Political Science Now

Meet 2017 Carnegie Fellow David Campbell

The Andrew Carnegie Fellows Program recognizes an exceptional group of both established and emerging scholars, journalists, and authors with the goal of strengthening U.S. democracy, driving technological and cultural creativity, exploring global connections and global ruptures, and improving both natural and human environments. 

David Campbell is the Packey J. Dee Professor of American Democracy at the University of Notre Dame and the chairperson of the political science department. His most recent book is Seeking the Promised Land: Mormons and American Politics (with John Green and Quin Monson). He is also the co-author (with Robert Putnam) of American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, which has been described by the New York Times as intellectually powerful.  American Grace has also received both the 2011 Woodrow Wilson Award from the American Political Science Association for the best book on government, politics, or international affairs and the Wilbur Award from the Religious Communicators Council for the best non-fiction book of 2010.

While this support obviously matters for my own career, more importantly it is heartening to know that there are organizations like Carnegie willing to invest in rigorous social science — thus benefitting the whole discipline of political science.”

How will the Andrew Carnegie Fellows Program impact your research and overall career?

Campbell: This fellowship comes at an opportune time, as it will enable me to finish work on a book I am writing on the growing role of secularism in American politics. I have learned in my career that a well-timed research leave provides the needed time to pull together the various strands of a project into a cohesive whole. I am grateful to the Carnegie Corporation for their generosity in creating this fellowship, as it enables social scientists to work on big questions. This is especially valuable at a time when federal funding for social science is threatened. While this support obviously matters for my own career, more importantly it is heartening to know that there are organizations like Carnegie willing to invest in rigorous social science — thus benefitting the whole discipline of political science.

What research topics do you primarily focus on? How can people access your work?

Campbell: In general, my research focuses on who does, and does not, get involved in political and civic activity, and why. Over the course of my career, I have studied how schools and religious congregations serve as “incubators” of political participation. For this project, I am studying the political implications of the growing secular population in the United States. What will it mean for the political landscape that a growing number of Americans do not identify with a religion? What are the political differences between people who are simply “not religious” versus those who are actively secular? The former are people who do not attend religious services, do not believe in God, and so on. Many have also withdrawn from politics and civic life. The latter, however, are people who define themselves by their secular worldview. They are highly active in politics, and have the potential to have a huge impact on the nation’s politics.

Do you have any advice for students in political science, including tips on how to find funding and support for research projects?

Campbell: The biggest advice I can offer is to cast your net widely–do not be afraid to apply for grants, fellowships, and scholarships. In my career, I have been fortunate to receive funding from a wide variety of sources, including the National Science foundation as well as various private foundations. But I have also been rejected by a number of funders, as that is inevitably part of the process too. Just as a baseball player can’t hit a home run without swinging at the ball–and taking a few strikes–a scholar can’t secure funding without applying to many sources, and sometimes receiving a rejection.