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A Clash of Civilizations? Preferences for Religious Political Leaders in 86 Nations


Nate Breznau, Bremen International Graduate School of Social Sciences, Universität Bremen FVG/ Wiener Strasse Postfach 330440, Bremen 28334, Germany. E-mail:


Huntington claimed that today's major conflicts are most likely to erupt between religiously defined “civilizations,” in particular between Christianity and Islam. Using World Values Surveys from 86 nations, we examine differences between Christians and Muslims in preferences for religious political leaders. The results suggest a marked difference between Muslims and Christians in their attitudes toward religious politicians, with Muslims more favorable by 20 points out of 100. Devoutness, education, degree of government corruption, and status as a formerly Communist state account for the difference. Little support is found for the clash-of-civilizations hypothesis. Instead, we find that a clash of individual beliefs—between the devout and the secular—along with enduring differences between the more developed and less developed world explains the difference between Islam and Christianity with regards to preferences for religious political leaders.