The fastest growing religious demographic in the US is those who identify as non-religious; however, few scholars have studied what defines this group or how that motivates their behavior. In this project I argue that there is variance among this group of non-religious, particularly through their belief in personal responsibility towards the betterment of the world or a “Greater Good” score (GGS). I argue that, similar to individual ideas of civic responsibility, this specific belief motivates nonreligious people to participate in politics, but only if belief is salient. Political participation is measured as a sum of self-reported participation, both electorally and non-electorally. This study used original survey data collected through MTurk (N=669) and engaged in multivariate linear regression. I found that the demographic of non-religious has internal variation which can be seen in respondents’ beliefs and in their political participation. The GGS predicts a higher likelihood to participate in non-electoral forms of political participation but suggests a negative relationship, approaching significance when predicting electoral political participation.


van Doorn, Bas

Second Advisor

Graham, Mark


Political Science; Religious Studies


American Politics | Other Religion


Religious Nones, Nonreligious, Political participation, MTurk, survey data

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2019 Emma Folkenroth