Christmas Observance and Other News

 

Christmas observance

Prospect magazine has entered into the festive spirit by commissioning YouGov to run a few questions about how Britons observe Christmas, 1,927 adults being quizzed online on 13-14 November 2014. Nothing unusual about that, you might think – there are countless Christmas-themed polls at this time of year. This one, however, is a little different in that responses are broken down for three religious groups: Christians who claim to attend church, even if only on special occasions; Christians who do not attend church; and those professing no religion (the sub-sample of non-Christians was too small to be meaningful).  

Select findings are summarized in the following table, from which it will be seen that:

  • Church-attending Christians send more Christmas cards than non-attenders, with no religionists sending the least
  • Christians, whether attending or non-attending, are more likely to have a Christmas tree at home than no religionists
  • Church-attending Christians expect to be joined by more people for Christmas dinner than non-attenders or no religionists
  • Church-attending Christians claim to give more to charity than non-churchgoers and no religionists (a median of £50 for churchgoers, against £22 for all adults)

Of course, these differences are not necessarily directly attributable to religious factors per se but may well be shaped by socio-demographics known to be linked to religion, for example the younger profile of those who profess no religion, the relatively affluent profile of churchgoers, and so forth. 

%

Attending Christians

Non-attending Christians

No religion

Christmas cards expect to send

 

 

 

Under 30

47

61

78

More than 30

47

34

18

Expect to have Christmas tree at home

 

 

 

Yes

87

87

77

No

11

12

19

Expect to have Christmas dinner

 

 

 

At home

62

58

57

Elsewhere

37

38

40

Likely to be present at Christmas dinner

 

 

 

Up to three other people

29

38

42

Four or more other people

68

59

54

Charitable donations in past year

 

 

 

Nothing

5

8

15

Under £100

52

67

62

More than £100

35

15

14

Peter Kellner has an article about the survey in the current issue of Prospect (No. 226, January 2015, pp. 14-15). The text of the article, minus the graphics presenting the results, is also freely available online at: 

http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/opinions/do-we-still-love-christmas

Full data tables for the poll are at: 

https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/8fkxtrmo9e/Prospect_Results_141114_Christmas_W.pdf

Leaving Christ out of Christmas

Asked what most excites them about Christmas, very few Europeans in a seven-nation Eurotrack survey by YouGov, conducted online on 20-26 November 2014, said they were excited about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. In Britain, where 1,641 were interviewed, the proportion was 13%, with a range elsewhere from 7% in Sweden to 16% in Germany. Britons get far more excited about spending time with friends and family (60%), giving presents (33%), Christmas food (31%), having a break from work (28%), and decorating their home (14%). Although 77% of the 97% of Britons who said they celebrated Christmas agreed that its ‘true meaning … has been lost’, it would appear that it was not the religious meaning which they had in mind. Topline results are at:   

https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/u9prscml0t/November_Eurotrack_Xmas_Website.pdf

Christmas knowledge

Also characteristic of this time of year is the survey reminding us how relatively little some people know about the nativity story. The latest was commissioned by Brent Cross Shopping Centre, for which Mortar interviewed 1,000 UK children aged 5-12 between 15 November and 1 December 2014, using multiple choice questions. Among the findings:

  • 52% of children thought Christmas Day is the birthday of Santa Claus
  • 20% identified Jesus Christ as a footballer with Chelsea FC
  • 35% believed He was born at the South Pole
  • 27% believed He was born in a church
  • 25% thought the shepherds used Google Maps to find Jesus
  • 15% claimed the Three Kings gave Jesus a wand, tiara, and wings as gifts

Religions other than Christianity fared no better, with 30% of children suggesting Chanukah, the Jewish festival of light, is a Japanese cartoon. The Brent Cross press release is at: 

http://www.brentcross.co.uk/events/nativity-naivety

Freedom of speech

One-third (31%) of 1,219 Britons who work on a full- or part-time basis feel that they cannot speak freely about religion in their place of employment, according to a YouGov poll for New Culture Forum on 15-16 October 2014, published on 9 December. This is less than feel constrained about discussing immigration (36%) but more than are inhibited to raise moral and ethical issues (27%) or their party political preferences (20%). Londoners (44%) and UKIP voters (41%) reported being least able to speak freely about religion at work. The survey did not explicitly probe whether the concerns arose from the perceived reactions of colleagues or employers to open discussion of these four topics or fear of prosecution under the law. However, in an accompanying report (Speakers Cornered: Twenty-First Century Britain’s Culture of Silence), New Culture Forum seeks to use the poll as evidence that free speech is under attack. Data tables are at:    

https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/cpzcl8kurq/NewCultureForumResults_141016_freedom_of_speech_w.pdf

Social integration

Places of worship are the most successful setting for mixing people of different social grades and ethnicities, and second most successful (after sporting events) for integrating people of different ages. This is according to a report in the Sunday Telegraph (7 December 2014, main section, p. 21) which draws upon (as yet) unpublished research by Ipsos MORI for the Social Integration Commission, for which 4,269 Britons aged 13-80 were interviewed online between 17 and 28 January 2014. The newspaper report can be read at: 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/11276878/Churches-are-best-social-melting-pots-in-modern-Britain.html

Pope Francis

Apart from in Greece (which is overwhelmingly Orthodox), Pope Francis is viewed unfavourably by more people in Britain (17%) than in any other EU country included in the latest report from the Pew Research Center, published on 11 December 2014. With the same exception, as can be seen from the table below, he is regarded very favourably by just 20% of Britons, about one-third the proportion in Italy and Poland, with their strong Catholic traditions, and half the level in the United States. Another 45% in Britain view the Pope somewhat favourably, producing an aggregate favourability rating of 65%, compared with a median of 84% in Europe, 78% in the United States, and 72% in Latin America. The survey was undertaken in 43 countries across the globe, with 1,000 adults interviewed by telephone in Britain between 17 March and 8 April 2014, and the report with topline findings can be read at:  

http://www.pewglobal.org/files/2014/12/Pew-Research-Center-Pope-Report-FINAL-December-11-2014.pdf

% regarding Pope Francis

Very favourably

Somewhat favourably

Unfavourably

Italy

66

25

5

Poland

57

35

3

United States

38

40

11

Spain

34

50

9

France

30

58

11

Germany

25

57

11

Great Britain

20

45

17

Greece

8

41

24

BRIN source database update

The annual update of the BRIN source database has just taken place. New entries have been created for 151 British religious statistical sources (disproportionately sample surveys), of which 109 date from 2014 and 42 from previous years. This brings the total of sources described in the database to 2,394. The 2014 sources include many important surveys, a large number relating to Islam or Islamism (especially in Iraq, Syria, and Nigeria). However, there have also been several more general religious surveys (among them two modules in Wave 4 of the United Kingdom Household Longitudinal Study, which has a very substantial sample, and is yet to be analysed in detail on BRIN), as well as polls bearing on the debate about whether Britain is (or should be) a Christian country. A majority (but by no means all) of the 2014 sources have already featured on the BRIN news blog throughout the year. Moreover, 43 existing entries have been updated, mostly by additional subject keywords and/or publication references. The source database, which is searchable in multiple ways, can be found at: 

http://www.brin.ac.uk/sources/

 


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