to have confidence in all six institutions. Based on previous literature and the empirical evidence presented in this study, we argue that overall lower levels of institutional confidence among secular Americans is an out- come of the exclusion of such individuals from American social life. Thus, it highlights the importance of addressing the stereotypes and prejudice that this minority group faces.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalSecularism and Nonreligion
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 4 Apr 2017


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