Analysis: Does being religious make you right- or left-wing?

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In 2012, the religion and society think tank Theos published a report asking whether a US-style 'Religious Right' was emerging in Britain.

The answer was broadly 'No', but this invited another question: if no 'Religious Right', what then? Who do the religious vote for? And why?

Over the last 18 months I have been working with Dr Ben Clements of the University of Leicester, going through years of data from the British Election Study, British Social Attitudes and other smaller sources to try to answer that question. The results can be read here.

And the answer is… well, there are lots of answers, or at least potential headlines.

One might say that the Tories are the Anglican party at prayer. Or that Roman Catholics are still largely Labour. Or that Muslims, like most religious minorities, remain predominantly Labour. Or that the non-religious are heavily liberal-left, with high support for Labour since '97 and a disproportionate number voting for the Liberal Democrats at the same time. All of these are true – broadly – but mask details that are more interesting.

So, for example, Anglicans who attend services regularly (once a month or more) have historically been more likely to vote Conservative than those who attended less often or not at all ('nominal Anglicans'). However, for the first time, in 2010, this was not the case. Does this indicate a loosening of the Anglican-Tory tie?

Similarly, the Catholic-Labour vote has fallen steadily since '97, hitting a 50-year low in 2010. It has fallen in this way before (between the mid 60s and late 70s) and subsequently recovered, but will it do so again, not least since Labour adopted a socially-liberal agenda under Blair? Are the long-attested links between Labour and Roman Catholics loosening.

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