What Isn’t Christian Nationalism? A Call for Conceptual and Empirical Splitting

Jesse Smith, Gary J. Adler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


In the years surrounding Donald Trump’s presidency, a burgeoning strand of literature has emphasized the role of Christian nationalism in American political conflict. The authors argue that this literature contains mutually reinforcing theoretical and empirical shortcomings. Theoretically, the concept of Christian nationalism is overextended and conflates multiple conceptualizations of religion in public life. Empirically, the standard scale used to measure Christian nationalism contains survey items that are too ambiguous to adequately inform (or constrain) interpretations of findings. The authors draw from cultural sociology and political science to highlight key questions current Christian nationalism scholarship does not adequately address. The authors present results from a latent class analysis to show how the same survey items allow other interpretations of how Americans think about religion, state, and public life. The authors conclude with a discussion of theoretical and empirical steps that may strengthen the contributions of this scholarship.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


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