Islam, Religious Outlooks, and Support for Democracy

Published date01 June 2019
Date01 June 2019
Subject MatterArticles
793233PRQXXX10.1177/1065912918793233Political Research QuarterlyCiftci et al.
Political Research Quarterly
2019, Vol. 72(2) 435 –449
Islam, Religious Outlooks, and
© 2018 University of Utah
Article reuse guidelines:
Support for Democracy
DOI: 10.1177/1065912918793233
Sabri Ciftci1 , F. Michael Wuthrich2, and Ammar Shamaileh3
Despite a wealth of studies examining Muslim religiosity and democracy, uncertainty regarding Islam and attitudes
toward democracy remains. Although the claims concerning the incompatibility of Islam and democracy are generally
discarded, public opinion scholarship has yet to build much further from this important first step or incorporate a
strong theoretical framework for analysis beyond this basic foundation. This paper seeks to integrate literature in social
theory on religious worldviews with novel conceptualizations and measurement of distinct religious outlooks among
the religious faithful to explain patterns in attitudes toward democracy. We construct a theory with clear expectations
regarding these relationships and use the largest and best available survey data (Arab Democracy Barometer, Wave
III) to test our predictions using latent class analysis and a series of multivariate regression estimations. The results
of our empirical analysis reveal that there are important differences among practicing Muslims regarding the role
that religion should play in the social realm and that these differences are relevant to the analysis of how faith shapes
preferences for regime type and democracy. The analysis makes a significant contribution to the study of religion and
political attitudes.
Islam and democracy, religiosity, post-Islamism, religious communitarian, latent class analysis, Arab barometer
along a continuum ranging from “religious to non-reli-
gious” to an approach that differentiates various out-
The academic debate regarding Islam and democracy
looks among the practicing individuals. Using social
spans several decades, yet the literature tackling facets
theory regarding religion, we posit the existence of dis-
of this issue has retained elements of uncertainty even
tinct outlooks within the domain of those generally cat-
to the present. The debate has not suffered from a dearth
egorized in public opinion research as “religious”
of scholarship, yet, unlike the developing consensus or
Muslims. Such a conceptual framework allows us to
stalemate that exists in other areas of political research,
make an important contribution to the literature by
it would be hard to argue that the existing literature has
moving away from conventional conceptualizations of
assuaged the curiosity engendered by the question. At
religiosity toward an understanding of different posi-
this current juncture, starting with Tessler’s (2002)
tions among the religious individuals that might lead to
important work, an increasing number of micro-level
more or less support for democracy. We argue that
studies have taken important steps to refute the essen-
important variation in religious outlook exists among
tialist claim that Islam and democracy are incompatible
the devout, and these have important implications on
(Ciftci 2010; Robbins 2015; Spierings 2014; Tessler,
people’s attitudes toward democracy. Therefore, just as
Jamal, and Robbins 2012). Using survey data, this
others have noted important differences in political par-
research has shown that the relationship between
ticipation and voting behavior among various Christian
Muslim religiosity and democratic support is not neces-
communities in the United States and beyond (Campbell
sarily negative. This study aims to build on these semi-
nal works that have effectively challenged the 1
essentialist claims and explore with greater nuance the
Kansas State University, Manhattan, USA
2The University of Kansas, Lawrence, USA
nature of the relationships between distinct categories
3Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, PA, USA
of religiosity and democratic preferences.
This paper addresses the relationship between Islam
Corresponding Author:
Sabri Ciftci, Department of Political Science, Kansas State University,
and democracy by switching from a conceptualization
216 Calvin Hall, Manhattan, KS 66506, USA.
that measures the impact of religion through an index

Political Research Quarterly 72(2)
2013; McClendon and Riedl 2015; Putnam and Religiosity and Democracy in
Campbell 2010), and as Stark and Finke (2000) have
Muslim-Majority Countries
proposed generalizable distributions of faith commu-
nities (i.e., niches) that balance church-society rela-
The early macro-level research on the Middle East and
tions and are influenced by church-state relations
North Africa (MENA) region highlighted a pattern of
(Driessen 2014; Grzymala-Busse 2015), we predict
authoritarianism and tended to draw conclusions of
that various religious communities among those nor-
Muslim or Arab exceptionalism, assuming the scarcity of
mally designated as “religious” would generate dis-
democracies in the region was best explained by cultural
tinct outlooks with different views regarding politics
incompatibility (Huntington 1993). The causal mecha-
and democracy.
nism to explain the correlation between religion, culture,
To this end, we develop a simple formal model and
and democracy, however, was never precisely agreed on.
provide a theoretical rationale underlying the relation-
Some have argued that the principles of Islamic faith
ship between different categories (or classes) of reli-
somehow ensure that democracy is highly unlikely, if not
gious outlooks—frameworks for understanding the role
unattainable, for Muslim-majority countries (Gellner
of religion in regard to social order and interactional
1991; Kedourie 1994; Lewis 2010).
norms—and support for democracy. Utilizing individ-
Of course, if Islam were the driving force behind the
ual-level data from the third Arab Democracy Barometer
undemocratic norms that are prevalent in the Muslim
(ADB),1 we run latent class analysis (LCA) and a series
world, a negative correlation between Muslim religios-
of multivariate statistical estimations to identify diver-
ity and preferences for democracy would be observed
gent outlook patterns among religious individuals and
at the individual level. Research utilizing public opin-
test their effects on support for democracy. The LCA
ion surveys, however, has persuasively shown that
estimation utilizing survey items tapping individual
democracy is not incompatible for people in Muslim
views about the role of religion in social, economic,
majority countries, nor does religiosity significantly
and political life confirms a theoretically informed
affect one’s view of democracy. Tessler (2002) used
four-class solution representing distinct types of survey data in several Arab countries to show that the
Muslim religious outlooks. The results of multivariate
vast majority of people from these populations do not
statistical analyses, in turn, provide substantial evi-
hold nondemocratic orientations. When he added reli-
dence for the contention that these religious outlooks
giosity variables to the models, they were nonsignifi-
shape individual preferences toward democracy accord-
cant in most cases, a finding that allowed him to reject
ing to our theoretical expectations.
the essentialist claim that Islam is to blame for lack of
In an age of uncertainty, where the search for differ-
democracy. In Muslim majority countries, where reli-
ent governance formulas in the Middle East has given
giosity had a statistically significant impact, the influ-
way to violent incarnations of Islamic state models,
ence on democratic attitudes operated in different ways
our analysis demonstrates the utility of conceptualiz-
from case to case. Ciftci’s (2010) analysis of World
ing and measuring the impact of religion on public
Values surveys in ten Muslim-majority countries
opinion, not by the standard measures of religiosity but
echoes this overall conclusion. Bratton (2003) reports
according to distinct religious outlooks. Our analysis
similar findings in comparisons between Christians
shows that the relationship between Muslim religiosity
and Muslims in African societies. Further studies of
and support for democracy is far more nuanced than
Arab countries have confirmed persistent support for
the essential binary discussions can take us, and we
democracy throughout the region regardless of the
believe this approach is an important initial attempt to
level of religiosity (Ciftci 2013; Jamal and Tessler
take the next steps in the study of Islam and democracy
2008; Robbins 2015; Tessler 2015; Tessler, Jamal, and
and speaks to the broader literature on religion and
Robbins 2012).
political attitudes. Our novel operationalization of out-
Although many studies of public opinion in Muslim-
look categories and nuanced theory makes an impor-
majority countries have relied on an index of religiosity
tant contribution to the scholarship on this topic. The
based on frequency of religious practices and self-iden-
paper concludes with a discussion of the ramifications
tification as such, there exists a second generation wave
of our findings and the way...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT