Religious Voters and the Religious-Secular Cleavage Since 1990

Christopher D. Raymond

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Most studies of electoral behaviour in New Zealand do not pay much attention to thereligious-secular cleavage. While a few studies noted a religious-secular cleavage prior to theadoption of proportional representation, most have assumed that such a divide since 1996 hasbeen confined to the margins of electoral politics, with religious voters supporting smallerthird parties over National. This article re-evaluates this conclusion using data from the NewZealand Election Study since 1990. The analyses show that, rather than supporting smallthird parties more clearly representing issues of concern to them, religious voters have votedlargely for National in most elections as part of a religious-secular cleavage between Nationaland Labour. Fluctuation in support for National among religious voters is tied to National’selectoral fortunes: religious voters have been more likely to support National when the partyhas been likely to form the next government, but more likely to cast votes for third partieswhen National’s prospects have been poor.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-86
JournalPolitical Science
Issue number1
Early online date05 Jun 2017
Publication statusEarly online date - 05 Jun 2017


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