Religion and the General Election

 

With the 2015 general election only four days away, on 7 May, a round-up of recent research on religion and politics in Britain seems appropriate. Here we report on several new stories and remind BRIN readers of other pertinent research which we have covered in posts during the past few weeks.

Density of religious groups

Several attempts have been made to assess the potential impact of the ‘religious vote’ by examining the density of religious groups in individual parliamentary constituencies, as recorded in the 2011 population census, and comparing it with constituency-level voting patterns at the 2010 general election, especially in the light of the size of the majority obtained by the successful candidate five years ago. 

General

A multi-group analysis is offered in a new 28-page briefing paper published by the Henry Jackson Society on 30 April 2015: Alan Mendoza, Religious Diversity in British Parliamentary Constituencies. In a series of maps and tables it charts the density of nine major religions groups (Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Hindus, other religion, no religion, and religion not stated) in each of Britain’s 632 parliamentary constituencies (Northern Ireland is not covered), set alongside political data from the 2010 general election. The religious and political composition of 193 marginal seats is particularly investigated. It is concluded that the five principal minority religions are likely to have a greater impact on the electoral outcome of marginal seats than in constituencies overall. For example, in 47% of marginals the number of Muslims is greater than the margin of victory in 2010, the equivalent figures for Hindus being 21% of marginals, for Sikhs 13%, for Buddhists 8%, and for Jews 6%. In all, there are 93 marginals where the number of one or more of the five main minority religions outweighs the margin of victory. However, it is argued that the impact will be lessened by the fact that religious minorities will probably not vote in a uniform way, with religion being only one determinant of their political behaviour, a topic to which the Henry Jackson Society promises to return in future. The report can be downloaded from: 

http://henryjacksonsociety.org/2015/04/30/religious-diversity-in-british-parliamentary-constituencies/

Jews

On 29 April 2015, the day before the Henry Jackson Society’s briefing, the Institute for Jewish Policy Research published Where Jewish Votes May Matter Most: The Institute for Jewish Policy Research Guide to the 2015 General Election in the UK by Jonathan Boyd. Although Jews form less than half a per cent of the population of the whole country, they tend to be spatially clustered. In his report Boyd profiles the 20 English and Welsh constituencies with the largest number of Jews, showing that there are just five where Jews comprise more than 10% of the electorate and six in which Jews are the largest religious minority. He argues that it is only mathematically possible in eight to ten constituencies for Jews to be able to overturn the existing majority (assuming no change in non-Jewish voting), and in four of these cases it would require a level of uniformity in Jewish voting patterns that is, statistically, improbable. He concludes that the two constituencies in which Jews are most likely to play a key role at the general election are Hendon (Conservative in 2010) and Hampstead and Kilburn (Labour in 2010) where a combination of the size of the Jewish population and the tiny majorities of the outgoing MPs creates a situation where how Jews decide to vote could be critical. The particularly large Jewish communities in Finchley and Golders Green, Bury South, and Harrow East could also be influential, Boyd suggests, since, in all three instances, Jews exceed the size of the 2010 electoral majority. The 23-page report can be downloaded from: 

http://www.jpr.org.uk/documents/JPR.Where_Jewish_votes_may_matter_most.Guide_to_2015_General_Election.pdf

Muslims

The Muslim News seems to have somewhat updated its analysis of parliamentary seats where Muslims may be influential, which BRIN originally covered in our post of 5 February 2015. The newspaper claims that the Muslim vote could be important in as many as 40 constituencies in England, 39 of them held by Labour or priority Labour targets. Of the 40, 25 are classed as marginal seats, which are profiled in detail, and 15 as safe seats. In all, there are said to be 80 constituencies where Muslims exceed 10% of the residents. For more information, and a link to the methodology employed, see:

http://www.muslimnews.co.uk/blog/seats-where-muslims-are-influential/

Voting of religious groups

There has long been a debate about whether a ‘religious vote’ still exists in Britain. Here we present some recent evidence about the correlation of religion and intended voting. However, it should be remembered that correlation does not equate with causation, and that underlying differential demographics of religious groups doubtless contribute to the results described. Eliza Filby (author of the book God & Mrs Thatcher) has a new essay on the religious vote on the Standpoint magazine blog. She concludes that such a vote continues to matter but asks for how much longer? See:      

http://www.standpointmag.co.uk/features-may-2015-eliza-filby-is-there-such-a-thing-as-a-religious-vote?

General

The British Election Study (BES) 2015, a consortium of the Universities of Manchester, Oxford, and Nottingham, will ultimately be a vital source of information about the interaction of religion and politics. The BES 2015 internet panel, now in its fourth wave, is likely to be especially revealing. BRIN expects to report on this more fully in the future, but readers might recall the preliminary analysis of wave 1 (February-March 2014) data on religion and voting which Ben Clements published on the BRIN website on 17 October 2014 at: 

http://www.brin.ac.uk/news/2014/the-british-election-study-2015-religious-affiliation-and-attitudes/

Meanwhile, the most current data on voting intentions by religious groups derive from two online polls conducted by Populus (n = 2,048, 17-19 April 2015) and ORB International (n = 2,051, 22-23 April 2015). Summary figures are tabulated below, for the four main political parties only, also excluding those who said they would not vote, declined to answer, or did not know. It will be seen that Christians are disproportionately Conservative and UKIP supporters, non-Christians disproportionately Labour, with almost two-fifths of no religionists favouring smaller parties or not declaring their hand. Full data tables are available at, respectively: 

http://www.populus.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/FT-Economy-Qs-200415.pdf

http://www.opinion.co.uk/perch/resources/omopinion-poll.pdf

% down

Populus

ORB

Christians

 

 

Conservative

32

31

Labour

23

24

LibDem

7

5

UKIP

14

18

Non-Christians

 

 

Conservative

16

29

Labour

51

43

LibDem

8

4

UKIP

4

4

No religion

 

 

Conservative

16

17

Labour

28

28

LibDem

7

7

UKIP

10

10

All electors

 

 

Conservative

25

25

Labour

26

27

LibDem

7

5

UKIP

12

14

Anglicans

An online poll by YouGov of 5,552 self-identifying Anglicans between 1 and 28 March 2015 recorded their current voting intention (excluding don’t knows and would not votes, and taking into account likelihood to vote) as: Conservative 48% (national average 34%), Labour 27% (national average 34%), Liberal Democrats 6% (national average 7%), UKIP 16% (national average 14%), and other parties 3% (national average 11%). Anglicans thus remain disproportionately Conservative. Data table at:

http://cdn.yougov.com/cumulus_uploads/document/7wu1rrot0u/Final_Church_Times_Religious_Voting_Intention_Website.pdf

Roman Catholics

According to the same YouGov poll, which also interviewed 1,574 self-identifying Catholics, they remain disproportionately Labour, the pattern of voting intentions being: Conservative 31%, Labour 42%, Liberal Democrats 4%, UKIP 12%, and other parties 10%.  

Jews

A Survation telephone poll of 566 self-identifying British Jews on 2-7 April 2015 revealed that a substantial majority (69%) was Conservative, with 22% Labour, and no more than 9% for all other parties. Their pro-Conservative stance doubtless reflected their relatively affluent status, but it also appears to have been determined by perspectives on Israel and the Middle East, a policy area where the Conservative Party in general and David Cameron in particular have a clear edge over Labour. For a fuller report, see the BRIN post of 12 April 2015 at: 

http://www.brin.ac.uk/news/2015/religion-and-public-affairs/

Muslims

Conventionally-sized polls include too few Muslims to be statistically reliable. However, occasionally large-scale political surveys are conducted or created by aggregation which include a respectable number of Muslims. Two such examples were the online polls from Populus on 4-27 February 2015 and Lord Ashcroft on 20-27 February 2015 which included, respectively, 331 and 170 Muslim electors. In both studies three-fifths of Muslims favoured Labour (partly a function of class-based voting) and fewer than one in ten the Conservatives, with the Liberal Democrats on 3%. BRIN’s post of 8 March 2015 contains further details and links at: 

http://www.brin.ac.uk/news/2015/religious-voting-intentions-and-other-news/

Churches as polling places

Of the UK’s 31,855 polling places 5,967 (or 19%) are located in church buildings, according to research released by the National Churches Trust (NCT) on 29 April 2015. The proportion varies by sub-nation and region, ranging from 25% in Greater London down to 12% in Scotland and Northern Ireland (with 20% in Wales and 19% in England as a whole). Constituency-level variations are even greater; for instance, in Sheffield Hallam (seat of Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats) two-fifths of polling places are in church buildings. Figures are based on information collected from local authorities during the last UK-wide election, for the European Parliament in May 2014. A number of non-Christian places of worship also serve as polling places but the NCT did not analyse these. The NCT’s press release is at: 

http://www.nationalchurchestrust.org/news/church-buildings-play-vital-role-2015-general-election

 


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