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Voting and Values in Britain: Does religion count?

Voting and Values in Britain: Does religion count?

Nick Spencer and Ben Clements examine the true relationship between religious and political commitments in Britain.

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Voting and Values in Britian seeks to rectify that. Drawing on a decade’s worth of detailed
survey work, from the British Election Study and British Social Attitudes surveys, as well as from other sources, Ben Clements and Nick Spencer examine the true relationship between religious and political commitments in Britain.

The first two chapters look at the religious vote, yesterday, today and tomorrow. Is there such a thing? Do different denominations express a meaningful preference for different parties and, if so, which? Alternatively, is electoral behaviour shaped more by the level of religious commitment, such as the frequency of religious attendance? Chapters 1 and 2 answer these questions with reference to electoral survey data from the 1970s to 2010 and beyond. Chapters 3 to 5 move on to look at the political values that underpin electoral loyalties. In the US, ‘values voting’ has come to signify people’s attitude to a relatively limited number of personal ‘moral’ issues. This is not the case in Britain, where
‘issues’ polling shows that religious and nonreligious voters are thinking about broadly the same issues when they vote.

What, then, of the bigger values, that underlie all political commitments? Where do different groups sit on the left–right political scale? Who is more authoritarian and who is more libertarian, and over which issues? Which groups favour a more ‘welfarist’ approach to politics, and which a more individualist?

Voting and Values in Britain examines these issues, looking at what Anglicans, Roman Catholics, other Christians, people from other religions, and people of no religion think, and whether the level of people’s religious commitment makes a difference. 

If, as many claim, class is declining as the determining factor in electoral behaviour,
identities and values such as those analysed in this report may play an ever greater role. Voting and Values in Britain is a major contribution to this issue and will help politicians, strategists, journalists and all other interested parties get an accurate and reliable idea about how far religious and non–religious commitments count in 21st century politics.

 Image from wikimedia available in the public domain

Nick Spencer

Nick Spencer

Nick is Senior Fellow at Theos. He is the author of a number of books and reports, including Magisteria: the entangled histories of science and religion (Oneworld, 2023), The Political Samaritan: how power hijacked a parable (Bloomsbury, 2017), The Evolution of the West (SPCK, 2016) and Atheists: The Origin of the Species (Bloomsbury, 2014). He is host of the podcast Reading Our Times.

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