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Nots and crosses: The irreligious and the fate of social democracy

A Politics seminar presented by Professor Philip Nel.

This paper contributes to the demand-side explanation of the fate of social democracy by looking at a significant and growing constituency of the centre-Left that has not received sufficient attention: the irreligious (“Nots”). The irreligious are non-religious and have little or no confidence in churches. They are distinguished from disbelievers, the indifferent, and the “Nones”, amongst other, and form an important political constituency for centre-Left parties in Western democracies.

Using data from the combined World Values Surveys and European Values Surveys for 26 Western democracies, I show that the irreligious are predominantly single, educated and employed males, between 30 and 50 years of age. They tend to be lukewarm about the traditional social-democratic principle of state-led redistribution, and comparatively quite positive about new justice issues such as abortion, euthanasia, and homosexuality.

The growth of the centre-Left Nots is an important factor in the demand-side transformation of social democracy. It is also part of the explanation why social democratic parties have become less successful electorally, despite increasing income and wealth inequalities in many Western democracies.

Date Wednesday, 29 March 2023
Time 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Audience Postgraduate students,Staff
Event Category Humanities
Event Type Seminar
LocationBurns 4C11, Arts Building, University of Otago Dunedin campus
Contact NameBronwyn Craig

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