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Global Catholicism in the age of mass migration and the rise of populism: comparative analyses, based on recent World Values Survey and European Social Survey data

Tausch, Arno (2016): Global Catholicism in the age of mass migration and the rise of populism: comparative analyses, based on recent World Values Survey and European Social Survey data.

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For a number of years now, some leading economists became interested in studying global comparative opinion data from the World Values Survey (Alesina, Algan et al, 2015; Alesina, Giuliano, et al, 2015). The interest of the economics profession in the relationship between religion and economic growth certainly is a factor contributing to the rise of the present methodological approach, also employed in this study (McCleary and Barro, 2006). Following Hayek, 1998 we think that values like hard work - which brings success-, competition, which is the essence of a free market economy together with the private ownership of business, play an overwhelming role in twenty-first century capitalism and cannot be overlooked in empirical global value research. While Islam has been studied abundantly in this context in recent years, empirical, World Values Survey based evidence on Catholicism is more scattered.

Our data are from two sets of such reliable and regularly repeated global opinion surveys: The World Values Survey (WVS) and the European Social Survey (ESS). Our statistical calculations were performed by the routine and standard SPSS statistical program (SPSS XXIII), and relied on the so-called oblique rotation of the factors, underlying the correlation matrix. In each comparison, we evaluated the democratic civil society commitment of the overall population and of the practicing Roman Catholics, i.e. those Catholics who attend Sunday Mass regularly, the so-called dominicantes.

Our main population-weighted global research results rather caution us against the view that the Catholic global rank and file will follow the Church’s substantially weakened leadership in endorsing a liberal asylum and migration policy.

Based on European Social Survey-based criteria that include pro-immigration attitudes, Euro-multiculturalism, the rejection of racism, personal multicultural experience, and the rejection of right-wing culturalism, it is fair to suggest that in not a single European country, practicing Catholics were more liberal in their attitudes towards immigration than overall society. The global country-based evidence based on the World Values Survey also indicates that only in a limited number of countries, Catholic dominicantes are at the forefront of a democratic, open society, based on factor analytical criteria, well compatible with the theoretical literature.

Our overall assessment, however, produces not only pessimistic results. One of our hypotheses is that the Roman Catholic Second Vatican Council and its commitment to inter-religious tolerance in many ways paved the way for the high degree of societal tolerance in predominantly Catholic Western countries.

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