The religious context of welfare attitudes

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This article examines the influence of three dimensions of religion-belonging (faith tradition membership), behaving (frequency of service attendance), and context (one's relationship to aggregate population characteristics)-on attitudes toward multiple forms of state-provided social protection, or welfare attitudes. To do so, this article uses data from 17 countries surveyed in the 2006 "Role of Government" wave of the International Social Survey Program (ISSP). Results from mixed effects regression show that contextual effects are highly predictive of welfare attitudes. Nations that are more religiously heterogeneous are less supportive of state protection, while nations that are more homogeneous, particularly Catholic nations, are more supportive. Results hold net of fractionalization, political institutional measures, and economic characteristics. At the individual level, all three dimensions of religiosity are predictive of welfare attitudes. These patterns suggest that in rich Western democracies, religion continues to play an important role in structuring the moral economies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)268-295
Number of pages28
JournalJournal for the Scientific Study of Religion
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Comparative sociology
  • Fractionalization
  • Moral communities
  • Public opinion
  • Welfare states


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