Explore Harvard's Nieman network Nieman Fellowships Nieman Lab Nieman Reports Nieman Storyboard

Laura Olson

Laura R. Olson is professor of political science at Clemson University.  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.  She spent the 1999-2000 academic year as a visiting research fellow at the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University.

Her research focuses on contemporary religion, civic engagement, and American politics, with special emphasis on the political attitudes and behaviors of clergy.  She is the author, coauthor, or coeditor of seven books, including Religious Interests in Community Conflict: Beyond the Culture Wars (Baylor University Press, 2007); Women with a Mission: Religion, Gender, and the Politics of Women Clergy (University of Alabama Press, 2005); Religion and Politics in America: Faith, Culture, and Strategic Choices (Westview Press, 2004); Christian Clergy in American Politics (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001); and Filled with Spirit and Power: Protestant Clergy in Politics (State University of New York Press, 2000).  She is also the author of many scholarly articles and book chapters, and she is currently working on a new book on the Protestant left in American politics.

She has served two terms as chair of the American Political Science Association’s Religion and Politics section and one term on the American Academy of Religion’s Committee for the Public Understanding of Religion.  She is a member of the editorial board of the Journal for the Scientific Study 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. 



Huckabee and the Religious Right
ASK THIS | February 01, 2008
Why has Mike Huckabee been unable to sustain his momentum from Iowa, and what broader lessons about the Religious Right in American politics today might be gleaned from his campaign?

Can the GOP count on evangelicals in 2008?
ASK THIS | February 12, 2007
For the past two decades, the Republican Party has been able to count on loyalty from evangelical Protestants, including in the 2004 reelection of President Bush. But election results in 2006 suggest that Democrats may be making inroads among evangelicals.

Is there a religious left in the U.S. today?
ASK THIS | March 23, 2006
Much has been made of the religious right ever since Jerry Falwell founded the Moral Majority in 1980, but little has been said about the religious left. Is there any semblance of a religious left in the United States today that could counterbalance the religious right?

Religion, politics and Judge Alito
ASK THIS | January 30, 2006
Religion has great relevance in contemporary American politics, but what is its relationship to Samuel Alito as a U.S. Supreme Court justice?

Just how monolithic are American Evangelicals?
ASK THIS | October 31, 2005
Evangelical Protestants were widely credited for George W. Bush’s reelection in 2004, and one of their own, former Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, was assumed to be a cultural conservative almost entirely on the basis of her religious affiliation. Political scientist Laura Olson asks an important political question: To what extent are evangelicals a political monolith?

How about looking at the Democrats' 'secular' problem?
ASK THIS | September 19, 2005
A poll conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life says that only 29 percent of Americans believe the Democratic Party is 'friendly toward religion.' As Laura Olson notes, that's a good starting point for reporters.

How relevant is religion in the John Roberts confirmation process?
ASK THIS | September 11, 2005
Religion is playing an increasingly important and relevant role in American politics. What role will it play, if any, in the Senate confirmation hearings for Chief Justice nominee John Roberts?

» Mission Statement
» Watchdog conferences
» Nieman Foundation
» Fellowships
» Nieman Reports
» Staff
» Advisers
» Contributors
» Site Policies
The NiemanWatchdog.org website is no longer being updated. Watchdog stories have a new home in Nieman Reports.