Religion, anti-immigrant sentiment, and attitudes toward democracy : an evaluation of a changing Europe.
Currently, Europe struggles to negotiate the challenges of a changing society and its historical commitment to liberal values. Nativist backlashes against mostly Muslim immigrants challenge the European project’s dedication to equality, democracy, secularism, and the free movement of peoples. This has only been exacerbated by refugee crises bringing in larger numbers of Muslim immigrants. In the first study of this dissertation, I challenge common assessments of anti-democratic politics in Europe, which largely attribute democratic-deconsolidation to a rise in far-right, populist movements. In this perspective, nativism is relevant to anti-democratic sentiment, but only as a secondary factor accompanying the populist far-right. I ask whether or not hostilities towards immigrants are a primary political contributor to an increasing proportion of Europeans rejecting democratic politics. I find that opposition to immigrants is a stronger predictor of anti-democratic sentiment than far-right affiliation and populist views. In the second study of this dissertation, I investigate the role of religion in attitudes toward refugees in the context of secularization. I find that marginalized religious groups offer the highest amounts of support for admitting refugees, while there are mixed results in terms of differences between Christians and the unaffiliated. This study contributes to research on religion and charitability towards strangers by framing this relationship within the contexts of policy and social change. This research also reveals how religious moral communities condition attitudes towards government policies on refugees. The final study in my dissertation asks how religion affects attitudes toward democracy. I engage classical sociological theory and its framing of Protestantism’s contributions to democratic consolidation in the United States. I test and find support for this theoretical framework in a contemporary and more pluralistic environment. I also find in Tocqueville a justification for considering pluralism and proimmigrant sentiment to be critical contributors in the positive relationship between Protestantism and democracy. I find that Protestants are uniquely pro-democratic in their political philosophy and that Protestant national cultures are associated with citizens, including non-Protestants, being pro-democratic in their political philosophy. I find that Protestants who embrace nativist views are uniquely anti-democratic in their outlook. Overall, my dissertation research is centered around questions of how individuals and communities build peaceful and just societies. Classical sociological theory laid the foundations for answering these questions through the study of democracy in the early United States. My research speaks to its persisting explanatory power in new regional and historic contexts. This research also contributes to contemporary sociological theories that speak to political movements, religion, social change, and characteristics of community, all of which have the power to contribute to both flourishing and pluralistic democracies and authoritarian regimes built on prejudice.