Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Ulric B. and Evelyn L. Bray Seminar in Political Economy
Religious Practice and Political Trust in India: Exploring the Causal Role of an Attribute
Jasjeet Sekhon, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley
We develop experimental methods for determining if appeals to an ethnic or religious identity can be used to politically mobilize citizens. We have conducted experiments across India on the role of religion, trust, and political mobilization. We show that Muslims trust political appeals more if they appear to be from co-religious leaders. This contrasts sharply with our results for Hindus who do not trust co-religious figures more than other leaders. We argue that the trust given by Muslims to religious figures allows Muslim religious leaders to play a greater political role than Hindu religious leaders, at least in India. In our get-out-the-vote experiments, Muslims, unlike Hindus, are responsive to religious appeals even in a state where the political parties do not separate on the religious dimension and where politicians do not make explicitly religious appeals. We conjecture that differences in how the two religions are structured explain our results. We also show, however, that both Hindu and Muslim voters can be influenced by subtle religious appeals to vote for religious over secular parties in a state where the political parties have recently begun making divisive religious appeals.