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The Moral Minority: Evangelical Protestants in Northern Ireland and Their Political Behaviour

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It has long been asserted that strong evangelical religious beliefs underpin strong unionist and loyalist political attitudes in Northern Ireland. Although recent literature has argued for a wide diversity of political attitudes amongst evangelicals, this has not been quantified. Based on analysis of the 1991 Northern Irish Social Attitudes Survey and the 1998 Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey, this article argues that evangelicals are attitudinally different to other Protestants in Northern Ireland. However, their distinctiveness arises from their conservative moral attitudes and not, as widely claimed, from stronger unionist political values. Indeed, in terms of party identification, in 1991 evangelicals were less likely than other Protestants to support the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). And although there has been a small shift towards the DUP over the course of the 1990s, it is not due to any strengthening of the unionism of evangelicals, but rather the increasing importance of moral conservatism in predicting voters’ party choice in Northern Ireland.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9248.2004.00497.x

Affiliations: 1: Queen's University Belfast 2: Nuffield College, University of Oxford

Publication date: October 1, 2004

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