Religious voting and moral traditionalism: The moderating role of party characteristics
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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One of the most important theoretical explanations for why religion is associated with party choice is that religion affects citizens' moral values, which in turn affect party preference. In this article, I first estimate the empirical importance of this mechanism. On average, about ten percent of religious voting is mediated by moral traditionalism. Secondly, I argue that the importance of this mechanism varies depending on party characteristics. The effect is indirect through moral traditionalism to the extent that parties emphasize moral issues such as abortion or euthanasia. Under these conditions, group belonging may provide useful cues for voters. Combining data on 50 parties with survey data on more than 10,000 citizens from 13 West European countries, this article provides empirical evidence of this proposition in the case of the religious cleavage. The findings may be of relevance also for other social structural variables, such as class or gender.