Religious Leaders as Political Activists in African Elections: A Pilot Project on the 2016 Zambian National Election
Faculty Research Grant
Dowd and collaborators Clark Gibson (University of California, San Diego), a Kellogg Distinguished Research Associate, and Brigitte Zimmerman (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), seek to rigorously examine the extent to which religious leaders embed political messages in sermons during elections. The research questions for this pilot project are: “How do political messages embedded in sermons change over the course of a campaign period?” and “How do the political messages embedded in sermons affect political attitudes and anticipated political participation among the congregation?” To answer these questions, Rev. Dowd, Gibson, and Zimmerman primary objective is to document the tone, language, and slant of political messages embedded in sermons in 120 randomly selected churches during the campaign period leading up to Zambia’s national presidential and parliamentary election in August 2016. Second, they will examine the relationship between sermon messages and the political attitudes and anticipated political participation of a group of church attendees at the selected churches. This study would innovate by bringing the text analysis of sermons to the study of politics, a fundamental step in deeper analysis of religion and politics in the region.