How does religion affect Euroscepticism?

hi Chapter 5, we use the opportunity afforded by panel data (i.e. survey data collected from the same individuals repeatedly over a sustained period) to examine the complex question of why people who exhibit certain religious characteristics become more or less likely to be Eurosceptic. Specifically, we use the BES and structural equation modelling to examine how religious identification and behaviour were related to Euroscepticism during the Brexit referendum, through their impact on a host of political identities and ideological values that sit at the heart of our theories of how and why religion could shape our attitudes towards the EU. This allows us to overcome some - though not all - limitations of previous research and contribute to understandings of why people who exhibit religious characteristics are more or less likely to be Eurosceptic.

Our analyses show that, first, religious identity affects a number of deeply held political values and national identities, which in turn shape how supportive voters are of the consequences of EU membership for their communities and national social institutions, how they assess the benefits of EU membership and the performance of EU institutions, and the principle of European integration itself. The precise effects of religious identity vary, however, from one community to another. The strongest effects are found among national chinch Protestants: Anglicans and Presbyterians are both more likely to be socially conservative and economically right-wing, and to reject the notion of transnational European identities. They are also more likely to hold strong English and Scottish national identities, respectively, although only Englishness affects Euroscepticism. The result is that Anglicans and Presbyterians are more likely to be critical of the consequences of EU membership - particularly migration - and to perceive that the costs of EU membership for the UK outweigh the benefits. They are also not at all convinced that European integration is a worthy objective. Collectively, Anglicans and Presbyterians are the most Eurosceptic religious communities in Britain. This is perhaps surprising given that most Presbyterians voted to stay in the EU in 2016, but our analysis shows that this was a

The missing link 11 reflection of the fact that most Presbyterians lived in Scotland - the most pro-EU country in the UK. Relative to the wider, largely pro-EU Scottish electorate, Presbyterians are staunch Eurosceptics.

In stark contrast to the existing literature on religion and Euroscepticism, we find that Catholicism is similarly associated with being more socially conservative, more critical of immigration and so being more Eurosceptic. Catholics do not exhibit the same hostility towards a transnational European identity, however, nor the same attachment to an English national identity, and so then' Euroscepticism is less severe than national church Protestants’. This is also surprising given that most Catholics voted against Brexit in 2016, but this is where the distinction between religious identity and behaviour is vital: while identifying as Catholic is associated with increased Euroscepticism, most Catholics are also religiously active (see Table 1.1), which depresses Euroscepticism. In other words, it is not Catholicism but regularly attending Mass that makes most Catholics supportive of the EU; religiously inactive Catholics are more likely than most to oppose EU membership.

Finally, we find that there is virtually no link between identifying with a free church Protestant community and Euroscepticism. While Baptists and Methodists tend to be slightly more socially conservative than the non-religious the difference is very small, and these communities lack the attachments to either exclusive national identities (such as English) or transnational identities (such as European) that could affect then views of the EU. Most Baptists and Methodists tend to be religiously active to some degree (as shown in Table 1.1), and this depressed then Euroscepticism in the 2016 referendum, but identifying with free church Protestant communities does not, in itself, shape one’s views towards the EU. This further highlights the importance of not treating Protestants as a homogenous block.

The explanations for these effects are complex and are discussed at length in Chapter 2. What we show in Chapter 5 is that the key to understanding why religious identity makes people more or less Eurosceptic lies in, fir st, the ideological beliefs and values associated with those conununities, and second the distinctive history of those communities - particularly their interactions with the Catholic Church and the British state - and how this shapes their political preferences today. Catholics, Anglicans and Presbyterians alike are typically more socially conservative than people who are not in those religious conununities: they are wary of change, respect traditional social institutions and practices, and prioritise relationships with one’s local community over global conununities and obligations. This makes them less likely to view the consequences of EU membership, particularly in terms of the impact of immigration on local economies and conununities, but also of European supranationalism on the power, status and identity and traditionalsocial and political institutions, in a positive light. The history of conflict between the Catholic Church and Protestant nations, and the persecution of Protestants by the Catholic Church and its allies, also gives national church Protestants, in particular, reason to be wary of any form of European integration. These communities have relied upon a strong national state to defend them against the Catholic Church, and so anything seen to dilute or challenge that institution will be a cause for concern. The notion of a supranational authority transcending national borders is a key part of the Catholic community, on the other hand, and so European integration is less likely to arouse their concerns. If anything, constraining the power of a state infrastructure that has historically persecuted Catholics - such as the British state - could be something they welcome.

Chapter 5 also examined how religious behaviour shapes Euroscepticism, and in this regard, we surprisingly found no conclusive results at all. While there is plenty of evidence that religious behaviour depresses Euroscepticism, we could find neither tendency for more religiously active voters to be less Eurosceptic in our structural equation models (SEMs), nor any tendency for them to be more socially liberal, more tolerant of migrants or more likely to support transnational European identities. There are theories that could potentially explain why religious behaviour depresses Euroscep-ticism, including the influence of religious elites or the boost that religious activity brings to social capital (Smith and Woodhead 2018; McAndrew 2020; Boomgaarden and Freire 2009). Our data were unable to effectively test these and so neither can be discounted, but our analysis also raises the possibility that the effect of religious behaviour is spurious: that it is not religious behaviour but rather a trait strongly associated with religious behaviour that explains why people who go to church more often are less likely to be Eurosceptic. This is a question we are unable to resolve within the confines of this study and so identify as an important avenue for further research, which is discussed in more detail in the final chapter.

 
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