Dassonneville, Ruth, Martin Elff, and Kamil Marcinkiewicz. 2022. “The Transformation of Religious Cleavages in Western Europe: A Comparative Analysis”.
Traditionally, religion is thought of as an important determinant of voting behaviour. The secularization of Western societies, however, has changed its role. Secularization not only limits the political relevance of religion, it likely affects the nature of religious cleavages too. Evidence from the United States suggests that a decrease of denominational differences goes hand in hand with increased relevance of religiosity. Specifically, a divide between the secular sections of the society and a cross-denominational coalition of the most reli- gious voters has emerged. In this paper, we examine whether and how the role of religion for voting behaviour has changed in Western Europe. Combining data from the European Social Survey (ESS) and information on parties’ positions from the Chapel Hill Expert Survey (CHES), we study over-time changes in belonging and believing across Western Europe, examine changes in the positions that parties take on religious issues and dimen- sions, and assess the nature of over-time changes in the connection between religion and the vote choice. To gain insights on a likely transformation of the religious cleavage, we focus on changes in the role of religion for members of different birth cohorts. Our results show indications of a religious-secular polarization among the youngest birth cohorts.