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Religion and Support for Democracy: A Cross-National Test of the Mediating Mechanisms

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 September 2012


Religion can be a source of undemocratic attitudes but also a contributor to democratic norms. This article argues that different dimensions of religiosity generate contrasting effects on democratic attitudes through different mechanisms. The private aspect of religious belief is associated with traditional and survival values, which in turn decrease both overt and intrinsic support for democracy. The communal aspect of religious social behaviour increases political interest and trust in institutions, which in turn typically lead to more support for democracy. Results from multilevel path analyses using data from fifty-four countries from Waves 4 and 5 of the World Values Survey suggest there is some regularity in mechanisms responsible for the effect of religiosity on democratic support that extend beyond religious denomination.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012

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Department of Political Science, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (email:; Department of International Relations, Yasar University, respectively. Earlier drafts were presented at the 2009 MPSA and the 2011 Israeli Political Science Association conferences. The authors wish to thank these audiences and the Journal's editors and five anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions. An online appendix with supplementary tables is available at


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