Imagery of Regent people and campus

Dissertation Abstract

How Does a Politician’s Personal Faith Inform the Experience of Political Decision-Making?

Patricia R. Johnson
July 2008

The role of personal faith in the decision-making process of politicians has at various times throughout American history assumed greater or lesser degrees of prominence in the eyes of the public. Yet, little is known about the relationship between personal faith and the actual lived experience of political decision-making. Using the faith-based themes of divine will, moral principles, living faith, and separation of church and state, hermeneutically derived from an examination of the autobiographical texts of seven historical politicians, this qualitative phenomenological study explored the lived experience of political decision-making and the role of personal faith in the lives of four recent politicians. Long interviews were conducted of former and current members of the U.S. Congress and a former high ranking elected State government official, evenly representing the Democratic and Republican political parties. The phenomenological data analysis discovered four essential elements of the lived experience of political decision-making and the role of personal faith, correlating with the hermeneutically derived themes from texts. These were (a) assurance, (b) caring, (c) duty, and (d) caution. Personal faith was found to inform political decision-making routinely in the lives of the coresearchers, and a focus on moral principles was found to be a bridge across parties and value constructs. Implications exist for organizational leadership, including foundational understanding of the parameters personal faith extends into the political decision-making process, providing guidelines for further research.