Who and What Affects the First Estate? An Analysis of Clergy Attitudes on Cultural and Economic Issues


Since the 1980s, scholars have come to appreciate the role clergy have in shaping the political attitudes and behaviour of the faithful. Through their leadership in self-selecting religious contexts, they are well positioned to translate religious values into political values. Given their potential as opinion leaders, this study investigates the dynamics of clergy opinions. Focusing on clergy in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, it assesses the influence of psychological factors on economic and cultural attitudes, while controlling for the influence of contextual and personal characteristics. This is done using a question-order experiment embedded in an original survey. There are three key findings: (1) clergy attitudes are sensitive to cognitive primes that elevate the salience of interpersonal and institutional concerns; (2) clergy are sensitive to the perceived preferences of their institutional superiors; and (3) social-psychological factors affect how clergy report their political opinions. This means that the social-psychological dimension should be considered important alongside existing frameworks for understanding clergy politics.


Political Science

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