Office of Citizen
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Office of Citizen

Civic Language + Religion

A deep dive on the impact of religion on civic language.

Seventy-five percent of Americans report holding a specific religious affiliation; understanding the relationship between religious affiliation and civic engagement seems important for PACE and the broader field of civic engagement funders and organizations. Within the context of the United States, Christian affiliation broadly speaking — including Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and many different protestant expressions — impacts the way 70% of Americans interact in civic spaces. Even so, the religious landscape in America is evolving, with the fastest growing group being people who are unaffiliated, currently at 23%. A second key trend I have observed is the increasingly organized efforts to uplift and support religious diversity and interfaith understanding as an important component of equity and inclusion strategy in civic, educational, and work environments. A recent study from the Fetzer Institute found that “the more strongly a person identifies as spiritual, the more likely they are to believe it is very important to contribute to greater good in the world.”

For our part, PACE is three years into our own set of experiments to help our field better understand the depth and nuances of the intersection between religion and democracy. Informed by these experiments, we used new data from our Civic Language Perceptions Project (CLPP) to explore the following questions in a deep dive session:

You can view the recording of the deep dive session, download the slide deck, and check out the Civic Language + Religion infographic.

Analysis and Findings

Data by Citizen Data. Design by Cameron Blossom. Find more at

To investigate the general impact of religious affiliation on perception of words and civic activities, we clustered together the responses from people with a stated affiliation to any of the major religious traditions together, and then grouped atheist, agnostic, and none responses together in a “no affiliation” category. In doing so, we found:

Given that in the United States, 70% of Americans identify as Christian, we wanted to understand how that identity may vary from other religious affiliations. So we clustered the responses of the various Christian affiliations together and compared them with a cluster made up of people from other religious traditions (Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Orthodox, and Hindu), and with the “no affiliation” group (agnostics, atheists, and nones). Looking at the data this way, we found:

One other interesting trend that we noticed in the data came from adding on the additional layer of political ideology. The data show that as it relates to our 21 civic terms, where Americans are politically aligned, we are religiously unaligned and where we are religiously aligned, we are politically unaligned. For example, religiously affiliated and unaffiliated groups have a 14% positive differential in their views on the word civility; however liberals and conservatives only have a 0.7% positive differential. Contrast that to the word diversity, where there is only a 0.4% positive differential between the religiously affiliated and unaffiliated, but there is a 32.6% positive differential between liberals and conservatives.

Data by Citizen Data. Design by Cameron Blossom. Find more at

These trends and findings in the data invite further investigation and exploration. In particular, these questions and topics were raised during the deep dive session as potential areas for future exploration:

On these questions, and others, we are eager to continue learning with you. PACE is offering $500 mini-grants to support people who want to dig into the data and create something customized with it. We encourage you to apply today and share with your networks!

In addition, keep an eye on our Medium page and twitter as we publish more learnings on this topic, and please keep us updated on how this data is helping you and your work by emailing We look forward to learning from you!

To learn more about the Civic Language Perceptions Project, please visit



Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE) is a network of funders who believe our democracy will be healthier, more resilient, and productive with the office of citizen at its center. This diverse range of stories come from PACE members, partners, and guest contributors.

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Siri Erickson

Siri is a Program Manager at PACE, and has worked in various roles in the non-profit, faith, and higher education sectors.