Religion, modernisation and secularisation

Authored by: Steven Kettell

The Routledge Handbook to Religion and Political Parties

Print publication date:  December  2019
Online publication date:  November  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138500464
eBook ISBN: 9781351012478
Adobe ISBN:


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It is well known that religion is an important factor impacting on the development of political parties and party systems in many parts of the world. In particular, religious cleavages have had a formative influence during processes of democratisation and the links between religiosity and voting are well-established. The chapter explains that, as a general rule, citizens with higher levels of religiosity (especially when measured by frequency of attendance at a place of worship) are more likely to vote for parties of the centre right, while the least religious, as well as those identifying as having no religion, are more likely to cast their votes for parties of the centre left. This points to the impact of secularisation, a process characterised by religious decline in the wake of modernisation, a development with the potential to disrupt, undermine and refashion party politics in new and unpredictable ways. The overall purpose of this chapter is to outline the impact of secularisation in three key arenas of world politics: on Christian Democratic parties in Europe, on Islamist parties in Muslim majority countries, and on the Republican Party in the United States under the presidency of Donald Trump.

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