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Partnerships for Empirical Studies and Surveys/PESS

  • Dr. Melissa Wilde, a Penn Associate Professor of Sociology, serves as Associate Faculty Director of the PRRUCS Partnerships for Empirical Studies and Surveys (PESS). One major part of her research focuses on the ways in which religious institutions react to cultural change.  Her studies shed fresh empirical and historical light on topics as diverse as the social and cultural forces that resulted in the Second Vatican Council; the demographic factors that help explain why and how American Protestantism has gone from being majority Mainline to majority conservative and evangelical; and how the politics of sex and gender came to divide American religious groups and germinated into “culture wars.”  
  • Dr. Wilde is also a Senior Fellow at Penn’s Program for Opinion Research and Election Studies (PORES), and works closely with its Faculty Director, Penn Professor of Political Science, Dr. John Lapinski. Bridging PRRUCS and PORES, Dr. Wilde is charting a course to a new generation of survey research on religion. 
  • Led by PRRUCS Senior Fellow and noted political scientist Dr. David E. Campbell of the University of Notre Dame (UND), co-author with Robert D. Putnam of the landmark study, American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us (Simon and Shuster, 2010), the UND Rooney Center for the Study of American Democracy, with partial support from PRRUCS and with dedicated Penn undergraduate fellows, is launching an annual national survey to track levels and change in such democratic virtues as civic responsibility, trustworthiness, tolerance, and empathy.  
  • Dr. Ram Cnaan, PRRUCS Resident Senior Fellow and Penn Professor of Social Work, building on his path-breaking research on Mormons in America, is doing a major research project on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  • Building on other work by Dr. Cnaan, in 2016, PRRUCS Senior Fellow and Fox Program Executive Director, Joseph P. Tierney, updated and expanded his 2006 report on the community-serving value of Philadelphia’s Catholic nonprofit institutions, releasing the report, at a Penn event moderated by Dr. Cnaan and headlined by the Archbishop of Philadelphia Charles J. Chaput.