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Morality policy processes in advanced industrial democracies

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In recent years, several countries have experienced widespread, intense debates about morality issues such as the death penalty, abortion, ART/stem cell research, same-sex marriage, and euthanasia. Assuming the distinctiveness of morality policies from other policy fields, this article analyses three alternative institutional models for explaining variations in the amount of conflict over these morality issues across 24 Western democracies. Is either the US-developed “policy type” model or the European-developed “two worlds” of morality politics, based on religious and secular party systems, applicable more broadly? Are there regional patterns (Europe and non-Europe) to any institutional findings? How does each model contribute to our understanding of morality policy comparatively across Western democracies? We find broader cross-national support for the policy type model, with the two worlds model largely restricted to Europe. The US has more morality policy conflict because of its unusual combination of a political party targeting religiously oriented voters within an institutional framework of multiple venues. The US and other non-European countries have similar patterns of institutional deliberation through decentralization, and the US also has similarities in multiple venues with religious party systems in Europe. Secular European party systems with centralized institutions have the fewest venues for morality policy debate.
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Keywords: Morality policy; US exceptionalism; advanced industrial democracies; policy processes; policy type; religious party systems; secular party systems

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Political Science, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV, USA

Publication date: September 3, 2018

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