When the Church Votes Left: The Electoral Consequences of Progressive Religion


Guadalupe Tuñón
Academy Scholar, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University

How does progressive religion shape the objectives and electoral fortunes of the left? While scholars have generally understood religion as an obstacle to the success of left-wing parties, Tuñón argues that economically progressive religion can provide ideational and organizational resources that are crucial to the electoral success of left-wing parties. However, the presence of progressive religious organizations poses a dilemma for left-wing parties: When they advance conservative moral policies, gaining their support requires the left party to moderate its position on this policy dimension. Tuñón tests her argument using original archival data from the Catholic Church and drawing on a natural experiment in Brazil following Pope John Paul II’s appointment in 1978.