You can really tell that a general election is in the offing, and possibly even that Britain is emerging from recession. Certainly, there seems a greater willingness these days for lobbyists to afford the expense of testing public opinion on a range of topics, and religion is one of the beneficiaries. We have already noted a couple of new politico-religion polls, on integrity and religion of MPs (see our post of 12 February) and religion and politics (21 February). Now comes a new survey on Parliament and public life.
This latest poll was conducted by ICM Research among a representative sample of 1,007 Britons aged 18 and over, contacted by telephone on 10-11 March 2010. It was commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust in support of the Power2010 initiative, designed to give everybody a say in how democracy works.
The poll findings were published by Ekklesia, the religion and society think tank which is one of the partners in Power2010, on 15 March. See its three news postings at:
The full data tabulations will be found at:
The poll picks up some of the issues noted in the British Religion in Numbers news post of 15 March on reform of the House of Lords. Only 33% of ICM’s respondents believed it important for Church of England bishops to have a role in the Lords, against 48% who thought it unimportant. The highest proportion in favour of the episcopal presence was among those aged 65 and over (40%) and the lowest (20%) in Scotland, where the Church of Scotland rather than the Church of England is the established religion.
In a separate question, 74% of Britons said that it was wrong for some Church of England bishops to be given an automatic seat in the House of Lords, with 21% thinking it right (and no more than 25% in any demographic sub-group). Asked more generally about the role which religion should play in public life, 43% of respondents said that it was important and 41% that it was unimportant, with no major differences by demographics.
The poll results were disaggregated by religious affiliation. Unfortunately, in a sample of this size, only the breaks by Christian and those of no religion can be considered significant (for example, only 24 Muslims were interviewed). Not unexpectedly, those with no religion were less sympathetic to the bishops and to the role of organized religion in public life than were professing Christians.
The poll supplements an online personalized letter-writing campaign launched by Power2010 on 11 March, encouraging people to contact one of the 26 bishops sitting in the current House of Lords, and seeking their support for a fundamental reform of the upper chamber. This has had a huge response, necessitating Power2010 to revise its target of letters upwards on several occasions. 31,000 email letters had been sent to the bishops by 12 March, 51,000 by 14 March and 59,655 as of the morning of 17 March.