British Social Attitudes, 2013

 

Results have recently started to emerge from the 2013 British Social Attitudes (BSA) Survey, although it will still be some time before the full dataset is available at the UK Data Archive. Meanwhile, the best available source for rather more limited online statistical analysis is the British Social Attitudes Information System, which can be found at:

http://www.britsocat.com/

BSA has been conducted by NatCen Social Research on an annual basis since 1983 (except in two years), and on behalf of the Economic and Social Research Council and a consortium of Government and charitable funders.

Interviewing is face-to-face, supplemented by a self-completion questionnaire. For the 2013 survey (undertaken between June and November) the sample comprised 3,244 adults aged 18 and over living in private households in Britain. However, many questions were only put to one of three sub-samples.

This post is confined to reporting the headline results for the religion questions posed in the 2013 BSA, with trend data for previous years, where extant. The British Social Attitudes Information System also permits, as a standard feature, analysis of all other questions by religious affiliation, and we hope to provide additional coverage from this perspective in due course.

Religious affiliation

BSA has routinely asked: ‘do you regard yourself as belonging to any particular religion?’ This was question Q857 on the main BSA questionnaire in 2013. Results at ten-yearly intervals are shown in the following table:

% down

1983

1993

2003

2013

No religion

31.4

36.8

43.4

50.6

Christian – no denomination

3.2

4.6

6.6

11.8

Christian – Church of England

39.9

32.6

26.8

16.3

Christian – Roman Catholic

9.6

10.8

8.9

8.8

Christian – other

14.0

11.8

8.2

4.8

Non-Christian

2.0

3.5

6.0

7.7

It will be seen that the proportion professing no religion has steadily climbed, from 31% in 1983 to 51% in 2013, with a rise also in the number of non-Christians (from 2% to 8%). All forms of denominational Christianity have lost ground, but notably the Church of England (from 40% to 16% over the three decades) and other Protestant Christians (the Free Churches and Presbyterian Churches, down from 14% to 5%). Although the number of non-denominational Christians has virtually quadrupled, the increase has not stemmed the overall fall in Christians, from 67% to 42%.

BSA also asks about religion of upbringing (main questionnaire Q866). Setting religion of upbringing alongside current affiliation, in the table below, emphasizes the extent of loss of faith over the life-cycle, with the Church of England losing half its original constituency but even non-Christian faiths subject to a modest ‘leakage’.

% down

2013

2013

2013

 

Upbringing

Current

Change

No religion

19.0

50.6

+31.6

Christian – no denomination

16.7

11.8

-4.9

Christian – Church of England

31.3

16.3

-15.0

Christian – Roman Catholic

14.5

8.8

-5.7

Christian – other

10.4

4.8

-5.6

Non-Christian

8.0

7.7

-0.3

Religious attendance

It should be noted that BSA does not ask the entire British cross-section sample about attendance at religious services other than for the rites of passage. This question (main questionnaire Q868) is only put to those declaring some religion at the time of interview and/or reporting a religion of upbringing. It is important to interpret the statistics in this light. Self-reported attendance dropped considerably between 1993 and 2003 but seems to have been more stable over the past ten years, albeit the majority of this sub-sample (58%) never worship.

% down

1993

2003

2013

Once a week or more

18.9

13.9

13.1

At least once in two weeks

3.2

2.4

2.5

At least once a month

9.0

5.8

6.4

At least twice a year

16.6

10.1

8.4

At least once a year

8.5

5.8

4.2

Less often

6.1

4.3

5.5

Never

36.7

56.7

58.4

Varies

1.0

1.1

1.4

Christianity and Britishness

Respondents were given a list of attributes which potentially define what it means to be ‘truly British’ and asked to rate their importance. One of the factors was ‘to be a Christian’ (self-completion questionnaire, Version A, Q2e). This question had been included in three previous BSA surveys, although the 2008 data are omitted from the published discussion by Zsolt Kiss and Alison Park, ‘National Identity: Exploring Britishness’, British Social Attitudes, 31, 2014 Edition, eds Alison Park, Caroline Bryson, and John Curtice (London: NatCen Social Research, 2014), pp. 64-5, which is at:

http://www.bsa-31.natcen.ac.uk/media/38202/bsa31_full_report.pdf

The results from all four surveys are shown below. It will be seen that the proportion thinking ‘to be a Christian’ is important to Britishness has reduced from just under one-third in 1995 and 2003 to just under one-quarter in 2008 and 2013. However, between 2008 and 2013 the number believing a Christian profession to be very important to British identity has doubled, while those deeming it unimportant have reduced by four points, from 75% to 71%. These changes coincide with greater public concern about Muslims (see the next item) and Christianophobia.

% down

1995

2003

2008

2013

Very important

18.5

15.1

6.2

12.5

Fairly important

13.5

15.6

17.4

12.0

Not very important

27.3

23.7

37.3

26.2

Not at all important

35.1

39.0

37.7

45.0

Can/t choose/not answered

5.7

6.6

1.4

4.4

‘To be a Christian’ came last in the 2013 list of nine factors defining what it means to be ‘truly British’, well behind sharing customs and traditions in eighth place on 50%. The top three attributes were an ability to speak English (95%), having British citizenship (85%), and respecting institutions and laws (85%).

Attitudes to Muslims

Q467 in the main questionnaire repeated a question asked in 2003 about whether Britain would begin to lose its identity if more Muslims came to live here. Far more agreed with the proposition in 2013 (62%) than in 2003 (48%), with the number who agreed strongly doubling. The growth perhaps exemplifies greater anxieties about Muslims after 7/7 and about immigrants in general. Dissentients reduced from 30% to 22% over the decade.

% down

2003

2013

Agree strongly

17.1

35.3

Agree

31.0

26.8

Neither agree nor disagree

17.0

15.0

Disagree

26.1

16.7

Disagree strongly

4.1

5.2

Don’t know/not answered

4.6

0.9

Respondents were also asked about the scenario in which a close relative married a Muslim, from two perspectives, the perceived reaction of most white people in Britain if one of their relatives was involved (main questionnaire Q656) and the likely reaction of the respondent if it was one of his/her relatives (Q659). The results are tabulated below:

% down

2013

2013

 

White people

Own reaction

Mind a lot

34.0

23.4

Mind a little

36.3

21.0

Not mind

22.7

51.5

Other/DK/refused

7.0

4.0

As so often happens in sample surveys, respondents claimed a greater degree of tolerance for themselves than they were inclined to see in others. Whereas 70% thought that most white people would mind about a relative marrying a Muslim, only 44% felt that they would object themselves.

This particular question has not been asked before, in exactly the same words, but the 2003 BSA did pose a similar one, about reactions to a close relative marrying or otherwise forming a long-term relationship with a Muslim. At that time, just 25% voiced unhappiness at the prospect, 19% less than in 2013, suggesting a growth in Islamophobic attitudes over recent years.

 


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