Counting Religion in Britain, August 2017

Counting Religion in Britain, No. 23, August 2017 features 27 new sources. It can be read in full below. Alternatively, you can download the PDF version: No 23 August 2017


Personal values

Asked to select their three most important personal values from a list of twelve options, just 4% of UK citizens chose religion, bottom equal with self-fulfilment, and two points below the European Union (EU) average. The most highly favoured personal values in the UK were respect for human life (48%), peace (43%), and human rights (42%). Data derived from Wave 87.3 of Standard Eurobarometer, the UK fieldwork for which was undertaken by Kantar Public UK between 20 and 28 May 2017 through 1,365 face-to-face interviews. Questions were also posed about the values (including religion) which best represented the EU and the factors (again including religion) creating a feeling of community among EU citizens. Topline results were published in the annex at:

Religion at work

A director in the National Health Service, sacked for speaking out against adoption by same-sex parents, has claimed that political correctness is preventing Christians from holding public posts. The case prompted YouGov to ask, in an app-based survey reported on 1 August 2017, whether people who let their strong religious beliefs influence their attitudes at work should be allowed to hold high executive positions. The majority of Britons (59%) considered that they should not be permitted to do so, with 29% taking the contrary position and 12% uncertain. Topline data only are available at:

Religion and mental health

Religious nones are more likely to have had personal experience of mental health problems (including anxiety and depression) than people of faith, according to an online poll by Populus among 2,038 Britons on 9-10 November 2016, the results of which have recently been released by Mind, the survey sponsor. The disparity, 39% for nones against 29% for both Christians and non-Christians, is perhaps driven by the younger age profile of nones. By contrast, Christians are disproportionately numerous among the over-65s, a cohort whose declared personal experience of mental health problems falls to 18% nationally. Nones also report an above-average incidence of mental health problems among friends and family. Summary figures are shown below, and the raw data are available in table 68 of the dataset at:

Mental health problems (%)


Christians Non-Christians

No religion

Personal experience of problems


29 29


Friends or family experience of problems


36 42


Any experience of problems


56 56


Archbishop of Canterbury and politics

The Archbishop of Canterbury (Justin Welby), who is a member of the House of Lords, recently said that the chances of finalizing a Brexit deal with the European Union before the target date of March 2019 are ‘infinitesimally small’. His intervention annoyed some MPs who suggested that he should stay out of the discussions. But, in an app-based poll reported by YouGov on 2 August 2017, the British public mostly sprang to the Archbishop’s defence. Just 26% of respondents considered he should speak only about religious issues. Two-thirds defended his right to comment on politics, divided between: 49% who said the Archbishop should speak on behalf of the Anglican communion on all matters relevant to it, including Brexit; 2% who judged he should speak on a wide range of issues but excluding Brexit; and 14% who wanted him to restrict his political forays to the House of Lords. The remaining 9% were unsure. Topline data only are available at:

Bridging the Reformation divide

Five centuries after the Reformation, the Catholic-Protestant divide in Western Europe has faded, according to a new multinational survey by the Pew Research Center. With funding from the Pew Charitable Trusts and the John Templeton Foundation, telephone interviews were conducted by GfK with nationally representative samples of 15 Western European countries between April and August 2017, including in Great Britain (where there were 1,841 respondents, 54% of whom were nominally Protestant and 17% Catholic).

The extent of the Catholic-Protestant divide was measured by a series of attitudinal and religiosity indicators, the British results of which are tabulated below. Interestingly, in something of a theological role reversal, far more British Protestants than Catholics now hold to the traditional Catholic position that both faith and good works are necessary to get into heaven. Martin Luther’s teaching on salvation by faith alone is believed by only one-quarter of the Protestants (and one-third of Catholics). Likewise, whereas the majority of Protestants assess that the two communities are more religiously similar than different, a plurality of Catholics still say the opposite, even though there is not that much to separate them in terms of claimed levels of religious observance. However, such perceived differences do not stand in the way of social integration for, almost universally, members of each community know people from the other and are willing to accept them as family members and neighbours. A detailed report and topline for all the countries surveyed is available at:

A comparable, but more detailed, survey on Catholic-Protestant relations was also undertaken in the United States, the report on which can be found at:

% (Great Britain) Protestants Catholics
Both good deeds and faith in God necessary to get into heaven



Faith in God only thing necessary to get into heaven



Religion very or somewhat important in personal life



Private prayer at least weekly



Churchgoing at least monthly



Know a person of the other religion



Willingness to accept persons of the other religion as family members



Willingness to accept persons of the other religion as neighbours



Catholics and Protestants religiously more similar than different



Catholics and Protestants religiously more different than similar



Pew Global Attitudes Survey

Further findings have been released from the Spring 2017 wave of the Pew Global Attitudes Survey. British fieldwork was undertaken by Kantar Public UK between 6 March and 3 April 2017, 1,066 adults aged 18 and over being interviewed by telephone.

Asked whether they endorsed several of US President Donald Trump’s policies, 58% of Britons disapproved of proposed tighter restrictions on those entering the US from some majority-Muslim countries, four points below the global median and two points below the European median. Approval was expressed by 35% (compared with 36% in Europe as a whole and 32% in the world), rising to 52% of Britons on the political right (against 11% on the left). Disapproval in Britain of this particular Trump policy was identical to that of US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear weapons agreement but lower than opposition to US withdrawal from major trade agreements (72%), US withdrawal from international climate change agreements (80%), and building a wall on the US-Mexico border (83%). Topline data are available at:

Presented with a list of eight international threats to the UK, 70% of Britons ranked Islamic State (IS) the greatest major threat, increasing to 79% among over-50s. The next major threats to the UK were seen as cyberattacks from other countries (61%) and global climate change (59%). British concerns about IS were lower than in some other Western democracies, including France (88%), Spain (88%), Italy (85%), Greece (79%), Germany (77%), and United States (74%). They were also nine points less than they had been in Britain a year earlier, although it should be noted that the 2017 fieldwork was conducted before the Islamist attacks in Manchester and London in May and June, respectively, which caused numerous fatalities. Topline data are available at:

Communicating with the dead

A psychic has claimed recently that she has communicated with the late Princess Diana. However, just 10% of Britons think that psychics can genuinely communicate with the dead, according to an app-based poll by YouGov on 7 August 2017, for which 3,207 adults were interviewed. The proportion was higher for women than men and for manual workers than non-manuals, but it was highest of all among UKIP voters (17%). Almost three-quarters of the whole sample disbelieved in the ability of psychics to communicate with the dead, divided between 48% who said the psychics were knowingly lying to people and 25% who felt they really believed what they were doing. The remaining 17% of respondents were undecided. Full results by demographics are available at:


Just over one-quarter of British adults (28%) believe in omens, the highest proportions among women (37%) and UKIP voters (38%). One-half do not believe while 22% are undecided. The full results, which derive from an app-based YouGov survey on 31 August 2017 with 4,294 respondents, are at:


Community role of churches

The social role of churches is largely invisible to the general public, according to an online survey by OnePoll of 4,500 UK adults in February 2017 on behalf of Ecclesiastical Insurance Group, which has recently released a few results. Three-quarters of respondents could not name any of the activities which took place inside their local church other than religious services held regularly or at festivals. Residents of North-West England were amongst the least knowledgeable and rural dwellers the most. Prompted with a list of community activities offered by churches around the country, 54% were still unaware of those which their own local church provided, the proportion reaching 65% among over-55s and 83% of 18-25-year-olds. The full data have not been published, but Ecclesiastical’s press release (from which this report has been compiled, together with a few additional details in the Church of England Newspaper, 25 August 2017, p. 1), is available at:

Chaplaincy (1)

Theos think tank has published two local studies of chaplaincy, based on quantitative research (via an online survey) between October 2016 and March 2017. The statistics relate to chaplaincies which could be identified and responded to the survey, so the picture in both cases is unlikely to be complete. Copies of Mapping Chaplaincy in Norfolk: A Report and Mapping Chaplaincy in Cornwall: A Report can be found at, respectively:

Chaplaincy (2)

Meanwhile, Humanists UK (formerly the British Humanist Association) have published a third tranche of results from their online poll by YouGov on 28-29 July 2016, demonstrating (it is suggested) wide public demand for the Non-Religious Pastoral Support Network which Humanists UK have just launched. Of the 4,085 adults interviewed, 69% agreed that prisons, hospitals, and universities with chaplains on the establishment should also have a dedicated non-religious pastoral support provider, including 73% of religious nones and 66% of persons of faith. In the event of being unhappy, distressed, or concerned at some point in the future, 42% said they would be likely to avail themselves of the services of a non-religious pastoral support provider, compared with 36% who would consult a chaplain. Nones (73%) were particularly unlikely to want to see a chaplain under such hypothetical circumstances, significantly above the national average of 49%, and they were also far less likely than Christians to have done so in the past. Many Christians (39%) and non-Christians (46%) would not be averse to seeing a non-religious pastoral support worker. In creating its new Network, Humanists UK have consciously decided to avoid using the term humanist chaplain since Britons overwhelmingly (83%) equate chaplaincy with Christianity. A summary of this particular section of the poll’s findings, with a link to the full data tables, is available at:

Gender pay gap

In compliance with Government requirements for all large employers, the Church of England has published details of the gender pay gap among the 452 employees of its National Church Institutions (NCIs). Results were separately reported for the Church Commissioners investment team (where a performance-related pay scheme is in operation) and the rest (the overwhelming majority) of NCI staff. In the case of the latter, there was a 41% disparity of men over women for median salary, reflecting the concentration of women in the lowest quartile pay band (where they represented 74% of the staff, dropping to 36% in the uppermost quartile). The report is available at:

Scottish church census, 2016

Headline findings from the 2016 Scottish church census, the fourth in a series since 1984, were featured in the April 2016 edition of Counting Religion in Britain. A book painting a fuller picture of the results has now been published: Peter Brierley, Growth Amidst Decline: What the 2016 Scottish Church Census Revealed (Tonbridge: ADBC Publishers, 2017, 215pp., ISBN: 978-0-9957646-0-6, £9.99, paperback). The ten chapters profile churchgoers in 2016 by age, gender, ethnicity, geography, churchmanship, and other characteristics; and analyse church leadership, midweek attendance, the age of churches, and replies to various sponsored questions on the census form. As befits a project commissioned and overseen by a consortium of Scottish Churches, most chapters end with a section ‘so what does all this say?’ There is also a concluding ‘making sense of all this’, aimed at individual congregations. An appendix briefly considers the methodology of the census and presents additional tables, and even more will be included in the forthcoming 2018 edition of UK Church Statistics, also by Brierley. The webpage of Growth Amidst Decline, with details on ordering a copy, is at:


The August 2017 issue of FutureFirst, the bimonthly bulletin of Brierley Consultancy, contains the usual mix of short and long articles about social and religious statistics. The longer pieces of British religious interest this time cover: a slow-down in Pentecostal church growth; an overview of recent research on parents passing on faith to their children; estimates of Scottish churchgoers by age over time; estimates of religious and secular funerals since 1995; and Christmas attendance in the Church of England. Further details are available from A version of the funeral article also appeared as Brierley’s monthly column in Church of England Newspaper, 25 August 2017, p. 10.

Antisemitism Barometer

The Campaign against Antisemitism (CAA) has published results and analysis from online surveys which were conducted in 2016 and 2017 among samples of Britons and British Jews aged 18 and over. Britons were members of YouGov’s 800,000-strong panel, 1,660 being interviewed on 18-19 August 2016 and 1,614 on 2-3 August 2017. The two Jewish samples were self-selecting, recruited by CAA via Jewish seed organizations and online networks, which were then used to initiate a snowballing process. They thus constituted non-probability convenience samples, with 1,857 respondents between 17 August and 18 September 2016 and 2,025 between 19 July and 8 August 2017. Results were weighted according to the profile of the Jewish population in the 2011 census and the 2013 National Jewish Community Survey. Full details of methodology and data tables are contained in the 110-page Antisemitism Barometer, 2017, which is available at:

Britons were presented with a list of seven anti-Semitic stereotypes and asked which they considered definitely or probably true. Just over one-third (36%) agreed with one or more of the statements in 2017, down from 45% in 2015 and 39% in 2016. On this criterion, the most anti-Semitic groups in 2017 were: Roman Catholics (52%), readers of The Sun or The Star newspapers (47%), over-65s (46%), men (42%), and leave voters in the 2016 referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union (42%). No individual stereotype was subscribed to by more than 20% of the whole sample (this being that British Jews chase money more than other British people). Just 12% of interviewees had definitely not met a Jewish person but 34% were unsure whether they had or not.

One-third of the Jews in 2017 claimed to have considered leaving the UK during the previous two years on account of anti-Semitism, 21% disagreed that Jews had a long-term future in the country, and 17% felt unwelcome here. Just over one-third (37%) avoided showing visible signs of their Judaism when outside the home. Almost two-thirds (64%) disagreed that the authorities were doing enough to address and punish anti-Semitism, with 42% having no confidence that, if they reported an anti-Semitic hate crime, it would be prosecuted if there was sufficient evidence. Overwhelmingly (83%), Jews deemed that the Labour Party was too tolerant of anti-Semitism in its midst, although Islamist anti-Semitism (ranked first by 48%) was a rather greater concern than that from the far left (ranked first by 29%).

Coverage of the Antisemitism Barometer, 2017 in the Jewish media was quite brief and muted, and various reservations about the Jewish samples and the CAA’s overall approach to researching anti-Semitism were expressed by sociologist Keith Kahn-Harris in a column in the Jewish Chronicle for 25 August 2017 (p. 8), which can be read at:

A blazing row also erupted between the CAA and Simon Johnson, CEO of the Jewish Leadership Council, after the latter posted a video blog (since taken down) lambasting CAA’s survey of Jews as tantamount to scaremongering. The controversy was covered in the online edition of the Jewish News at:


Religion of prisoners

‘Catholic Inmates Outnumber Anglicans for the First Time’, proclaimed the headline in The Times for 14 August 2017 (p. 22), calling into question, the newspaper’s correspondent argued, the privileged role of the Church of England in the prison service, including its monopoly in holding the post of chaplain-general of the service. Underlying this news report was the latest collation of quarterly Offender Management Statistics, one of whose documents tabulated the religious affiliation of the prison population (85,863 persons) as at 30 June 2017. Headline results (excluding the small number of religion unrecorded) are shown below, but the full spreadsheet, with data disaggregated by gender (albeit not age), can be found via the link at:


% June 2017

% change since June 2016





Roman Catholic












Other Christian




Other non-Christian




Visitor attractions

The 62 places of worship included in VisitEngland’s 2016 survey of major visitor attractions did not have an especially good year. Visitor numbers at them were down by 8% on 2015 levels and by 12% for those charging for admission (perhaps in reaction to an average 18% hike in their ticket prices). This compared with an annual increase of 2% for all visitor attractions in England. The fall was driven by some of the larger places of worship, especially in London, notably Westminster Abbey (-28%), where a 2012 Olympic Games boost had worn off. Outside the capital, sharp reductions in visitors were reported by Leicester Cathedral (-29%), after a spike caused by the reinterment there of the remains of King Richard III, and Guildford Cathedral (-30%). Gross revenue at the places of worship likewise fell by 1% against a rise of 7% for all attractions. Visitor Attraction Trends in England, 2016: Full Report, prepared by BDRC Continental on behalf of VisitEngland, is available at:

Scottish marriages, 2016

Scotland’s Population: The Registrar General’s Annual Review of Demographic Trends, 2016 includes the number of marriages conducted in Scotland in 2016 by manner of solemnization. Of 29,229 marriages in all, 15,066 (51.5%) were civil ceremonies, 5,260 (18.0%) humanist, 3,675 (12.6%) Church of Scotland, and 1,346 (4.6%) Roman Catholic. For the full list, plus trend data, see Tables 7.05-7.07 at:

Religious Studies GCE A Levels

There were 26,086 entries for GCE A Level Religious Studies (RS) in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland in the June 2017 examinations, according to the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ). This represented a decrease of 3.5% on the 2016 total compared with a decrease of 1.0% for all subjects and of 1.7% in the 18-year-old population. The number of RS entries had previously risen steadily since the Millennium, there being only 9,532 in 2001. More than seven in ten candidates for RS in 2017 were female, 16 points more than the mean for all subjects. The proportion of RS examinees securing a pass at A* to C grade was 80.8%, against 77.4% for all subjects, although there were fewer than average RS successes at A*. Additionally, there were 19,027 entries for GCE AS Level RS, 50.6% less than in 2016, AS Levels generally rapidly losing ground in consequence of ongoing reform of the examination system. Full provisional tables for both A and AS Level, showing breaks by gender and grade within home nation, are available, together with an important note and press release outlining changes affecting comparability of results year-on-year, at:

Religious Studies GCSE O Levels

The results for GCSE O Level RS were released by the JCQ the week after the A Level data were published. There were 282,193 entries for the full course GCSE in RS in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland in June 2017, a decrease of 4.7% on 2016 (and the first fall in a decade) compared with an increase of 3.9% in entries for all subjects. A much smaller proportion of candidates for GCSE O Level RS was female (54.1%) than for GCE A Level RS. The cumulative number obtaining a pass between A* and C for the full course GCSE O Level RS was 71.3%, five points more than the average across all subjects. The short course in GCSE O Level RS (equivalent to half a GCSE) continued its steep decline, with 23.5% fewer candidates in June 2017 than in June 2016, in line with the progressive disappearance of short courses generally. Full tables, again with an important note and press release outlining changes in the examination system affecting year-on-year comparability, are available at:


Religion and voting

The latest blog by Ben Clements on the BRIN website concerns religious affiliation and party choice at the 2017 British general election. It is based on a cross-sectional analysis of the post-election wave (number 13) of the British Election Study (BES) Internet Panel, 2014-18, online fieldwork for which was conducted by YouGov between 9 and 23 June 2017. There was a wide variation in support for the two main political parties among the principal religious groups. For example, the Conservative Party secured the votes of 63% of Jews, 58% of Anglicans, 40% of Catholics, and just 11% of Muslims. The blog, which also includes trend data from previous BES surveys, is at:

In a separate exercise, on behalf of Clive Field (who is preparing a lecture and article on the electoral behaviour of British Methodists between 1832 and 2017), Clements has tabulated the self-reported voting of professing Methodists at the last four general elections, again using the BES Internet Panel. These statistics are shown below:

% down


2010 2015




40 39




31 33


Liberal Democrat


21 13




8 15


By way of footnote to this item, we should flag James Tilley’s ‘We Don’t Do God? Religion and Vote Choice in Britain’ in More Sex, Lies & the Ballot Box: Another 50 Things You Need to Know about Elections, edited by Philip Cowley and Robert Ford (London: Biteback Publishing, 2016, ISBN: 978-1-78590-090-7), pp. 25-9. Using British Social Attitudes Survey data for 1983-2014, Tilley contends that religion is still a good predictor of vote choices, even after controlling for demographic factors and value scales. The denominational patterns which he has detected (Anglicans predisposed to the Conservatives, Catholics to Labour, and so forth) mirror those found in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, electoral preferences being transmitted from one generation to the next. This brief chapter is distilled from a longer article by Tilley in the British Journal of Political Science in 2015, which has already been covered by BRIN.    

Human rights and equality laws

In Politics, Religion, and Ideology, Vol. 18, No. 1, 2017, pp. 73-88, Kingsley Purdam, Sariya Cheruvallil-Contractor, Nazila Ghanea, and Paul Weller continue their reporting of research into religious discrimination based on the replies of 499 religious organizations to a postal and online questionnaire in 2010-11: ‘Religious Organizations and the Impact of Human Rights and Equality Laws in England and Wales’. The core of the article comprises five tables which quantify responses from the larger faith traditions regarding: the perceived helpfulness of equality legislation and policies in reducing unfair treatment of religious people, facilitating the working of religious organizations, and advancing participation of religious people in British society; and support for exemptions from such legislation for religious organizations in relation to religion or belief. The authors found that ‘equality is variously understood and many religious organizations give only limited recognition to certain legally protected characteristics including gender, sexual orientation and also the identities of other religious organizations’. Access options to the article are outlined at:

Religious education and community cohesion

After controlling for contextual, psychological, and religious factors, researchers have found a small but statistically significant association between taking religious education as an examination subject and higher scores on the scale of attitudes towards religious diversity. Fieldwork was conducted in 2011-12 as part of the Young People’s Attitudes to Religious Diversity Project among 3,052 Year 9 and 10 students from state-maintained schools in England, Wales, and London who self-identified as either Christians or religious nones. A full report appears in Leslie Francis, Tania ap Siôn, Ursula McKenna, and Gemma Penny, ‘Does Religious Education as an Examination Subject Work to Promote Community Cohesion? An Empirical Enquiry among 14- to 15-Year-Old Adolescents in England and Wales’, British Journal of Religious Education, Vol. 39, No. 3, 2017, pp. 303-16. Access options to this article are outlined at:

Discrimination in Scotland

One-third of black and minority ethnic residents of Scotland feel they have experienced discrimination in the last two years, and 44% of this sub-group think that it was on the grounds of their religion. The full sample of 508 respondents, interviewed over the telephone by Survation between 12 June and 17 July 2017 on behalf of Nasar Meer of the University of Edinburgh, was asked a series of questions about their experience of and attitudes to discrimination in Scotland. Results were disaggregated by a range of variables including religious affiliation, although it should be noted that, Muslims apart (n = 257), cell sizes for individual faiths were small. Full data tables are available at:

Yearbook of International Religious Demography

The 2017 edition (Vol. 4) of the Yearbook of International Religious Demography has been published by Brill, edited by Brian Grim, Todd Johnson, Vegard Skirbekk, and Gina Zurlo (xxiv + 257pp., ISBN: 978-90-04-34627-7, €85, paperback). Its contents follow the usual format: global and continental religious data in part I (chapters 1-2); case studies and methodology in part II (chapters 3-9); and data sources in part III (chapter 10). Figures for world religions by country are given in an appendix (pp. 221-49). Although none of the case studies focuses on Britain alone, two relate to Europe more generally: Antonius Liedhegener and Anastas Odermatt on religious affiliation and religious plurality, which introduces the SMRE project, the ‘Swiss Metadatabase of Religious Affiliation in Europe’ (chapter 6); and Michaela Potančoková, Marcin Stonawski, and Anna Krysińska on the effect of increased numbers of asylum seekers on Muslim populations in 2010-15 (chapter 7). The book’s webpage is at:

More information about the SMRE project may be found at:

Victorian statistical rhetoric

Miriam Elizabeth Burstein offers an interesting case study of Victorian attitudes to religious statistics in her ‘“In Ten Years there is an Increase of 450 Priests of Antichrist”: Quantification, Anti-Catholicism, and The Bulwark’, Journal of British Studies, Vol. 56, No. 3, July 2017, pp. 580-604. The Bulwark, published continuously by the Scottish Reformation Society since 1851, was arguably the most influential anti-Catholic periodical of the second half of the nineteenth century, a reputation built on its self-proclaimed devotion to ‘facts’ in demonstrating, through its ‘weaponized statistical discourses’, the religious and social threat which Roman Catholicism posed to the nation. Protestants alone, and only Protestants of the proper theological orientation, were deemed by The Bulwark to speak authoritatively in matters of numbers. Some contextual information about more general ecclesiastical views on quantification is also provided by Burstein, including in connection with the 1851 religious census. Access options to the article are outlined at:

Qualifying secularization

Without denying ‘the steep decline in religious practice, belief, and commitment’, Daniel Loss argues for ‘The Institutional Afterlife of Christian England’ and the absence of a secular society during the second half of the twentieth century. He finds this persistent Christianity reflected in enduring links between the mainstream Churches and the government and public bodies on the one hand (especially over education and broadcasting) and in ‘popular interest in Christianity as a cultural resource’ on the other (Grace Davie’s model of ‘vicarious religion’ is invoked). Particular importance is attached to the role of the Church of England, which is characterized as tolerant, progressive, and inclusive, its image one of ‘bland inoffensiveness’ and ‘harmlessness’. As with much scholarly writing on secularization, whether from pessimistic or optimistic schools, the author tends to claim too much for the primary evidence (which, in this instance, peters out in the 1970s). He also fails to deploy sample surveys to demonstrate precisely how, ‘stripped of its denominational distinctiveness, English Christianity increasingly became a matter of cultural identity rather than orthodox belief or practice’. Access options to the article, published in Journal of Modern History (Vol. 89, No. 2, June 2017, pp. 282-313), are outlined at:

Please note: Counting Religion in Britain is © Clive D. Field, 2017


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