The views on the role of religion in society varies among supporters of different political parties

LEGITREL project's survey on Social Attitudes and Religious Views maps attitudes related to religion and politics at the population level. The results of the report are descriptive and will be complemented by future research publications from the project.
Report summary

In our recent report we have presented the descriptive results of the LEGITREL project's survey on Social Attitudes and Religious Views. The responses, categorized according to party affiliations, were related to religious identities, religious beliefs, moral issues, and the societal role of religion.

Some of the most interesting observations are related to the differences between major political parties and the significance of established divisions in the parliament when it comes to religious issues. As a general impression, right-wing parties tend to have a somewhat stronger Christian emphasis compared to left-wing parties. However, in many religious issues, the National Coalition Party (Kokoomus) and the Social Democratic Party (Sosialidemokraatit) had remarkably similar views among their supporters. Interestingly, the Finns Party (Perussuomalaiset) aligns with these two socially liberal parties in many questions. When examining factors such as religious identification, belief in God, belief in the virgin birth of Jesus, or the question of whether state laws should be based on a religion, the supporters of National Coalition Party, Social Democratic Party, and the Finns Party are very close to each other and close to the overall population averages.

However, significant differences between the supporters of the Finns Party and those of Social Democrats and National Coalition Party become evident in most values, identities, and the societal significance of Christianity. The Finns Party, along with the Center Party (Keskusta) and the Christian Democratic Party (Kristillisdemokraatit), form a distinct conservative side that differs from the other parties. Clear differences arise, especially when exploring views on gender-neutral marriage, nuclear family, the Christian nature of Finnish identity, or the Evangelical Lutheran state church. In most questions, supporters of the Christian Democratic Party stood out most prominently as their own respondent group. As expected, the only established political party in parliament that explicitly identifies as a Christian party consistently showed the most support among its supporters for Christian beliefs, values, and identities.

Interestingly, a higher percentage of supporters of the National Coalition Party (70.0%) are members of the Lutheran Church compared to supporters of the Finns Party (60.9%). At the same time, there is more support among the Finns Party's supporters for the idea of having the Evangelical Lutheran Church as the state church. Regarding the proposition of the state church, 40.2% of Finns Party supporters somewhat or completely agreed with it, while only 27.2% of National Coalition Party supporters did.

There are few clear differences between the supporters of the Social Democratic Party and National Coalition Party regarding religion-related questions. Mostly, these two major parties resemble each other significantly in this analysis. The largest differences between the parties are found in questions related to the nation-state. National Coalition Party supporters are more favourable towards upholding patriotic values, with 85.0% of them rating them at least 6 on a scale of 0-10, whereas the corresponding figure for Social Democratic Party is 72.7%. Similarly, 37.8% of National Coalition Party supporters somewhat or completely agree that the Finnish identity should be inherently Christian, while for Social Democratic Party, this figure is 24.7%. The fact that the leading center-right and leading center-left parties are mostly aligned on religious matters suggests that religion does not create a divisive gap in Finnish politics. This observation aligns with previous findings on religion and politics in the Nordic countries.

On the other hand, almost all the religion-related questions discussed in the report highlight the difference between social conservatives and social liberals. The most socially liberal supporters in Finland are found among the Green League (Vihreät) and the Left Alliance (Vasemmistoliitto), who also have the most negative attitudes towards religious beliefs, Christian values, and the Christianization of society. In almost every question, they were at the opposite end of the spectrum compared to the Christian Democrats. However, social conservatism is not limited to religion, but religiousness (specifically Christianity) or the lack thereof clearly plays a part in whether a person supports conservative or liberal values.

On average, Finns seem to approach the excessive influence of religion on politics cautiously. Respondents generally prefer to keep the influence of religion separate from legislation and believe that the government, for example, should not declare Finland a Christian nation. On the other hand, there is a more favourable attitude towards the idea that the Finnish identity should have a Christian essence and that Finland should have the Evangelical Lutheran Church as the state church. One possible interpretation of this difference is that in Finland, there is more willingness to give space to Christianity in the realm of cultural identity rather than as a force influencing legislation. This aligns with the concept of the culturalization of religion, which refers to the phenomenon in religious studies where religious symbols and practices are increasingly described as "cultural" rather than "religious" in a secularizing environment, often utilizing the concept of cultural heritage. Cultural matters are perceived as less problematic than religious matters, making cultural rhetoric more appealing than religious rhetoric.

However, when considering individual observations of party differences, it should be noted that party affiliation is not the only factor influencing views on religion. The demographic profile of different party supporters varies, and factors such as age and gender distribution, geographical location, social class, and education level are likely to impact responses. The exploration of these connections is possible with the data from our survey, but it requires more advanced statistical inference and goes beyond the scope of this descriptive report. The LEGITREL project is conducting a more comprehensive investigation and will provide more detailed reports on these matters in Finnish after the project's completion.

Report (in Finnish) can be accessed here: