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Politics and Society
Reference:

The connection of religiosity and political preferences: the experience of foreign and domestic research

Baikov Mikhail Denisovich

ORCID: 0000-0003-0365-4635

Student, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Saint Tikhon's Orthodox University of the Humanities

127051, Russia, Moscow, Moscow, lane. Likhov, 6, office 420

baykoff.mixaif@mail.ru
Other publications by this author
 

 

DOI:

10.7256/2454-0684.2024.1.68945

EDN:

PKGOIN

Received:

11-11-2023


Published:

16-01-2024


Abstract: The subject of the study is the relationship between religiosity and political preferences of the voter; the object is actual statistical and scientific research on the problems of electoral behavior in Russia, Eastern Europe and the United States of America. The article summarizes the most popular research approaches in the study of the influence of religion on politics, the author presents a brief summary of the materials of influential scientific papers, on the basis of which he makes his own conclusions. The article presents a comparative analysis of domestic and foreign experience in the study of the relationship between religion and politics. The author notes that foreign studies in this area have a more extensive database, thanks to a long study of the problem of the relationship between religiosity and political preferences. Nevertheless, Russian researchers also continue to develop this topic and emphasize the increasing role of the religious factor in the politics of the modern Russian Federation. The results obtained by the author are achieved through the use of the methodology of review and critical analysis of statistical research and scientific literature. It is concluded that religiosity and political preferences in the United States and European countries have an impact on the final electoral field. In Russia, scientists recognize the insignificant influence of the religious factor on the general trends of political behavior. Nevertheless, among the believers of Russia, the connection between their religiosity and preferences exists and differs depending on the degree of this very religiosity. It is important to note that the use of data from polling stations and in-depth interviewing in the Russian reality can significantly distort the databases of sociological data. These features of the Russian research field create understandable limitations that are often ignored by researchers, and therefore the data are incomplete. In the conclusion of the article, the author notes the possibility of interaction of religiosity and political preferences through the construct above them.


Keywords:

religiosity, political preferences, Russia, USA, political choice, electoral behavior, Russian Orthodox Church, political studies, absenteeism, religious factor

This article is automatically translated. You can find original text of the article here.

Introduction

The enlighteners of the XVIII and positivist thinkers of the XIX centuries expressed ideas about the inevitable decline in the role of traditional religion in socio-political life as human society develops [1]. But history shows that they were mistaken. The Islamic world demonstrated examples of the revolutionary establishment of Sharia law (the 1979 revolution in Iran), the "Bible belt" of conservative states was highlighted in the United States, Latin America was covered by the "liberation theology", and religious parties were of great political importance in Israel [2].

A significant number of public political phenomena issues of euthanasia, the problem of abortion, etc. face the enormous influence of religious beliefs of the population (see the ban on abortion in Poland in 2020 [3]).

Since the collapse of the USSR, religious organizations of the former Soviet Union have entered the legal field and have become an authority in the eyes of society. Amendments to the Constitution of the Russian Federation in 2020 included the concept of "God" in the basic law of the country. The participation of religious organizations in public discussion on important political topics, support for the actions of the government by religious leaders, and even election campaigning is not in doubt (support for Vladimir Putin in the 2012 elections from the Chief Rabbi of Russia B. Lazar and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia) [4].

The above characterizes the official behavior of religious institutions, however, does not allow us to draw conclusions about the connection of religiosity with the political preferences of a particular person. The analysis of this connection is the purpose of our work. It should also be noted that this article complements the study conducted in 2022 "The religious factor in electoral behavior of voters on the example of municipal elections in Moscow in 2022" [5].

Basic concepts and domestic research

At the beginning of the work, we will make a reservation about the concept of religiosity. The complexity of this concept is recognized by all the authors we have taken. We consider the definition given by Grishin and Stepuro to be the consensus definition of religiosity:

...the religiosity of voters is expressed in their performance of specific, invariably repetitive, symbolic religious actions. However, such an external manifestation of religiosity as, for example, regular visits to the temple, cannot be automatically interpreted as the convinced religiosity of a particular voter. Moreover, visiting temples may indicate not the level of religiosity of a citizen, but any external social factors [4].

It should also be noted that researchers of the relationship between religion and politics, in addition to external religious behavior, use in their analysis people who identify themselves as believers, without specifying the degree of their religious participation in the life of various communities and structures.

In the article "Politics in the Church: who are Orthodox priests campaigning for?" M. I. Bogachev and K. V. Sorvin note four areas of research on the relationship between religion and politics in Russia:

  1. 1. The study of the believers' trust in various public and state institutions.
  2. 2. Measuring the attitude of believers to various forms of government (A.V. Sitnikov, V. V. Papkova).
  3. 3. A study of the party preferences of Orthodox believers (actually an article by Bogachev and Sorvin).
  4. 4. The study of political participation and manifestations of social conservatism among various groups of believers [6].

The article by Bogachev and Sorvin itself focuses on the role of agitation by Orthodox priests. Two thirds of the respondents had a negative attitude towards any kind of agitation by a clergyman. However, an impact was found among the rest. Three channels of influence of the religious factor on the electoral preferences of believers were identified: direct campaigning by a priest during a sermon, personal communication between a parishioner and a priest, and the influence of opinions and views of other members of the community. The main beneficiary of such impacts is the United Russia Party [6]. In addition, it was concluded that the party in power has the greatest support in a group that focuses on the opinions and views of other members of the community.

In general, the study by Bogachev and Sorvin showed that Orthodox believers involved in the life of their community tend to listen to the opinion of the priest and their parish environment in matters of political participation.

The already mentioned O. E. Grishin and O. S. Stepuro in the article "Religious preferences as a factor of influence on the results of election campaigns in modern Russia" (2016) [4] analyze the means and methods of influencing religious organizations on voters, as well as demonstrate the sympathies of groups of believers towards various politicians [13].

Having considered the legislative norms and facts of interaction of religious organizations with public authorities, it can be concluded that: 1) the religious factor in politics is used by social and political groups in their own interests; 2) there is interaction and mutual influence of religious and political (at the institutional level); 3) the religious factor plays an important role in the electoral process of modern Russia, and has both positive and negative consequences; 4) Russians agree with the opinion of representatives religions and give their votes in elections in support of those who are approved by the spiritual leadership; 5) the religious factor acquires the features of one of the main ones in the process of political mobilization in a number of regions of the Russian Federation (Islamic regions), which sometimes leads to the destabilization of the political space [4].

In general, the work of Grishin and Stepuro is devoted to evaluating the political activities of religious institutions. Recognizing their high importance, the researchers only casually touch upon the religiosity of the voter as a motive for his political behavior, stating that groups of believers deeply integrated into the life of the community are guided by their religiosity, supporting parties and candidates with a conservative bias.

In the work "Religion and electoral behavior in Russia: the regional aspect" (2017) [7] M. V. Ukhvatova tries to identify the regional relationship between religiosity and electoral behavior of Russians in the 2010s. Having considered the experience of foreign researchers, Ukhvatova drew attention to religiosity as a factor of electoral behavior in Russia. Factor analysis of open surveys allowed Ukhvatova to identify two factors: "religious activists" (orientation towards social activity) and "ceremonial believers" (it is important to observe religious prescriptions).

Further analysis revealed that ceremonial believers tend to vote for the party in power (2011) and V. V. Putin (2012). Ukhvatova argues that ceremonial religiosity brings additional votes to the authorities. These measurements applied to the Orthodox, however, Muslim regions were analyzed in the same model. The result showed that among the regions dominated by Islam, support for the government and the presidency of V. V. Putin was very significant [14].

Y. V. Karpich's research "The influence of religiosity on the political choice of Orthodox believers in Russia (on the example of the Lipetsk region)" (2020) [8] is of interest for its non-trivial approach. Instead of analyzing public statements and the regulatory framework, paying attention to official databases and studying the institutional relationship between religion and the state, Karpich conducted an empirical study in the Lipetsk region using the in-depth interview method.

Karpich's model allowed us to establish that political choice is determined by a combination of religious and non-religious identities, practices and beliefs. In addition, the author noted that the political choice is influenced by the level of religiosity. Thus, the most religious people tend not to participate in elections at all. Karpich explains this on the one hand by the radicalization of their beliefs, because the moderately conservative position of the government is insufficient for the most religious, and on the other hand, it indicates a decline in interest in secular life.

The secular (non-religious) component, such as the question of trust /distrust of politicians, faith in elections, faith in one's ability to influence something, is formed, among other things, from religious beliefs, increasing or decreasing the desire to participate in elections and political life.

This methodological approach allows us to consider religiosity as a factor driving a person's motivation, determining his preferences and behavior in the political sphere.

Against the background of the above-mentioned works, V. V. Lokosov's study "Does religiosity affect the political consolidation of society" (2006) is noteworthy [9]. Written under the Patriarchy of Alexy II, before the beginning of building a firm power vertical and a unified state policy and before the Ukrainian crisis, the article reflects the reality of a slightly different Russia.

The author examines the place of the ROC (MP) in the socio-political life of society. V. V. Lokosov noted that people's attitude to power and the state system is not conditioned by their attitude to religion. Comparing the socio-political preferences of five typological groups: nonbelievers, Orthodox, ecclesiastical, non-ecclesiastical, Muslims, the author came to the conclusion that the religious factor does not influence the assessment of the state of Russian society and the state.

Concluding this review of Russian studies on the relationship between religiosity and political preferences, I would like to note that modern scientists note the influence of people's religiosity on their political preferences, and "immersed" believers tend to rely on the authority of the community and their spiritual leaders. However, it is impossible not to note the Russian specifics of political life.

Foreign experience

Let us now turn to the study of the relationship between religiosity and political preferences in foreign literature. Unlike Russian science, European and American sociology was not constrained by government restrictions on the study of religion.

However, the first thing we will mention again is M. I. Bogachev and his article "Is there a connection between religion and politics? Analyzing the experience of North America and Europe" (2016) [10]. In the work, the issue of the relationship between religion and politics is considered from the standpoint of the theory of social schisms (S. Lipset and S. Rokkan). Bogachev gives three types of divisions that are used by political forces in their struggle:

1. Clerical-secular type (divergence of party preferences of believers and nonbelievers) - in this type, believers (Catholics, Protestants) sympathize with Christian Democratic or conservative parties, do not vote for leftist and radical parties.

2. Interfaith type (divergence of party preferences of representatives of different faiths) in Catholic Europe, Catholics vote for Christian Democratic or conservative parties, Protestants support their own or socially oriented parties. In the United States, the situation is different, complicated by economic and even racial factors.

3. Intraconfessional type (divergence of party preferences of representatives of different subgroups in the same denomination) it is noted that a believer who regularly attends services votes for Christian Democrats or conservatives, who attends less often votes for social democratic and liberal ones.

In this situation, parties and other political forces are forced to take into account the religious factor in their campaigning sometimes using statements about their religious policy in public campaigning, sometimes, on the contrary, silencing and trying not to step on the rights of other religious groups.

Thus, M. I. Bogachev's work allows us to evaluate the foreign experience of explaining the interrelationships between religiosity and political preferences.

One of the works that Bogachev referred to belongs to the Norwegian scientist Oddbj?rn Knutsen "Religious denominations and party choice in Western Europe: a comparative longitudinal study from 8 countries, 1970-1997" (2004) [11]. Tracking the changes in the correlation between religious affiliation and party choice, Knutsen notes that the conservatism of Christians in Europe was an important condition for their political choice. However, over time, the usual division between support for right-wing and left-wing parties has changed. This was influenced by the Green Parties, which engaged in attracting religiously undecided segments of the population.

This study helps us understand that at the end of the 20th century in Europe there was a connection with religiosity and political preferences, however, the understandable picture began to change as the new century approached.

An interesting work on the situation in the United States belongs to L. E. Smith and L. D. Walker "Belonging, faith and group behavior: religiosity and voting in the American presidential election" (2013) [12]. Researchers recognize that religion in the United States contributes to an increased sense of the importance of participating in elections and helps the development of civic skills ("Religion promotes the development of civic skills that enable citizens to participate politically" [15]). The authors consider three large religious groups the Protestant mainstream, the Catholic Church and Evangelical Protestants. It is noted that the latter is most characterized by the formation of a high turnout and the same high support for the Republican Party.

In addition, attention is paid to attending divine services, frequent participation in services does not lead to an increase in political activity. Again (as in Y. V. Karpich in Russian reality), it is shown that a high level of religiosity reduces political participation in all groups, except evangelical Protestants, who are exposed to groupthink [16].

Conclusions

Thus, we can celebrate the achievement of the goal of our research. After reviewing a significant number of different studies, we were able to analyze the relationship of religiosity with the political preferences of a particular person.

1. We have considered two different experiences: domestic and foreign. It was noted that foreign science had much more time to study this connection and had developed a significant base. However, domestic research also continues to develop this problem, noting the increasing importance of the religious factor in politics.

It should be noted that Russian reality places a large margin of error in the use of data from polling stations and even in-depth interviews. Such features of the domestic research field in this matter create certain limitations that some researchers manage to ignore.

2. The relationship between religiosity and political preferences in the United States and European countries has an impact on the final electoral field. In Russia, scientists recognize the insignificant influence of the religious factor on the general trends of political behavior. And yet, among the believers of Russia, the connection between their religiosity and preferences exists and differs depending on the degree of this very religiosity. Believers are credited with sympathies towards the government and the president, as well as conservative political beliefs.

3. It can be assumed, and this is based on empirical data, that the sociologically revealed relationship is not causal (Orthodox People do not vote for conservatives just because they are Orthodox). It is likely that religiosity and political preferences are related to each other as features of a certain construct above them, the search and study of which can become the topic of further research.

[13] However, the "religious" image of politicians shown by the authors causes some criticism. For example, the positioning of G. A. Zyuganov as an "atheist communist" does not correlate with the personal beliefs of the chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, repeatedly demonstrated by him in his speeches.

[14] The author of the article does not consider such a phenomenon as an "electoral sultanate", nor does he keep silent about the problems with the 2011 State Duma elections. Reliance on official voter data and their choices can be reasonably questioned and criticized.

[15] "Religion promotes the development of civic skills that allow citizens to participate in political life."

[16] There is probably a certain left-wing bias in favor of the US Democratic Party in these conclusions. Either this is a problem of our interpretation.

References
1. Beiner, R. (2010). Civil religion: A dialogue in the history of political philosophy. Cambridge University Press.
2. Burkova, E. I. (2021). Religious identity as a factor of Russia's political development. Scientific journal "Discourse-Pi", 1(42), 91-113.
3. Timofeeva, O.V. (2021). "Women's strike": the problem of abortion in the mirror of political struggle in modern Poland. Vestn. Udm. un-ta. Sociology. Political science. International relations, 5(4), 503-510.
4. Grishin, O. E., & Stepuro, O. S. (2016). Religious preferences as a factor of influence on the results of election campaigns in modern Russia. Problems of the post-Soviet space, 1(7), 102-115. Moscow.
5. Baykov, M.D., & Pavlov, N.M. (2022). The religious factor in the electoral behavior of the voter on the example of municipal elections in Moscow in 2022. Politics and Society, 4, 12-29.
6. Bogachev, M. I., & Sorvin, K. V. (2020). Politics in the Church: who are the Orthodox priests campaigning for? State, religion, church in Russia and abroad, 3(38), 331-361.
7. Ukhvatova, M. V. (2017). Religion and electoral behavior in Russia: regional aspect. Bulletin of Perm University. Series: Political Science. Perm, 4, 26-48.
8. Karpich, Yu. V. (2020). The influence of religiosity on the political choice of Orthodox believers in Russia (on the example of the Lipetsk region). Bulletin of the Perm University. Series: Political Science, 14(4), 85-96.
9. Lokosov, V. V. (2006). Does religiosity affect the political consolidation of society? Sociological research, 11, 83-89.
10. Bogachev, M. I. (2016). Is there a connection between religion and politics? Analyzing the experience of North America and Europe. Politiya, 4(83), 142-157.
11. Knutsen, O. (2004). Religious denomination and party choice in Western Europe: A comparative longitudinal study from eight countries, 1970-97. International Political Science Review, 25(1), 97-128.
12.  Smith, L. E., & Walker, L. D. (2013). Belonging, believing, and group behavior: Religiosity and voting in American presidential elections. Political Research Quarterly, 66(2), 399-413.

Peer Review

Peer reviewers' evaluations remain confidential and are not disclosed to the public. Only external reviews, authorized for publication by the article's author(s), are made public. Typically, these final reviews are conducted after the manuscript's revision. Adhering to our double-blind review policy, the reviewer's identity is kept confidential.
The list of publisher reviewers can be found here.

The scientific article submitted for review on the topic: "The connection between religiosity and political preferences: the experience of foreign and responsible research" is devoted to a rather interesting and quite relevant problem of modern Russian socio-political science. The article is well structured and designed, in general, in accordance with the requirements for this type of scientific work for the purpose of their further publication. The article contains a theoretical and methodological section in which the authors substantiate the essence and content of the concept of "religiosity" and define the purpose of the study. However, it should be noted that the authors, in our opinion, failed to present in detail the methods and approaches used in their research. The author's design of the study, however, can be traced when analyzing the content of the reviewed article. The subject of the study has been determined. The research has a certain scientific novelty. The relevance is justified. In particular, the authors show the transformation of the role and place of religious organizations in the development of civil society and interaction with government and management structures, emphasizing that religious organizations have entered the legal field and have become an authority in the eyes of society. The participation of religious organizations in public discussions on important political topics, the support of government actions by religious leaders, and even election campaigning are not in doubt. The authors have analyzed several scientific studies in a meaningful way, presented mainly in the format of scientific articles. These articles are indicated and the authors' own assessments of the researchers' positions proposed in them should be positively noted. The mention of constitutional and legislative provisions on the role of religious organizations and the religious factor in the modern political process is also subject to a positive assessment. The foreign experience (mainly in the USA, Norway and other European countries) of taking into account the factor of religiosity in the electoral process is described in sufficient detail. The features of the Russian Federation are shown, where citizens with a high degree of their religiosity are de facto rather apolitical in the exercise of their electoral rights. Based on the results of the study, the authors have formulated several logical and interrelated conclusions. An analysis of the list of sources and literature used allows us to draw the following conclusions. The bibliographic list consists of 12 names of foreign and Russian sources. They are of a scientific nature and represent studies mainly of the last few years. The style of presentation of the reviewed article is quite logical and accessible to interested perception from the readership. We believe that the reviewed article is capable of arousing readers' interest. Thus, based on the above, we believe that the peer-reviewed scientific article "The connection between religiosity and political preferences: the experience of foreign and responsible research" meets the necessary requirements and can be recommended for publication in the desired scientific journal.