A political profile of Protestant minorities in Europe

ABSTRACT: This paper uses a large volume of data—in particular, surveys—to explore the character of Protestant identity in contemporary European states. It distinguishes three contexts. First, in the Nordic and certain adjacent states, the dominance of Protestantism was complete, but more recent secularisation has provoked a reaction from Christian parties which enjoy strong support from active Protestants. Second, in certain states which in the past were predominantly Protestant, and where the ethos of the state was aggressively so, a significant Catholic minority was counter-mobilised politically; but as the dominant state-building parties became increasingly secular, committed Protestants reacted in different ways, including the formation of splinter parties (as in the Netherlands and Switzerland) or working within the traditional parties (as in Great Britain and Germany). Third, in a few states there has traditionally been a small Protestant minority which has played a significant role in national development, but in these cases (mainly successor states to the Habsburg monarchy) decades of communist rule have largely obliterated what might have been distinctive patterns of political behaviour. The paper explores variation in group identity patterns and in attitudes towards the state in those cases for which appropriate survey data are available, and devotes particular attention to the position within the United Kingdom, where religion has played a prominent role in the state- and nation-building process.