Religious Values and Voter Choice

Room 2.30A, Law & Politics Building
Time Slot: 
Monday 26th March 14:15 - 15:45
Panel Chair: 
Panel Members: 
  • Dr Siobhan McAndrew (University of Bristol)
  • Dr Christopher Raymond (Queen's University Belfast)
  • Professor James Crossley (St Mary's University )
  • Dr Stuart Fox (Cardiff University)

This panel consists of four papers examining issues around the role of religion in voter choice. Paper #1 contributes to research on Euroscepticism by focusing on an often-overlooked predictor of political behaviour – religious affiliation. It explores the role that religious affiliation plays in influencing specific (utilitarian) and diffuse (affective) support using the 2016 UK’s Referendum as a case study. Drawing on the analysis of the British Election Studies Referendum Panel data, this paper shows that affiliation with the Church of England and the Catholic Church, in particular, affected vote choice in the referendum and shaped Eurosceptic attitudes by influencing their affective attachment to the European Union. These effects stand when controlling for traditional predictors of Euroscepticism and voting behaviour in Britain. Paper #2 investigates the conceptual and empirical links between religion, religiosity and support for Brexit and Trump, via a study of the British Election Study 2015 and the American National Election Study 2016-2017. The paper finds that Anglican are more likely to support Brexit than those with no affiliation, an effect that is largely mediated by anti-immigrant attitudes and authoritarianism, suggesting a Christian nationalist motivation for Leave support. In the US, having a religious tradition rather than none predicts Trump support except for those identifying as non-denominational Christian, Jewish or with historically Black Protestant churches. More frequent church attendance also predicts support for Trump. The effects of tradition are found to be largely mediated by values and attitudes, particularly perceived external security threat. The effect of church attendance is almost entirely mediated by values, primarily authoritarianism. Paper #3 examines the link between religious diversity and party systems. Using data counting the number of religious parties in elections around the world between 2011 and 2015, the analysis shows that religious diversity is negatively associated with the number of religious parties contesting elections. In line with a revisionist perspective, these results suggest that religious diversity creates incentives for political cooperation that lead elites to cooperate across religious group lines in support of parties representing their shared political interests. Paper #4 explores the use of religion by political leaders in the UK. Based on a series of interviews conducted in the immediate aftermath of the EU Referendum, the paper finds an overwhelming disdain for (almost) all politicians and (almost) all established political authority. This is closely connected to the way in which religion was perceived in political discourse: something that was understood to be abused by virtually all politicians for their own gain. This did not, however, translate into hostility towards religion, and there was a constant grudging respect for the idea of a basic moral code identified as Christian which certain ‘non-establishment’ politicians might just be deemed authentic enough to use or follow.