Confessional attachment and electoral behavior in the Netherlands

Warren E. Miller, Philip C. Stouthard

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The analysis presented in this paper seeks to outline some of the political consequences of a general decline in the place of the church and religious faith in peoples' daily lives in the Netherlands. It juxtaposes a reconstruction of religious origins or backgrounds against current assessment of the strength of confessional attachments. Erosion of traditional ties to the church of one's early loyalties is depicted as accompanied by withdrawal from formal participation in the electoral process. Interest in politics and informal participation remain high, but the rejection of institutionalized religion is associated with what appears to be an active rejection of institutionalized politics. For those who do remain in the active electorate, a continued decline in confessional attachment appears to forecast a continued decline in confessional party vote. Insofar as change in the future involves general depillarization, or decreased political relevance of the church for all degrees of confessional attachment, the political beneficiaries may be the parties of center and right as well as left. An across-the-board drop in level of confessional voting would mean that many voters with strong confessional attachments would be turning to the secular parties and in doing so – if the recent past is any guide – would turn no more often to the left than to the other options open to them. However, insofar as the future brings a decline in confessional attachment without a diminution in the relevance of confessional attachment for confessional voters, the parties of the left will benefit disproportionately as the newly deconfessionalized turn away from the parties of tradition and seek out the parties of change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219-258
JournalEuropean journal of political research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1975


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