Political Behavior

, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 249–276 | Cite as

A Two-edged Sword: The Differential Effect of Religious Belief and Religious Social Context on Attitudes towards Democracy

  • Pazit Ben-Nun BloomEmail author
  • Gizem Arikan
Original Paper


Different components of the religious experience have differing effects on attitudes towards democracy. Using heteroskedastic maximum likelihood models and data from the fourth wave of the World Values Survey for 45 democratic countries, we show that as a personal belief system, religiosity contrasts with democratic principles, generating opposition to democracy while increasing ambivalence towards democratic principles among religious people. Nevertheless, at the group level, religion also serves as a social institution which increases the homogeneity of one’s social network, leading to lower ambivalence, and makes for an active minority group which benefits from the democratic framework, consequently increasing support overall for a democratic regime. This double-edged sword effect explains the mixed results currently found in the literature on religiosity and democracy, and clearly illustrates the multidimensionality of religiosity.


Religious belief Religious behavior Democratic attitudes Ambivalence World Values Survey Heteroskedastic maximum likelihood models 



We would like to thank two anonymous reviewers and the editors for their insightful readings and constructive suggestions. All remaining errors are our own.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceThe Hebrew University of JerusalemJerusalemIsrael
  2. 2.Department of SociologyYeditepe UniversityIstanbulTurkey

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