A guest post by Will Allchorn, a PhD student in Leeds
As a Christian studying politics, I always find it fascinating looking at intersections between my faith and politics. Last Thursday’s UK General Election gave me this chance. Here are some of the findings I unearthed having looked at the political science literature on Christian voting in the UK.
1. ‘Religion Matters’
One common view in UK politics is to see UK politics as secular politics and therefore to ignore religious dimensions of political activity. Famously summed up in the phrase ‘We don’t do God’, it points to the lack of Christian parties and the rise of secularism in UK society to suggest that religion is not an important factor in how people vote.
An alternative, minority view is that religion matters. For example in Northern Ireland, communal divisions between Protestantism and Catholicism are still key predictors. Moreover, north of the border, people still talk of a confessional divide between Catholics and the Church of Scotland.
2. Denominational Voting
Two political scientists in this second camp are Stephen Fisher and James Tilley at the University of Oxford. Here are some of their findings:
a) The Anglican Church: Still the Conservative Party on its knees?
One truism about Christian voting in the UK is that Church of England Church goers tend to vote Conservative. Below are 2015 figures of voting intention that bear this point out:
However, there has been a shift away from this norm. UKIP’s popularity has actually risen more among Church of England adherents than in the general population. This questions the stability of this received wisdom.
b) The Catholic Church: The Labour Party at Prayer?
Meanwhile, political science evidence shows that Catholics tend to predominantly vote Labour. Looking at the graph below, however, we can see this ebbing slightly from the mid-1990’s.
In fact, this graph suggests that Catholics now increasingly vote Conservative. This switch suggests that Catholics’ socially-conservative beliefs, particularly on issues of society and morality, are now matching how they vote.
c) Non-Conformists: The Liberal Democrats at Prayer?
A final trend in denominational voting is that Baptists, Methodists and other non-conformist congregations are more likely to vote Liberal Democrat. As shown by the graph below, this relationship is not as stable as the above two, but it is a commonplace suggestion.
What can we conclude from this? While it can perhaps be too bold to suggest that one’s Christianity affects how one votes, we can suggest that historical linkages of culture and social background shape how different UK denominations cast their ballots. More research needs to be done into the exact reasons, however, and despite suggestions that ‘We don’t do God’, the above evidence contests that claim.