Understanding Evangelical Voters

Olivia Zietz working at desk




Assistant Professor

Project Summary

This summer I worked to better understand America’s evangelicals and feminism. In most polling surveys, participants are asked whether they identify as “Evangelical or Born-Again Christians,” but what does this mean? There are many differing definitions of “evangelical,” and only some of them intersect with “born-again Christian.” So, this summer I worked with Prof Margolis in the political science department on her research to unpack this commonly used label and understand what people mean when they call themselves “evangelical.” In addition, I studied political spillover effects of feminism on voters.

I was able to get involved with her research in a number of different ways. I went exit polling with other research assistants in the Political Science department multiple times. This was something that was totally new to me but proved to be well worth it. Exit polling forced me to get used to talking to strangers while staying respectful when people express provocative and surprising opinions, as they often did. This experience was the most eye-opening of my summer; it forced me to really consider other people’s backgrounds and belief as well as learn to be more assertive.

I did a lot of research into how evangelicalism is defined as well as its changing nature. I read and summarized numerous articles on the subject. Through this I learned how to find, read, and analyze academic articles. Though I thought I already knew how to do this, spending so much time practicing has helped me become far more skilled than I was before this summer.

A highlight of my research experience was helping my professor prepare for her research trip to Alabama towards the end of the summer. I researched various counties to help her decide where and with whom she could best spend her time. I never thought I would one day know so much about Alabama but taking such deep research dives into numerous facets of the state brought me to that surprising point. Also, for this I got to sit in on several calls my professor made with her contacts in Alabama.

This summer helped me learn what doing research means in practice as well as forced me out of my shell in the field. My research, writing, and communication skills were all improved.  I have pleasant memories from my exit polling days, meeting other research assistants in the political science department, and getting to know Prof Margolis and her research. Participating in PURM have me opportunities to meet wonderful people and participate in enriching activities that I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise do.