Support for redistribution in western Europe: Assessing the role of religion
Previous sociological studies have paid little attention to religion as a central determinant of individual preferences for redistribution. In this article we argue that religious individuals, living in increasingly secular societies, differ in political preferences from their secular counterparts. Based on the theory of religious cleavages, we expect that religious individuals will oppose income redistribution by the state. Furthermore, in contexts where the polarization between religious and secular individuals is large, preferences for redistribution will be lower. In the empirical analysis we test our predictions in a multilevel framework, using data from the European Social Survey 2002-2006 for 16 Western European countries. After controlling for a wide range of individual socio-economic factors and for welfare-state policies, religion plays and important explanatory role. We find that both Catholics and Protestants strongly oppose income redistribution by the state. The cleavage between religious and secular individuals is far more important than the difference between denominations. Using a refined measure of religious polarization, we also find that in more polarized context the overall level of support for redistribution is lower. © The Author 2011. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.
Stegmueller, D; Scheepers, P; Roßteutscher, S; De Jong, E
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