American Sociological Association

A Nation Divided: Science, Religion, and Public Opinion in the United States

Elites often mobilize science and religion to support opposing positions on issues ranging from abortion to families to criminal justice. However, there is little research on the extent to which public preferences for scientific and religious understandings relate to public opinion about these and other controversies. The authors analyze how perspectives on science and religion map onto public attitudes about a wide range of social, political, and economic issues. Using General Social Survey data, the authors find that individuals oriented toward either science or religion hold differing attitudes in nearly every domain investigated. However, individuals whose worldviews incorporate both science and religion stand apart in surprising ways, which suggests that this third perspective is not located on a conventional liberal-conservative spectrum. Previous research has identified religious-scientific perspectives as a basis for polarization about issues that intersect science and religion, but the authors find that the conflict is far more widespread.

Download PDF


Shiri Noy and Timothy L. O’Brien



Starting Page


Ending Page