Religion

Another demographic factor that has been theorised to influence people’s decision whether or not to vote is religion. Although the world has become more secularised over the decades, Chesnut (2003) and Broughton and Napel (2000) argue that religion has always played an essential role in shaping electoral politics both in established democracies and other parts of the world (i.e. Latin America). Nedeau et al. (2017, p. 30) cite in many European countries the link between religion and voting is direct and is driven from the establishment of parties based on religious principles (i.e. many Christian democratic parties). However, as pointed out by other studies from North America (the US and Canada) the relationship between religion and voting is rather indirect (e.g. for studies in Canada see Blais et al., 2002; for the US see Lewis-Beck et al., 2008) where some parties do tend to attract more religious voters than others. To be precise, relating to the two cases from North America, although these parties are not created based on religious principles, yet they do tend to attract voters or members due to the position that they take concerning religious incline issues such as abortion or same-sex marriage.

Moving away from established democracies, Bratton (2003) has advanced the view that people of faith are globally more likely to vote than those who say they are non-believers. The obvious explanation of this phenomenon could be that churches, mosques, and temples act as agents of mobilisation (e.g. see Segura and Bowler, 2012; Harris, 1994; Jones-Correa and Leal, 2001). While I would expect the mobilisation effect of religious attendance to come true in Eastern Europe, Latin America (i.e. Latin Americans and Eastern Europeans have historically been heavily if not exclusively Catholic") and to some extent Africa countries where religiosity in these regions often affect voters through parties emphasising the importance of issues that are often debated in the public sphere.12 However, in East Asia, there is a mixed result with regards to the role of religion in influencing citizens’ voting decisions.

Rood Steven (2002, pp. 157-158) shows that, surprisingly, religion had little effect on who voters preferred in the Philippines (rather than whether or not they actually voted). For example, Fidel Ramos won the 1992 elections despite been a Protestant in a profoundly Catholic country, while Joseph Estrada won the 1998 election despite being heavily criticised by the Catholic hierarchy on his alleged immoral lifestyle. On the other hand. Chin (2002) reveals that in Malaysia religion is an important factor in influencing how people vote, with vote choice being between a secular modernist Islam and the more orthodox, fundamentalist brand of Islam. Overall, 1 can plausibly expect individuals who are more religious to have a higher propensity to vote.

 
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