“En Dios Confiamos”: Politics, Populism, and Protestantism in Daniel Ortega’s Nicaragua

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May 2017
Paper author(s): 
Timothy Steigenga
Kenneth M. Coleman
Eduardo Marenco
Politics and Economy

Using data from the 2004 to 2014 AmericasBarometer surveys, this paper examines attitudes toward politics among Nicaraguan Protestants, who in 2014 represented an astounding 38.4% of the total national population in Nicaragua. We find that while Protestants are more conservative than Catholics or the non-affiliated on specific social issues such as abortion and homosexuality, they are equally or more supportive as are Catholics for President Ortega and the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (FSLN) and differ little from Catholics on a scale for ideological self-placement. The Nicaraguan case is telling, because it suggests that populist politicians such as Daniel Ortega have discovered a potential winning electoral strategy by combining hot-button public morality issues (such as homosexuality and abortion) with leftist political rhetoric. These findings are important not only because they point to the potential for such coalitions elsewhere in the region but also because they provide further evidence that politics of Protestantism in Latin America is multidimensional and rarely conforms to the sort of right/left ideological scale applied in many popular and scholarly treatments of the subject.


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