Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Are the Conservatives targeting the 'faith vote'?

Dear reader, our blog has moved to a new address.

Do come on over (and change your bookmarks accordingly): rationalist.org.uk

Conservative candidate Chris Emmett has produced a leaflet
appealing to Christian voters in the Corby by-election
The National Secular Society have pointed out an intriguing piece on the popular Conservative Home blog, in which site editor and Conservative Christian Fellowship founder Tim Montgomerie suggests that the Conservative Party is using the upcoming Corby by-election to "road test" a strategy which involves the candidate appealing to religious voters by emphasising their own religious beliefs.

The party's candidate in Corby, Chris Emmett, has produced a leaflet for local churchgoers in which she explains the importance of her faith:
"My faith guides me in everything I do. It has also supported me through difficult times and it is important in a job serving the public to have the full support of my family and the greater church. I feel blessed to have both. I’ve been an active member of the Conservative Christian Fellowship for many years."
Emmett also receives the backing of a local councillor, David Sims (no relation!), on account of her Christian faith:
"It is a great encouragement to me to see an increasing number of Christians recognise their
call to serve their communities in public life, not out of a love of power, but persuaded by the power of love. This ranges from those who are prepared to serve the democratic process in relatively mundane and unseen ways, but also includes our Parliamentary Candidate, Christine Emmett, who needs our support."

It's an approach welcomed by Montgomery, who writes that the leaflet "does a good job of emphasising Chris Emmett's genuine belief without getting preachy" and says he hopes to "see this model replicated with newspapers for people of other faiths". 
However, the National Secular Society are sceptical as to whether the "faith vote" approach has any chance of catching on in this country:
"Opinion polls seem to suggest that there isn't any significant religious vote to be targeted. Most people don't go to a church, synagogue or temple, and although they are not in the main anti-religious, and might even define themselves as Christians, they can't be reached through any organised religious structure.

And even the ones who do go to church, and can be reached through their place of worship, are unlikely to make their voting decisions based on their religion.

Other polls show that church-goers are just as likely as the population at large to make their voting decisions based on a range of issues rather than on religious considerations alone. Catholics in particular seem to be at odds with their church on social issues. Demands by priests that their communicants vote in accordance with Catholic doctrine generally fall on deaf ears.

So, even if she could reach a large number of religiously-active voters, it is unlikely that they would cast their vote based on the teachings of their church. Like everyone else, they tend to take into account wider considerations, such as the economy, whether the local hospital will close, how the current government is performing on jobs and welfare etc.

Another finding from polls is that more than 80 per cent of the population do not want religion to be involved in public policy-making. Nor do they don't want religious leaders to have influence on parliamentary decisions.

So, in emphasising her faith she risks alienating another section of potential supporters – those who are suspicious of and even maybe hostile to religiously-motivated politicians."
As the NSS point out, this is Britain, not Kansas.
blog comments powered by Disqus