Religion matters for Senators

Does a senator’s personal religion influence their legislative behavior in the Senate? To date, empirical research has answered this question only using senators’ religious traditions, while more concurrent work implies that religion should be measured as a multifaceted phenomenon. This study tests this proposition by compiling a unique data set of senators’ religion, conceptualized and measured by three different elements—belonging, beliefs, and behavior. The study estimates the association between these three religious facets and senators’ legislative behavior on economic, social, and foreign policy issues, while controlling for their constituencies’ political and religious preferences. It finds that religious beliefs are a strong predictor of senators’ legislative behavior, while religious tradition and behavior are mostly not. Furthermore, it finds that religious beliefs are associated with legislative behavior across a wide array of policy areas and are not confined to sociocultural issues.

That is from Daniel Arnon, via Matt Grossman.


Someone figured out how to determine what Senators actually believe? That’s some next level stuff man

Premium quality comment, excellent.

One of the major failings/limitations of empiricism, I suppose.

'The study estimates' whatever it wants to, and draws conclusions from that.

Probably time to get Dean Baker on the line to yet again repeat his warning about taking any politician's 'beliefs' as being somehow reflective of a politician's actual reasons, most of which can be considered to revolve around staying in power. Many people other than public choice economists are fully aware that politicians are motivated by things other than their 'beliefs,' however ascribed or described.

Most people do not seek office. Politicians seek office to further their own agenda. The real question should be which politicians behave in office as they promised during the campaign and which politicians lied just to get elected because what they want to do once elected is contrary to the good of the country (like socialism for example).

Isn’t their agenda mostly just being a senator?

And there is the joking observation - you are welcome to gauge it ratio of accuracy to cynicism - that every senator feels they are the most qualified person to be president.

It is of great consternation to me, that so many of my fellow humans get so easily confused between what people say and what people do. Particularly in politics.

It is merely icing on the cake that these same people seem not to notice when the things that are said so blatantly contradict the things said previously.

Dean Baker. Exactly. The freaking Diogenes of lousy lazy journalism.

Repeat after me: we do not know what politicians believe; we only know what they say they believe.

Is this not true of every person ?

I’m hesitant to even say ‘every person not ourselves.’ I am not sure we even understand what we think or believe.

People respond to incentives, that is what we can know. Public choice economics tells us the results.

The system should be designed to take the above into account.

If ‘believing’ in x causes behavior y, then it is a matter of semantics and philosophy in determining what ‘they believe.’

Diogenes weeps.


And Alexander of Macedon said to Diogenes, “I am alexander of macedon, State your desire and it will be yours if I am able to fulfill it”

Diogenes replies, ‘step out of the way, you’re blocking the morning sun”



This "scientific study" is absolute nonsense.
That MR constantly promotes such blatant hucksterism... reflects poorly upon the management

Unfortunately, access to the study is gated. What does the author mean by "religious beliefs" as opposed to "religious tradition and behavior"? Wikipedia: Religious belief is distinct from religious practice and from religious behaviours – with some believers not practicing religion and some practitioners not believing religion. The distinction between religious belief and religious behaviors is often identified as hypocrisy. Hypocrisy among politicians? Who knew? I wouldn't pick on politicians, though, as hypocrisy is a distinguishing characteristic of everyone.

Vote for candidate Pious. I promise to impose my religion on all constituents, believers and non-believers alike.

I don't know how to break it to you, but every piece of legislation is an imposition of its enactors on everyone else.

"This means nothing less than that he will be forced to be free; for this is the condition which, by giving each citizen to his country, secures him against all personal dependence."

At least Rousseau was self-aware and honest, unlike the "don't put your morality in my laws!" people who lack one or both qualities.

It would be more interesting to see a matrix consisting of income, IQ, and critical thinking skills against religious believers, actors and atheists.

If I were to engage in speculation about the implications of this, I would expect that sincerely-held--but not necessarily publicly-affirmed--beliefs would indeed be dominant.

Religious observance--which I take to be the external manifestations of religiosity, e.g. church attendance, the use of religious quotations, metaphors and tropes, and similar public behaviors--is inherently virtue-signaling, *even when it is sincere*. Since there is no obvious general rule one could rely on in the context of such a study to distinguish sincere from insincere beliefs, I would expect most politicians to act as if they believed (insofar as their constituents demand it) even if they don't.

This behavior can be observed in many areas that are not formally religious issues, but that have all the hallmarks of a religious affirmation, e.g. global warming, open borders, and (obviously) Trump-hatred: whether or not you actually believe these things, it's often prudent to act as if you did...and not just for politicians.

church attendance, the use of religious quotations, metaphors and tropes, and similar public behaviors--is inherently virtue-signaling,

No, it is inherently that to haut bourgeois types who are not present. Very few people who are in attendance at a suburban Catholic parish behave like people on display and there aren't any status bennies from being the lectrix.

Excellent comment. So good in fact that I can't tell if it's a sincerely held thought or very good satire. Congrats!

You cannot tell because you're stupid.

Seems to have struck a nerve there eh?

You don't happen to be one of those Catholic priests who should be behind bars are you?

"... sincerely held beliefs...."

uh, waitaminut, we're talking about US Senators.

There's a weed-out system in place to eliminate people with sincerely-held beliefs.

The result wouldn't be surprising if you could construct a valid instrument to measure a politician's actual affirmations. Don't know how a sociologist or social psychologist would approach that problem. With a notionally Catholic politicians, you might get a useful piece of information by asking the name of the parish where he'd attended Mass each of the last 4 weeks. asking the name of the parish at which he'd said his last confession. and asking if that confession had been said in the last 12 months. (I think one of the practices of sociologists of religion is to ask the name of the parish you've attended in the last week).

Senators signal religious beliefs to woo voters, and have to deliver on the implied policy choices to be re-elected. Any study not controlling for electoral body as a variable is fatally flawed.

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