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Religious Diversity and the Role of Religious Behaviors on Asian American Political Participation


Scholars studying religion and politics have largely focused on how participatory religious behaviors--such as frequent church attendance--are important for political participation. This has been established not just for traditionally white, Christian populations, but for Black Americans and Latinos. Religious institutions have historically served as a central support system for Asian American immigrants. Asian Americans, however, practice a diversity of faiths, including non-Judeo-Christian faiths where frequent worship attendance is not a condition for high religiosity and instead, devotional behaviors are also important religious practices\textemdash which then may also provide a path to political participation. However, there are few studies examining the extent to which the religion-to-politics pathway extends to non-Christian religious traditions. This dissertation seeks to examine how external and internal religious behaviors serve as a resource for political participation among Asian Americans and across religious traditions for Asian American Buddhists, Christians, and Hindus. Across four sets of surveys, I find that external religious behaviors are consistently associated with non-voting political participation across religions, and may provide resources such as a salient political identity for political participation. This latter resource, however, is particularly important for places of worship that are primarily composed of Asian American immigrants, further centering the institutional importance of places of worship for immigrants in the U.S. I also find that internal religiosity is a predictor of civic engagement among Hindu Asian Americans and suggest that the role of internal and external religiosity may be conditioned by the socioeconomic status of immigrants. My findings have implications for the role that religion plays not just for resource acquisition but on the role of religious and ethnic identity across generations. This project contributes to our understanding of religion and politics, and the institutions beyond traditional actors like political parties that play an important role in Asian Americans political behavior.

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