"Well, sir, here's to plain speaking and clear understanding."
- Gutman, The Maltese Falcon
BOUNDARIES IN THE
AMERICAN MOSAIC PROJECT
In 2003 I worked with colleagues Doug Hartmann and Joe Gerteis here at the University of Minnesota and fielded a national survey for the American Mosaic Project, a study that examined how racial and religious identities shape conceptions of citizenship, national identity, and views of minority groups. This research led to a series of publications that explored Americans' attitudes toward racial and religious minorities, including one of the first studies of anti-atheist sentiment to be conducted since the 1970s. The project web page contains links to publications using the 2003 survey data along with a link to the data file and codebook. In 2014, working with some of our former graduate students, we fielded a followup survey that explores some of the same topics as the original research but also expands our inquiry, with more questions about attitudes toward religious outsider groups and public religious expression, as well as asking questions about a broader range of ethnic minority groups. Preliminary findings from the 2014 survey, funded by the National Science Foundation and the Edelstein Family Foundation, can be found here.
When presented with the opportunity to discuss contemporary social controversies, do individuals engage in a "culture war," driven by a sharp left-right political divide? Or is there common ground? How do religious discourses and cultural frames shape the capacity of individuals to have civil and constructive conversations about social controversies? My colleague Kathleen Hull and I have received a National Science Foundation grant to answer these questions. We have fielded 36 focus groups in three metropolitan areas (Boston, Houston, the Twin Cities) and are in the process of analyzing the data. One of our first papers coming out of the data examines the cultural schemas of law, science, and religion and questions whether the dominant sociological framework of modernization theory helps us to understand when and how religion comes into conflict with legal or scientific claims. Another paper examines how the use of storytelling in group settings helps to avoid conflict rooted in a left/right ideological divide and focus discussion on practical and moral consequences of specific policy options.