Sociology, Department of


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Published in The Sociological Quarterly 27:3 (1986), pp. 423-439. Copyright 1986 by JAI Press, Inc. Published by Blackwell Publishing on behalf of the Midwest Sociological Society. Used by permission.


The issues raised by the New Political Right and the Moral Majority have overlapped in recent political history. Researchers have assumed that a single additive scale across conservative issues can identify the base of support for the Moral Majority as an organization. We examine general support for the Moral Majority separately from support for six specific issues: teaching creationism, voluntary public school prayer, military defense spending, gun control, pornography and abortion. Data are from a 1982 random sample of adult respondents from Nebraska (N = 1907).

Overall, support for the Moral Majority organization is low. Discriminant analysis identifies fundamentalist and evangelical religious affiliation and Biblical literalism as independent predictors of support for the Moral Majority per se. Education increases knowledge of the organization, but does not influence support for it. Respondents with high income levels are more likely to support the Moral Majority organization. These findings contradict theories of both status politics and cultural fundamentalism.

Support for the six specific platform items also varies considerably and is affected by religious conservatism and, independently, by other attitudinal and demographic indicators including age, sex, income, rural residence, education and perception of declining economic conditions. These patterns do not entirely fit the predictions of status politics or cultural fundamentalism theories. Rather, they provide evidence that distinct coalitions form on specific issues. Our conclusion is that a simple additive index of support for the Moral Majority masks these differences and oversimplifies complex patterns of coalitions in the religio-political arena.

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