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Title page for ETD etd-03202015-220231


Type of Document Dissertation
Author Quiros, Elizabeth
URN etd-03202015-220231
Title The Torture Question: The Role of Religion and Psychology in Public Opinion of Torture
Degree PhD
Department Religion
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Volney P. Gay, Ph.D. Committee Chair
Barbara J. McClure, Ph.D. Committee Co-Chair
Bonnie Miller-McLemore, Ph.D. Committee Member
Carey M. Snarr, Ph.D. Committee Member
Marc J. Hetherington, Ph.D. Committee Member
Keywords
  • psychology of religion
  • public opinion
  • torture
  • political psychology
  • moral psychology
Date of Defense 2015-02-06
Availability unrestricted
Abstract
According to public opinion polls, a majority of U.S. Americans think that torture can be “justified against suspected terrorists to gain key information.” Eighty percent of these respondents consider themselves Christian, and in fact torture acceptance is higher among this population than members of other faith traditions, the religiously unaffiliated, and the nation as a whole. This begs the question: What is the role of religion in public opinion of torture? To address this question I performed a quantitative meta-analysis of torture opinion data between 2001 and 2011. My analysis yielded two main findings. First, the role of religion in torture opinion is subordinate to political party and ideology. The latter are the most significant determinants of torture opinion, with greater torture support associated with Conservative and/or Republican political orientation (Consv-Reps) and greater torture opposition associated with Liberal and/or Democratic political orientation (Lib-Dems). Second, the role of religion in torture opinion is not only subordinate to but also mediated through political orientation and race, with religious affiliation increasing torture support among Whites on the political left and decreasing torture support among Blacks and the political right. Drawing on sources from cultural psychology, political science, and psychology of religion, I interpret these key findings in the following ways. I attribute differences in torture opinion among Consv-Reps and Lib-Dems to (1) different political psychologies, defined by distinct attitudes towards change and equality, and structured in part by (a) distinct social dominance orientations, as well as (b) distinct positions on the authoritarian spectrum; (2) different moral intuitions, which are characterized by (a) different emphases and interpretations of the Care, Fairness, and Liberty foundations, and (b) a broader moral palate and monopoly on the groupish foundations among conservatives; and (3) ultimately different social motivations and community boundaries. These differences interact with religion in ways that may account for the decrease in torture support among religious Consv-Reps and Blacks, and the increase in torture support among religious white Lib-Dems relative their non-religious counterparts.
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