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Monday, November 21, 2011

Religious Advocacy

A major theme of our book is the role of religion in American public life. Among other things, religion drives a good deal of lobbying and issue advocacy, as we can see in a new report from the Pew Forum:
The number of organizations engaged in religious lobbying or religion-related advocacy in Washington, D.C., has increased roughly fivefold in the past four decades, from fewer than 40 in 1970 to more than 200 today. These groups collectively employ at least 1,000 people in the greater Washington area and spend at least $390 million a year on efforts to influence national public policy. As a whole, religious advocacy organizations work on about 300 policy issues. For most of the past century, religious advocacy groups in Washington focused mainly on domestic affairs. Today, however, roughly as many groups work only on international issues as work only on domestic issues, and nearly two-thirds of the groups work on both. These are among the key findings of a new study by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life that examines a total of 212 religion-related advocacy groups operating in the nation’s capital.
According to the report, the groups contribute to deliberation:
About nine-in-ten groups that responded to the questionnaire report that they contact policymakers in person (90%) and in writing (93%). Leaders of the groups say they use both issue-specific research and broader moral or theological arguments in these communications.

About seven-in-ten of the groups that returned a questionnaire say they give testimony at hearings (70%) or author policy papers (75%).
They also use social media:
Six-in-ten of the groups that responded to the questionnaire (61%) maintain blogs on their websites, and more than eight-in-ten use targeted emails (85%) or mass emails (89%) to mobilize constituents. As of 2009, when the questionnaire was administered, more than six-in-ten groups already were using social networking tools, such as Facebook and Twitter, to engage and grow their audiences. Since new media usage – particularly social networking – has continued to grow since then, it is likely that new media use is even more prevalent today.