The Integrated Household Survey (IHS) is the biggest pool of UK social data after the decennial population census, so there will be special interest in the statistical bulletin containing headline results for the period April 2010 to March 2011, published by the Office for National Statistics on 28 September at:
The question on religious affiliation (‘What is your religion, even if you are not currently practising?’) was answered by 413,832 individuals (including under-16s) in Great Britain. Different question-wording was used in Northern Ireland, and results from that province are not reported in the bulletin.
In Great Britain as a whole 23.2% professed no religion, with 68.5% being Christian, 4.4% Muslim, 1.3% Hindu, 0.7% Sikh, 0.4% Jewish, 0.4% Buddhist, and 1.1% subscribing to other religions.
The proportion with no religion was lowest in England (22.4%) and highest in Wales (30.6%), with 27.2% in Scotland. Scotland had the most Christians (69.6%) and Wales – historically synonymous with Nonconformity – the fewest (66.1%).
All the non-Christian faiths were relatively stronger in England than in the other two home nations, and this was particularly true of Jews, Muslims, and Sikhs. For example, Muslims represented 4.9% of people in England, 1.2% in Wales, and 1.3% in Scotland.
There was an above-average number of persons with no religion among all the under-50 age cohorts. This was notably so for the 16-24s (31.6%) and the 25-34s (32.5%). For the over-65s the figure was only 8.4%. It was also among the over-65s that the proportion of Christians peaked (87.6%).
By contrast, Muslims had a very youthful profile, accounting for 7.9% of all under-16s, 5.5% of 16-24s, and 6.4% of 25-34s. Even assuming standard rates of fertility, this concentration presages an above-the-norm growth in the Muslim population of Britain over the next decade.
The principal changes since the 2009-10 IHS have been an increase of 2.7% in the number professing no religion and a decrease of 2.9% for Christians. Muslims were up 0.2%. BRIN covered the 2009-10 data at:
As discussed in the present author’s forthcoming essay on ‘Repurposing Religious Surveys’, there are several ways of enquiring into religious affiliation, each producing different results.
This explains the big discrepancy in the size of the no religion category between the ‘What is your religion?’ formulation employed in the census and IHS and the British Social Attitudes (BSA) Surveys’ approach of ‘Do you regard yourself as belonging to any particular religion?’, the one assuming and the other ‘discouraging’ a faith identity.
In the latest BSA to be published, for 2009, and for the first time in the history of BSA back to 1983, a slim majority of respondents said they had no religion, as already noted by BRIN at:
Thus, the accuracy and meaning of the 2010-11 IHS statistics of religious affiliation are likely to be the subject of some debate. They seem bound to be deployed or controverted to support opposing views on the place of religion in modern society.
Already, in its article on the IHS, the Daily Mail has claimed it demonstrates ‘the nation remains overwhelmingly Christian … days after it emerged that BBC programme-makers have been put under pressure to stop describing dates as BC or AD.’ See: