David Buckley on the Demand for Clergy in Politics
Date: April 10th, 2016

Do religious individuals prefer to have their spiritual leaders directly involved in politics?  Whereas the common assumption might be that religious adherents would like to see clergy directly involved in public policy decision-making, Prof. David Buckley (University of Louisville, political science) shows that the opposite is true.  Using data from the World Values Survey, he noted an interesting pattern wherein the more spiritually-engaged a population was, the less likely those individuals were to support an active role for priests, pastors, and rabbis in the government.  Prof. Buckley then explains this phenomenon can be explained by two causal mechanisms.  First, in highly religious societies, there are many informal “back channels” wherein clergy already have influence over policy, thus necessitating less direct and formal roles.  Second, direct and visible involvement in politics raises a set of risks for confessional leaders including political backlash for supporting losing politicians, deterioration of moral authority when clerics support unpopular (or unsuccessful) policies/politicians, and the chance that taking a political stand would divide their parishioners making them less likely to remain engaged with the religious institution.  David illustrates these causal mechanisms using the debate over a reproductive health bill in the Philippines in the past decade.  Recorded: April 8, 2016.



Prof. David Buckley’s bio at the University of Louisville.

David Buckley on Academia.edu (access site for several papers).

Cosmos Club Foundation.

World Values Survey (main website).

Philippines’ Reproductive Health Act of 2012 (mentioned in podcast).


Nathanael Snow on the Evangelical Coalition and Public Choice.

Michael Cromartie on Religion, the Media, and Think Tanks.

Ann Wainscott on Morocco’s Religious Foreign Policy.

Owen Strachan on Chuck Colson.

James Patterson on MLK, Fulton Sheen, and Jerry Falwell.

Hunter Baker on the Past and Future of the Christian Right.

Ani Sarkissian on Politics and Religious Civil Society in Turkey.

Kevan Harris on Iran’s Islamic Revolution and the Green Movement.

David Dixon on Religious Rhetoric and the Civil Rights Movement.

Bradley Murg on Russian Orthodoxy after the Soviet Union.

Barry Hankins on Jesus, Gin, and the Culture Wars.

Jon Shields on Democratic Virtues and the Christian Right.

4 Responses to “David Buckley on the Demand for Clergy in Politics”

  1. The podcast (around 10 mins maybe?)– The interviewer refers to an article on this topic by Dr. Buckley. Is that available to read?

    • tonygill says:

      The article is in the March 2016 issue of Comparative Political Studies. Alas, it is behind a paywall, but you may be able to get access through your educational institution. I believe that CPS is on JSTOR. Here is the direct link to the article from the journal’s website: http://cps.sagepub.com/content/49/3.toc

      Thanks for listening!

  2. Thomas Hart says:


    Will do. Thank you!


  3. […] David Buckley on the Demand for Clergy in Politics. […]

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