Radical right populism and religion: mapping parties’ religious communication in Western Europe

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Political scientists have strongly focused on the religiosity of voters and its effects on electoral behaviour. However, the religious stances of political parties have largely been neglected. Yet, some scholars argue that religion is on the rise again due to the success of populist radical right parties, which use religious references as a campaigning strategy and present themselves as defenders of Christianity against a Muslim threat. Conducting a dictionary-based quantitative content analysis of the election manifestos and Facebook posts of 36 political parties in seven Western European countries, this study provides evidence that populist radical right parties frame Islam in a more negative way than other party groups while presenting Christianity in a more positive tone. However, constructing religious outgroups seems to be much more important to radical right parties than creating a Christian ingroup. Furthermore, our results suggest that there is no systematic link between ideology and pro-secularism messages.

Original languageEnglish
JournalReligion, State and Society
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)4-21
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 24.01.2020

    Research areas

  • Christianity, Islam, political parties, radical right, Religion, secularism
  • Politics