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Faculty and Staff Profile

Laura Olson

Thurmond Professor

Office: 2079 Barre Hall
Phone: 864-656-9917
Fax: 864-656-0690
Vita: View
Personal Website:

 Educational Background

Ph.D. Political Science
University of Wisconsin-Madison 1996

M.A. Political Science
University of Wisconsin-Madison 1991

B.A. Political Science
Northwestern University 1990

 Courses Taught

American National Government (also Honors)
Introduction to Political Science/Foundations of Political Science
The United States Congress
Religion and U.S. Politics
Religion and World Politics
Interest Groups and Social Movements
Political Parties and Elections
Political Leadership
Professional Development in Political Science
Professional Development for Policy Scholars
Graduate seminar on American National Government
Graduate seminar on Collective Action
Honors seminar on “The 1960s: A Decade of Change” (original course)
Honors seminar on “Clergy in American Public Life” (original course)


Laura R. Olson is Thurmond Professor of Political Science, affiliated faculty in Religious Studies, and Director of the Ph.D. program in Policy Studies at Clemson University. She has been a U.S. Fulbright Scholar to Italy (University of Bari, 2020), president of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion (2020), and editor-in-chief of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. A native of Racine, Wisconsin, she earned a B.A. in political science from Northwestern University in 1990, as well as an M.A. (1991) and Ph.D. (1996) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research focuses on contemporary religion and politics with emphases on public opinion and civic engagement. Her work has appeared in leading scholarly journals including Political Research Quarterly, Social Science Quarterly, and the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. She is the author, coauthor, or coeditor of nine books, most recently Religion and Politics in America: Faith, Culture, and Strategic Choices (Routledge, 2018), Beyond Red State, Blue State: Electoral Gaps in the Twenty-First Century American Electorate (Prentice Hall, 2008), and Religious Interests in Community Conflict: Beyond the Culture Wars (Baylor University Press, 2007). She has received support for her research from the Louisville Institute, the Global Religion Research Initiative at the University of Notre Dame, and the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion. She spent an academic year as a visiting research fellow at the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University, and has served on the executive boards of the Southern Political Science Association, the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, the Public Religion Research Institute, the Religious Research Association, the Women’s Caucus for Political Science-South, and the American Academy of Religion’s Committee for the Public Understanding of Religion. A frequent source for various media outlets, she has been interviewed on CNN, National Public Radio, and BBC Radio and quoted in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and USA Today. She also won Clemson University’s campus-wide Fluor Daniel Student Government Excellence in Teaching Award in 2003.

 Research Interests

My research focuses on contemporary religion, civic engagement, and American politics, and has placed special emphasis on the political attitudes and behaviors of clergy. Among other projects, I have done work on the progressive community-organizing work of urban clergy and congregations, the public role of mainline Protestantism, and other progressive manifestations of the relationship between religion and politics. Many of my publications make connections across disciplinary boundaries, whether through co-authorship or intended audience.

 Research Publications

Olson, Laura R. 2020. “‘One Good Schoolmaster?’ What U.S. Teachers think about Restrictions on Their Religious Expression in the Classroom.” Studi di Sociologia 58(4): 413-428.

Olson, Laura R. 2020. “‘With Friends like That’: Understanding Euroscepticism among U.S. Citizens.” In The New European Union: Different Perspectives from Different Member States, edited by Denise Milizia. Bari, Italy: Cacucci Editore.

Olson, Laura R., Benjamin J. Bindewald, William D. McCorkle, and Suzanne N. Rosenblith. 2020. “Public Schoolteachers’ Attitudes about Religious Liberty in the Classroom.” Religion and Education 47(1): 19-54.

Cadge, Wendy, Laura R. Olson, and Margaret A. Clendenen. 2019. “Idiosyncratic Prophets: Personal Style in the Prayers of Congressional Chaplains, 1990-2010.” Journal of Church and State 61(4): 680-701.

Curtis, K. Amber, and Laura R. Olson. 2019. “Identification with Religion: Cross-National Evidence from a Social Psychological Perspective.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 58(4): 790-812.

Curtis, K. Amber, and Laura R. Olson. 2019. “Religion and Identity.” In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics and Religion, edited by Paul A. Djupe. New York: Oxford University Press. DOI:

McCarthy, Angela Farizo, Laura R. Olson, and James C. Garand. 2019. “Religious Right, Religious Left, Both, or Neither? Understanding Religio-Political Identifications.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 58(3): 547-569.

Hertzke, Allen D., Laura R. Olson, Kevin R. den Dulk, and Robert Booth Fowler. 2018. Religion and Politics in America: Faith, Culture, and Strategic Choices, 6th ed. New York: Routledge. (Also coauthor of 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th ed.)

Olson, Laura R. 2017. “Collective Identity and Movement Solidarity among Religious Left Activists.” In Religion and Progressive Activism: New Stories about Faith and Politics, ed. Ruth Braunstein, Todd Nicholas Fuist, and Rhys H. Williams. New York: New York University Press.

McCarthy, Angela Farizo, Nicholas T. Davis, James C. Garand, and Laura R. Olson. 2016. “Religion and Attitudes toward Redistributive Policies among Americans.” Political Research Quarterly 69(1): 121-133.

Olson, Laura R. 2016. “Movement Commitment among Progressive and Conservative Religio-Political Activists in the United States.” Politics and Religion 9(2): 296-308.

Djupe, Paul A., Jacob R. Neiheisel, and Laura R. Olson. 2015. “Carriers of the Creed? The Effect of Urging Tolerance on Persuasion.” In Religion and Political Tolerance in America: Advances in the State of the Art, ed. Paul A. Djupe. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Djupe, Paul A., and Laura R. Olson. 2013. “Stained-Glass Politics and Descriptive Representation: Does Associational Leadership by Women Engender Political Engagement among Women?” Politics, Groups, and Identities 1(3): 329-348.

Djupe, Paul A., and Laura R. Olson. 2013. “Public Deliberation about Gay Rights in Religious Contexts: Commitment to Deliberative Norms and Practice in ELCA Congregations.” Journal of Public Deliberation 9(1): Article 1.

Olson, Laura R. 2013. “Pluralism, Please: A Response.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 81(4): 949-953.
Smith, Lauren Edwards, and Laura R. Olson. 2013. “Attitudes about Socio-Moral Issues among Religious and Secular Youth.” The Politics and Religion Journal 7(2): 285-313.

Cadge, Wendy, Jennifer Girouard, Laura R. Olson, and Madison Lyleroehr. 2012. “Uncertainty in Clergy’s Perspectives on Homosexuality: A Research Note.” Review of Religious Research 54(3): 371-387.

Cadge, Wendy, Madison Lyleroehr, and Laura R. Olson. 2012. “Clergy and Controversial Family Issues: Divorce and Homosexuality as Case Studies.” International Journal of Sociology of the Family 38(1): 85-104.

Olson, Laura R., Adam L. Warber, and Kevin R. den Dulk. 2012. “Mainline Protestants and the 2008 Election.” In Religion, Race, and Barack Obama’s New Democratic Pluralism, ed. Gastón Espinosa. New York: Routledge.

Taydas, Zeynep, Cigdem Kentmen, and Laura R. Olson. 2012. “Faith Matters: Religious Affiliation and Public Opinion about Barack Obama’s Foreign Policy in the ‘Greater’ Middle East.” Social Science Quarterly 93(4): 1218-1242.
Olson, Laura R. 2011. “The Essentiality of ‘Culture’ in the Study of Religion and Politics.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 50(4): 639-653.

Olson, Laura R. 2011. “The Religious Left in Contemporary American Politics.” Politics, Religion and Ideology 12(3): 271-294.

Olson, Laura R., Paul A. Djupe, and Wendy Cadge. 2011. “American Mainline Protestantism and Deliberation about Homosexuality.” In Faith, Politics, and Sexual Diversity in Canada and the United States, ed. David Rayside and Clyde Wilcox. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.

Djupe, Paul A., and Laura R. Olson. 2010. “Diffusion of Environmental Concerns in Congregations across U.S. States.” State Politics and Policy Quarterly 10(3): 270-301.

Olson, Laura R. 2010. “Competing Moral Visions: Religion, Moralism, and the Culture Wars.” In New Directions in American Political Parties, ed. Jeffrey M. Stonecash. New York: Routledge.

Smith, Lauren Edwards, Laura R. Olson, and Jeffrey A. Fine. 2010. “Substantive Religious Representation in the U.S. Senate: Voting Alignment with the Family Research Council.” Political Research Quarterly 63(1): 68-82.

Olson, Laura R. 2009. “Clergy in American Politics.” In The Oxford Handbook of Religion and American Politics, ed. Corwin E. Smidt, Lyman A. Kellstedt, and James L. Guth. New York: Oxford University Press.

Cadge, Wendy, Laura R. Olson, and Christopher Wildeman. 2008. “How Denominational Resources Influence Debates about Homosexuality in Mainline Protestant Congregations.” Sociology of Religion 69(2): 187-207.

Crawford, Sue E. S., Melissa M. Deckman, and Laura R. Olson. 2008. “Culture Wars, Family Wars? The Political Mobilization of Clergy on Family Issues.” In Religion and the Family, ed. Ronald A. Simkins and Gail S. Risch. Omaha, NE: Creighton University Press.

Deckman, Melissa, Sue E. S. Crawford, and Laura R. Olson. 2008. “The Politics of Gay Rights and the Gender Gap: A Perspective on the Clergy.” Politics and Religion 1(3): 384-410.

Olson, Laura R., and John C. Green, ed. 2008. Beyond Red State, Blue State: Electoral Gaps in the Twenty-First Century American Electorate. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Olson, Laura R., and John C. Green. 2008. “The Worship Attendance Gap.” In Beyond Red State, Blue State: Electoral Gaps in the Twenty-First Century American Electorate, ed. Laura R. Olson and John C. Green. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Olson, Laura R., and Adam L. Warber. 2008. “Belonging, Behaving, and Believing: Assessing the Role of Religion on Presidential Approval.” Political Research Quarterly 61(2): 192-204.

Olson, Laura R., and Adam L. Warber. 2008. “Mainline Protestants and the American Presidency.” In Religion, Race, and the American Presidency, ed. Gastón Espinosa. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

 Honors and Awards

Fulbright U.S. Scholar Grant-Italy, 2020

Fulbright Inter-Country Travel Grant-Finland, 2020

President, Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, 2020

Global Religion Research Initiative International Collaboration Grant, 2020

American Academy of Religion Collaborative International Research Grant, 2020

Clemson University Research, Scholarship, and Artistic Achievement Award, 2020

CBSHS Award of Excellence in Student Engagement, 2020

CBSHS IMPACT Seed Grant, 2018

Global Religion Research Seed Money Grant, 2017

Global Religion Curriculum Development Grant, 2017

American Institute for Foreign Study-Richmond University Rome Summer Faculty Fellowship, 2017

CBSHS Senior Scholar Award of Excellence in Research, 2017

International Travel Grant, International Studies Association-Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales, 2014

Clemson University Centennial Professorship, 2013-2015

Jack Shand Research Grant, Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, 2010, 2012

“Difference Maker” Award, Clemson University Housing and Residential Life, 2009-2014