Religion may not attract as many people as it once did in the United Kingdom, but with Christians still making up a large proportion of the electorate, their vote is crucial in elections.
It can be difficult as Christians to pick a political party that espouses the same, Christian-based views that are held. Some choose not to vote at all, due to concerns over the mix of politics and religion.
But there are so many different types of Christianity, with multiple opinions on key topics that are associated with politics. Therefore, there isn’t one set party that Christians vote for – but each denomination tends to lean one way or the other.
Political parties in the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom is considered a two-party nation, with the left-leaning Labour Party and the centre-right Conservative Party (also known as the Tories) being the two main parties.
Scotland’s Scottish National Party is a large party in Scotland, which has seats in the British Parliament. The Liberal Democrats, Green Party, Reform UK (formally known as the Brexit Party) and UKIP are other parties that attract votes.
There are minor parties that have Christian-centric values – namely the Christian Democrats. But because these parties are so small, they rarely attract votes, due to beliefs that they might be a “wasted vote”.
Christianity in the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom’s have a large number of Catholics and Protestants. Within Protestantism, there are a huge range of different denominations – each with slightly differing beliefs and stances on some issues.
As mentioned earlier, those who are non-religious are rising. However, it is believed that around 43% of the population identify as Christian. This equates to around 25-30million people – which is a large amount of people.
About 20% of these are Anglican (Church of England), 8% are Catholic, and approximately 15% belong to a different form of Christianity, such as Baptists, Pentecostalism, Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses among others.
No leaders of any Christian denominations in the United Kingdom fully endorse a certain party – instead instructing their members to vote as they see fit. The 1983 Representation of the People Act specifically banned religious leaders from this.
Further to the above, politicians very rarely bring up the topic of religion, with most politicians remaining neutral on the subject. Unlike American politics, politicians in the United Kingdom typically ignore religion in their policies.
Typical Party Allegiances
Historically, Catholics have supported the Labour Party. This is usually attributed to the working class roots of the Labour Party. Catholics voting for a left-of-centre party is a rarity in Europe, with the United Kingdom proving to be an outlier in this respect.
Statistics show that Labour traditionally has especially strong support from Catholics in Scotland. However, a trend where more and more Catholics are moving towards the Conservative Party has been noticed.
The Labour Party in recent years has moved very left of centre, which is often seen to be incompatible with the beliefs taught by the Catholic Church. Despite this, support for the Labour Party does remain from some Catholics.
The official state Church of the United Kingdom is the Church of England, which is part of Anglicanism. Unlike Catholics, Anglicans have traditionally supported the Conservative Party. This support has remained rather constant in the last few decades.
Going back to the early 20th Century, the Conservative Party has always been seen as the party of choice for the Church of England – with the two entwined for many years. This may not be obvious in the contemporary age, but some would consider it to still be accurate.
Another large branch of Protestantism is Methodism. Methodists used to vote for the Labour Party predominantly, however this has been shifting – with Methodists now favouring the Conservative Party.
For Baptists, they used to typically support the Labour Party. But like the Methodists described above, in recent years, they have mainly started to vote for the Conservative Party.
Pentecostalism is an important part of Christianity in the United Kingdom – and is one of the few areas in Christianity which is growing in numbers. As Pentecostalism is a rather new movement, there isn’t much data available.
However, given that Pentecostalism largely adopts a socially conservative viewpoint on life and society, it is likely that they would vote for the Conservative Party over the Labour Party. This is certainly an area to look out for in the coming years.
These voting patterns may also be linked to how grandparents and even great-grandparents voted – which may trickle down the generations. It is difficult to judge how much this impacts us.
In the United Kingdom, with the number of people identifying as religious falling, faith is likely to continue to play a minor role in elections. But as this article shows, the Christian vote is still important.
Going forward, religion will play a role in British politics – just nowhere near to the extent that we see in other countries. Appealing to the Christian vote can be a useful tactic – but the vote is mainly split among denominations. In some denominations though, the votes are split further.