Rebecca Olson

Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Aaron Metzger

Committee Co-Chair

Kevin Larkin

Committee Member

Julie Patrick

Committee Member

Christopher Scheitle


Adolescent civic engagement has been shown to uniquely develop in certain contexts. However, few studies have examined the potential role of religiousness on youth's budding political attitudes about social issues. Religious organizations provide a particular atmosphere for civic development as these institutions and their members often have unique political outlooks. Youth who are associated with religious organizations (i.e. institutional religion), feel connected to a higher power (i.e. spirituality), or have certain religious beliefs (i.e. religious conservatism) may hold specific political attitudes about social issues including capital punishment, euthanasia, abortion, and environmentalism. Further, Social Domain Theory posits that informational assumptions, or what people believe to be factually true about the world, influence their attitudes about these issues. These informational assumptions may mediate the association between adolescent religiousness and political attitudes. The current study sought to investigate the potential link between youth religiousness and political attitudes as explained by informational assumptions. Participants included 481 high school students from three East Coast states. Structural equation modeling was used to examine direct pathways between religiousness and political attitudes as well as indirect pathways between key variables via informational assumptions. Results indicated that institutional religion was associated with less positive views of capital punishment and religious conservativism was associated with less positive views of abortion and environmentalism. Associations between spirituality and political attitudes was mixed, yet informational assumptions were shown to link spirituality and political attitudes toward capital punishment and euthanasia. Finally, informational assumptions regarding belief in climate change and the impact of humans on the environment were shown to mediate the association between religious conservativism and less positive views of environmentalism. Findings highlight the important role of religiousness on adolescent views toward capital punishment, euthanasia, abortion, and environmentalism.