Religiosity and Other News

 

Self-assessed religiosity

In our post of 11 January 2015, we reported on the British results from the WIN/Gallup International End of Year 2014 poll, focusing on a question about trust in religious professionals, but also noting findings on two other religion-related topics, one of them self-assessed religiosity. On 13 April 2015 WIN/Gallup International and ORB International, which undertook the British fieldwork, posted online the full religiosity data and an associated religiosity index for the 64,000 respondents from 65 countries participating in the global poll. These can be downloaded from: 

http://www.opinion.co.uk/article.php?s=are-you-a-religious-person-poll-results-from-65-countries

Britain came 59th out of 65 nations in terms of the proportion of the population self-rating as a religious person, with just 30%, under half the global mean (63%) and well behind Thailand at the head of the index (94%). The six countries less religious than Britain were Hong Kong, The Netherlands, Czech Republic, Sweden, Japan, and China. Two-thirds of Britons either described themselves as not a religious person (53%) or a convinced atheist (13%), with 4% undecided. The results for selected countries, arranged by region, are shown below. 

% across

Religious person

Not religious person

Convinced atheist

Global mean

63

22

11

Europe

 

 

 

Austria

39

44

10

Belgium

44

30

18

Czech Republic

23

45

30

Denmark

42

40

12

Finland

56

32

10

France

40

35

18

Germany

34

42

17

Great Britain

30

53

13

Greece

71

15

6

Ireland

45

41

10

Italy

74

18

6

Netherlands

26

51

15

Poland

86

10

2

Portugal

60

28

9

Russia

70

18

5

Spain

37

35

20

Sweden

19

59

17

Switzerland

38

46

12

North America

 

 

 

Canada

40

41

12

USA

56

33

6

Asia

 

 

 

China

7

29

61

India

76

21

2

Japan

13

31

31

Korea

44

49

6

Pakistan

88

10

1

The number of Britons self-rating as religious seems first to have been measured (by Opinion Research Centre) in January-February 1968, when it stood at 58%. It was 36% when recorded by YouGov earlier this month. The question has been asked many times in between, albeit with variant wording, leading to some volatility in results. However, there has been a clear pattern of decline in religiosity since the 1990s, with, during the first half of the present decade, between 55% and 75% viewing themselves as irreligious. This is a much higher proportion of adults than professed no religion in the 2011 census of Britain (25%) or in the 2012 Integrated Household Survey (30%) or who doubted or denied the existence of God or a higher power in two YouGov polls of 2013 (35%).   

Personal well-being

Christians tend to experience the highest levels of personal well-being in the UK and Muslims and religious ‘nones’ the lowest. This is suggested by an analysis of aggregated data for adults aged 16 and over from the Annual Population Survey for April 2011-March 2014 which was published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on 27 March 2015 as How Does Personal Well-Being Vary by Sex, Disability, Ethnicity, and Religion? Respondents were asked to assess, on a scale running from 0 to 10, overall ‘how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?’; ‘to what extent do you feel that the things you do in your life are worthwhile?’; ‘how happy did you feel yesterday?’; and ‘how anxious did you feel yesterday?’ Means for each of these four measures are tabulated below, while the report, with links to data tables, can be read at:  

http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171776_400162.pdf

Mean scores out of 10

Life satisfaction

Life worthwhile

Happiness yesterday

Anxiety yesterday

All adults

7.46

7.70

7.33

3.03

No religion

7.34

7.51

7.15

2.98

Christian

7.54

7.81

7.43

3.01

Buddhist

7.31

7.57

7.39

3.23

Hindu

7.48

7.66

7.46

3.26

Jewish

7.44

7.81

7.31

3.29

Muslim

7.27

7.52

7.20

3.28

Sikh

7.39

7.67

7.32

3.23

Other

7.25

7.62

7.25

3.27

ONS does not attempt to explore the root cause of these religious differences in any detail, except to note that variations between and within equality groups generally can be attributed to various factors, including socio-economic characteristics and self-reported state of health. The relatively older age profile of Christians and younger profile of Muslims and ‘nones’ is likely to account for some of the difference, as is the relative deprivation of Muslims. 

Muslims and non-Muslims

In our last post, on 12 April 2015, we reported on a telephone survey of Muslim opinion conducted by Survation for Sky News, noting that a parallel online poll of 1,001 non-Muslim Britons aged 18 and over had also been conducted for comparative purposes, the data tables for which were not then available. The tables for the latter study have now been released and can be found, together with the Muslim data, via links in a blog at: 

http://survation.com/british-muslims-is-the-divide-increasing/

A comparison of Muslim and non-Muslim views is shown below, revealing a gulf on all issues, and very wide on some. This exemplified that 44% of non-Muslims admitted to being more suspicious of Muslims than they had been a few years back, rising to 49% of men and over-55s.  

% down

Muslims

Non-Muslims

Values of Islam

 

 

Compatible with British values

71

22

Incompatible with British values

16

52

British Muslims doing enough to integrate

 

 

Agree

64

18

Disagree

21

57

Muslims should condemn terrorism carried out in name of Islam

 

 

Agree

51

67

Disagree

40

17

Sympathy with UK Muslims fighting in Syria

 

 

A lot/some

28

14

None

61

77

Police/MI5 contributing to radicalization of young Muslims

 

 

Agree

39

16

Disagree

29

50

Further recent exploration of anti-Muslim sentiment is contained in Ingrid Storm’s post on the Democratic Audit UK blog on 17 April 2015. Using data from the 2013 British Social Attitudes Survey, she shows that Muslims continue to be less accepted than other religious or ethnic minorities in Britain. She suggests that ‘negative media portrayals of Muslims and associations with Islamist terrorism amplify prejudice against this group among all parts of the population.’ See: 

http://www.democraticaudit.com/?p=12510

Anglican church growth

Revd Dr Mark Hart, Rector of Plemstall and Guilden Sutton in the Diocese of Chester, has just (13 April 2015) published ‘From Delusion to Reality: An Evaluation of From Anecdote to Evidence’, the Church of England’s influential report (January 2014) on its church growth research programme (2011-13) which is now being used to drive ‘Reform and Renewal’ in the Church. A mathematician and engineer by background, Hart carefully reviews From Anecdote to Evidence in the light of the original research by Professor David Voas and Laura Watts of the University of Essex. Hart concludes that ‘From Anecdote to Evidence systematically misrepresents or misinterprets the underlying report by David Voas and Laura Watts, thereby exaggerating the usefulness of the findings for numerical growth’.  

More specifically, Hart highlights eight major weaknesses in From Anecdote to Evidence, the first being its over-dependence upon self-reported assessments of growth, which are inflated and biased, rather than using statistical data from parish returns. On the basis of his critique, he calls into question both the From Evidence to Action initiative designed to encourage parishes to implement the findings presented in From Anecdote to Evidence, as well as the decision to borrow at least £100 million from the future, using Church Commissioners’ funds, in order to advance the ‘Reform and Renewal’ agenda for the Church, doubting that this will give an adequate return on investment either in terms of finance or church growth. Hart’s 18-page paper is extensively covered in the Church Times for 17 April 2015 (main report on p. 5, leader comment on p. 12) and can be downloaded in full from: 

http://revmarkhart.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/from-delusion-to-reality.html

Upcoming events

The Church of England’s annual ‘Faith in Research’ conference is to be held at Novotel, Birmingham on 14 May 2015. The theme this year is ‘Everyone Counts’, the title of a congregational survey carried out in a sample of Anglican parishes in 2014, and about whose results Sarah Barter-Godfrey will be talking. Other plenary speakers include Professor Leslie Francis on psychological type and the Church of England, and Tom Sefton and Bethany Eckley on church-based social action. There are also parallel sessions on ministry, mission, occasional offices, and church growth. More details at: 

https://www.churchofengland.org/about-us/facts-stats/research-statistics/faith-in-research-conferences.aspx

‘Rethinking Modern British Studies’ is an international conference hosted by the University of Birmingham on 1-3 July 2015. Its extensive programme includes several panel sessions on religious themes, including one on the last day on ‘Public Opinion, Polling and Cultural and Religious Change in Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Britain’, with papers by Marcus Collins (on measuring permissiveness), Clive Field (on indicators of religiosity), and Ben Clements (on the religious beliefs and social attitudes of Catholics). More details at: 

https://mbsbham.wordpress.com/programme-rethinking-modern-british-studies/

Professor Linda Woodhead is running a residential course on ‘Britain’s Religious Crisis’ at Gladstone’s Library, Hawarden on 3-5 July 2015. Drawing on her own empirical research, she intends to: highlight the growing values gap between religion and society; chart the rapid rise of religious ‘nones’ and the ‘seculigious’; review the battles for the soul of traditional religion and the role of politics and the media; and suggest how to resolve the crisis and move forward. More details at:  

https://www.gladstoneslibrary.org/events/events-courses-list/britains-religious-crisis

 

 

Posted in News from religious organisations, Religion and Politics, Religion and Social Capital, Survey news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Religion and Public Affairs

 

Britons on Christianity in the public square

Five times as many people (73% versus 15%) think that Britain has become less of a Christian country over the past five years than dissent from the proposition, according to a ComRes poll for Christian Concern conducted among an online sample of 2,057 Britons aged 18 and over on 31 March and 1 April 2015, and published on 5 April. Notwithstanding, a plurality (47%) still considers that Britain’s Christian heritage continues to bring benefits to the country today compared with 32% who say the opposite, and a majority (55%) welcomes the fact that Easter is marked primarily as a Christian festival against 33% who view it as little more than two Bank Holidays together. There is also majority support for the rights of Christians in the workplace, with 52% believing they should be able to refuse to act against their conscience without being penalized by their employer, 66% wanting legal protection for the wearing of Christian symbols such as the cross in the workplace, and 72% deeming it wrong that health care workers should be threatened with the sack for offering to pray with patients. Unsurprisingly, Christians are much more well-disposed than religious ‘nones’ to an ongoing public profile for Christianity, albeit a minority is not, while many of the ‘nones’ also defend Christian freedoms. In terms of age, the over-65s display the most conservative views about the place of Christianity, with 18-24s adopting a more liberal position. Data tables are at:    

http://www.comres.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Christian_Concern___Easter_Poll___April_2015.pdf

Britons on assisted dying

The British public is overwhelmingly in favour of legalizing assisted dying within defined parameters, and there is very little difference between the views of Christians overall and the national average. This is according to the results of one of the largest ever surveys on the subject, undertaken online by Populus on behalf of campaign group Dignity in Dying on 11-19 March 2015, and released in full on 7 April. The major findings are summarized below, with detailed data tables available at: 

http://www.populus.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/Dignity-in-Dying-Poll-March-2015-WEBSITE-DATATABLES.pdf 

% across

All

Christians

Non-Christians

Nones

Attitude to assisted dying becoming law

 

 

 

 

Support

82

80

68

88

Oppose

12

14

26

6

Attitude to own MP backing such a law

 

 

 

 

More positive to them

53

49

47

61

More negative to them

10

11

23

5

MPs voting on legalizing assisted dying

 

 

 

 

Should take account of constituents’ views

67

69

60

68

Should vote according to own opinion

21

22

24

20

House of Commons should allocate time after general election for full debate on assisted dying

 

 

 

 

Agree

79

80

64

81

Disagree

11

12

23

8

Would assist terminally ill loved one to die even if it meant breaking the law

 

 

 

 

Would assist

44

43

37

49

Would not assist

29

32

39

23

Unfortunately, the attitudes of followers of individual Christian denominations were not recorded, but it seems likely that, as in other studies where they have been, Roman Catholics would have been most opposed to legalizing assisted dying. In this Populus poll non-Christians were more than twice as opposed on several of the key questions asked, albeit the majority even of them endorsed assisted dying. The most supportive religious group of all were the ‘nones’, but not by a big margin. Lord Falconer of Thoroton has signalled his intention to bring back his bill to legalize assisted dying as soon as the new Parliament assembles after the general election; the bill ran out of time in the old Parliament. 

Britons on Scientology

The Church of Scientology, founded by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard in the 1950s, has been in the media spotlight again recently, principally as a result of its negative portrayal in Alex Gibney’s controversial new documentary Going Clear. This has prompted YouGov to test the British public’s awareness of and attitudes to the movement in an online poll of 1,906 adults on 3-4 April 2015. Knowledge is minimal, with 75% professing to know nothing or very little, 23% something, and just 2% a lot. This did not prevent 61% dismissing Scientology’s claims to being a real religion, only 8% thinking it is, rising to 14% among 18-24s and those with some knowledge of it; the remaining 31% were unable to express an opinion. Moreover, 45% found the beliefs of Scientology less credible than those of Christianity, peaking at 62% with those who knew something about it. The achievement of spiritual enlightenment is one of Scientology’s core beliefs, which a plurality of 38% considered to be probably attainable, with 30% disagreeing and 32% uncertain, although it is debatable how much this question was actually understood. The majority (54%) did not regard themselves as spiritual while 41% said they were (12% very and 29% slightly), compared with 60% and 35% respectively when YouGov last probed the matter in September 2011. However, too much should not be read into the differences as spirituality is a rather elusive concept, difficult to operationalize, with surveys on the topic yielding fluctuating results. A blog about this latest YouGov study, with a link to the data tables, was published on 8 April at: 

https://yougov.co.uk/news/2015/04/08/scientology-not-real-religion-public/

Professing Anglicans and the general election

The Church of England has often been seen as a natural ally of the Conservative Party, and an analysis of YouGov’s aggregate polling of 35,000 electors in March 2015, commissioned by the Church Times, certainly confirms that professing Anglicans are disproportionately likely to favour the Conservatives. Whereas, as the table below shows, the Conservatives and Labour were tied nationally, on 34% each, the Conservatives had a commanding 21% lead among Anglicans. Catholics, by contrast, were more disposed to Labour (42%) than Conservatives (31%). For the Church Times report, see: 

http://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2015/10-april/news/uk/tories-can-count-on-the-c-of-e-voters-tell-polls 

% down

All electors

Anglican electors

Conservative

34

48

Labour

34

27

Liberal Democrat

7

6

UKIP

14

16

Other parties

11

3

Practising Christians and the general election

Four-fifths of 1,960 practising (churchgoing) Christians aged 16 and over think Britain is heading in the wrong moral direction, while two-thirds believe that it is harder to be a Christian in Britain today than it was in 2010. This is according to a ComRes survey undertaken online in the UK between 13 and 17 March 2015 and published on 9 April by Premier Christian Radio, which sponsored the study, in a press release at: 

http://www.premier.org.uk/News/UK/Election-Deficit-not-a-top-concern-for-Christians

Asked which of the leaders of the four main parties they most associated with six statements about the role of faith in politics, a majority of practising Christians ranging from 55% to 78% replied ‘none of them’, with David Cameron being the only one to shine a little (see table, below). However, even Cameron had blotted his copy-book in the eyes of respondents, with 71% denying that his time as Prime Minister had been good for Christians in Britain (and 52% saying that it had actually been bad), and 78% claiming that he had been wrong to laud the legalization of same-sex marriage as one of his proudest achievements. 

Leaders of four main parties associated with … (%)

None of them

David Cameron

Places importance on own faith in political decision-making

78

12

Exhibits Christian values in political beliefs

68

20

Exhibits Christian values in personal life

66

23

Likely to build on Britain’s Christian cultural/political heritage

59

23

Encourages involvement of faith groups in politics

58

24

Committed to protecting religious freedom

55

18

The three most important of 13 named policy areas for determining the personal vote of practising Christians were: managing the NHS (42%), ensuring the benefits of economic growth are felt by all (41%), and making the welfare system fairer (33%). These are not necessarily the highest priorities of the electorate as a whole (for instance, immigration and the European Union came well down this sample’s list of concerns) nor of the main political parties. Even reducing the government budget deficit preoccupied no more than 20% of practising Christians, and promoting UK economic growth just 16%. The latter was the major policy area where practising Christians regarded the Conservatives as having a big advantage over Labour (50% versus 13%), followed by reducing crime and anti-social behaviour. Otherwise, the rating of the parties was either closer or Labour was seen as the more credible option, notably when it came to ensuring economic equality, improving housing affordability, making the welfare system fairer, managing the NHS, and caring for the elderly.   

Regrettably, although full data tables for the survey are available, including breaks by age, gender, region, and denomination, they are not up to the usual ComRes standard of presentation and clarity. They can be found at: 

http://www.comres.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Premier-_-Election-Priority-Polling.pdf

Jews and the general election

Among electors intending to vote in the forthcoming general election, and after discounting undecideds and refusals, Jews are more than twice as likely to favour the Conservatives and far less likely to support UKIP as the population as a whole. This is according to the latest Survation telephone poll of 566 self-identifying British Jews for the Jewish Chronicle on 2-7 April 2015, compared with the same company’s national poll for the Daily Mirror on 8-9 April. A summary of voting intentions appears below, with full data tables for the Jewish survey available at: 

http://survation.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/General-Election-Poll-Tables.pdf 

% down

Jewish electors

All electors

Conservative

69

30

Labour

22

36

Liberal Democrat

2

8

UKIP

2

15

Other parties

5

11

The pro-Conservative stance of British Jews doubtless reflects their relatively affluent status, but it also appears to be determined by perspectives on Israel and the Middle East. Almost three-quarters (73%) of Jews claimed that the views of British political parties towards Israel would be very or quite important in influencing their own vote. Three-fifths (61%) contended that the Conservatives had the best policies for Israel and the Middle East, and 65% felt that, of the party leaders, David Cameron had the best approach to these issues. A similar proportion (64%) considered that Cameron as Prime Minister would have the best attitude to the Jewish community in the UK, against only 13% for Labour’s Ed Miliband. Indeed, in its coverage of the poll (10 April 2015, pp. 1, 4, 28), the Jewish Chronicle was particularly struck by Miliband’s ‘shocking’ standing, asking how a supposedly Jewish politician could make ‘such a terrible fist of attracting Jewish voters?’

Muslims and current issues

Most British Muslims (71%) see no incompatibility between the values of British society and those of Islam, according to a telephone poll of 1,001 Muslims, conducted by Survation for Sky News from 10 to 16 March 2015, and published on 10 April. Just 16% disagreed. A majority also felt that Muslims were already doing enough to integrate into British society (64%) and that they had personally encountered no more suspicion from non-Muslims than a few years previously (62%). However, there was some ambiguity when it came to matters of terrorism. Two-fifths overall (and 46% of women) did not believe it was the responsibility of Muslims to condemn terrorist acts carried out in the name of Islam, while 28% of all Muslims (including 33% of women and 32% of under-35s) said that they had a lot or some sympathy with young Muslims who had left the UK to join fighters in Syria. A plurality (39%) agreed that the actions of the police and MI5 were contributing to the radicalization of young Muslims. Data tables, with breaks by gender, age, and region, are available at: 

http://interactive.news.sky.com/2015/PDFs/Sky-Muslim-Poll.pdf

Survation also undertook an online survey of 1,000 non-Muslims, which has yet to be reported in full. A few results were mentioned in a Sky News press release, two being polar opposites of the Muslim voice, with 58% of non-Muslims considering that Muslims were not doing enough to integrate into British society and 52% that the values of British society and Islam were incompatible. The press release is at: 

http://news.sky.com/story/1462023/poll-majority-have-no-sympathy-with-extremists

 

Posted in News from religious organisations, Religion and Politics, Religion in public debate, Survey news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ben Clements on Religion and Other News

 

Ben Clements on religion

Ben Clements has been a regular contributor to BRIN’s news pages and his expertise in British religious statistics needs no introduction. His new book is a veritable cornucopia of quantitative data, containing no fewer than 90 tables and 45 figures: Religion and Public Opinion in Britain: Continuity and Change (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015, xix + 280p., ISBN 9780230293892, £68.00, hardback, also available in PDF and EPUB editions). The data, spanning the years 1947-2013 (but mainly from the 1970s onwards), derive both from serial sources (notably British Election Study, European Values Study, and British Social Attitudes Survey) and some non-recurrent polling. They illuminate six facets of the socio-political dimensions of religion, with breaks by standard demographics and by indicators of religious belonging, behaving, and believing (including by four principal religious groups – Anglican, Catholic, other Christian, no affiliation), as follows:

  • Religious authority (extent of religious change; confidence in religious institutions; attitudes to the role of religious leaders in politics)
  • Religion and party choice (voting)
  • Religion and ideology (left-right, welfare, and libertarian-authoritarian scales; attitudes to the death penalty and to censorship)
  • Religion and abortion (including detailed analysis of Catholic attitudes)
  • Religion, homosexuality, and gay rights (including attitudes to same-sex adoption and same-sex marriage)
  • Religion and foreign policy (European integration; military intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan)

Each of the above chapters finishes with a summary, and there is also an overarching (if tantalizingly brief) conclusion, which separately charts areas where there has been over-time attitudinal continuity (party choice, ideology, and Euroscepticism) and change (diminishing religious authority and liberalization of socio-moral attitudes), as well as suggesting where there is scope for further research. Appended material includes useful checklists of religious measures in the recurrent surveys and of datasets which have been used. In short, this is a scholarly and empirically-grounded monograph which does exactly what it says it does in providing ‘an important “bottom-up” perspective on the historical and contemporary linkages between religion and politics in Britain’. It will equally appeal to political scientists, sociologists of religion, and religious historians.

British Social Attitudes, 2014

The main report on the 2014 British Social Attitudes Survey was published by NatCen on 26 March 2015: British Social Attitudes, 32: 2015 Edition, editors: John Curtice and Rachel Ormston. A sample of 2,878 Britons aged 18 and over was interviewed by NatCen through a combination of face-to-face interview and self-completion questionnaire between August and November 2014, with a response rate of 47% on the interview component. The full dataset will not be available through the interactive BritSocAt website until the autumn, hopefully a little earlier via the UK Data Service. Meanwhile, the report and questionnaire can be viewed at, respectively:

http://www.bsa.natcen.ac.uk/media/38945/bsa32_fullreport.pdf

http://www.bsa.natcen.ac.uk/media/38926/bsa32_questionnaire.pdf

The full sample was asked, in the face-to-face interview, the standard background variables about current religious affiliation, religion of upbringing, and attendance at religious services. The replies for these questions will be useful for analysing by religion the wide range of social and political topics covered by the survey. Page 159 of the report suggests that 49% professed no religion in 2014, with 18% Church of England and 8% Roman Catholic. Two other religion-rated questions were only put to sub-samples A and C (representing about two-thirds of the whole) through the self-completion questionnaire: membership of and participation in church or other religious organizations, and attitudes to religious extremists being allowed to hold public meetings. According to the report (page 126), 12% claimed active membership of a church or religious organization in 2014 (down from 16% in 2004), while a further 12% were non-participating members (against 18% ten years before).

21st-century evangelicals

During the course of the past four years, BRIN has reported on results from the baseline and eleven thematic surveys of the Evangelical Alliance’s online research panel, comprising a self-selecting opportunity sample of UK evangelical churchgoers and church leaders. An aggregate analysis of much of this research appears in a new book edited by Greg Smith (the Alliance’s research manager) and entitled 21st Century Evangelicals: Reflections on Research by the Evangelical Alliance (Watford: Instant Apostle, 2015, 192p., ISBN 9781909728257, £12.99 paperback, also available in a Kindle edition).

Following an introduction to the Alliance’s research programme and a demographic profile of evangelicals in the panel, there are eight chapters (each accompanied by a very brief response) on evangelicals and their theology/identity, church life, social involvement, politics, gender, families/youth, charismatic movement, and global connections. The chapters are mostly written by established academics in the sociology of religion and theology who provide analysis (sometimes reanalysis of the original data), commentary, and contextualization, each drawing upon anything up to five of the thematic surveys. They cumulate to a useful and accessible digest of the views and experiences of the Alliance’s research panel, which presents an overall celebratory picture of the health, vitality, and values of evangelicalism while not completely concealing the more negative dimensions. However, the underlying methodological limitations of the data source should be constantly borne in mind. As Smith reminds us (page 19), respondents have not comprised a random sample, they are potentially unrepresentative, and ‘we need to be very cautious in extrapolating from it to UK evangelicals as a whole’.

Churchgoers and homosexuality

Churchgoers’ attitudes to homosexuality have undergone an ‘ethical earthquake’ during the past decade, according to Oasis UK, which recently released headline findings from a survey of the views of 1,300 churchgoers and church leaders on the subject. Half of practising Christians now believe that monogamous same-sex relationships should be fully embraced and encouraged within the Churches, with just 1% totally opposed to people in such relationships being allowed to attend public worship (albeit a further 8% wish to see them ‘regularly challenged’ about their situation). However, 37% of churchgoers confessed to being reluctant to communicating their views to other Christians for fear of being looked down upon, and this concern was shared by church leaders, who were 10% less likely than churchgoers to support same-sex relationships in any case. Unfortunately, at this stage, only secondhand accounts of the research are available online, the fullest in the public domain being in Christian Today at:

http://www.christiantoday.com/article/more.than.a.third.of.uk.churchgoers.hide.their.support.for.same.sex.relationships/50381.htm?print=1

If you have a subscription to the Church Times, there is also an article there at:

http://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2015/27-march/news/uk/christians-too-scared-to-voice-support-for-same-sex-relationships

Ramifications of ‘gay cake’ row

As regular users of the BRIN website will know, we do not ordinarily seek to cover Northern Irish religious statistics. However, since we have already featured surveys of British opinion on the ongoing ‘gay cake’ row (whereby Ashers, a Christian-run bakery in Northern Ireland, is facing civil action for refusing to bake a cake iced with the slogan ‘support gay marriage’), it seems appropriate to draw attention to a ComRes poll for the Christian Institute which was published on 23 March 2015. One thousand adults in Northern Ireland were interviewed by telephone between 10 and 15 March on the rights of business people to their own freedom of speech and religious liberty when it comes to the provision of goods and services to the public. Respondents were asked for their views on a range of potential real-life situations affecting these rights, one of the scenarios being modelled on the Ashers case. Three-quarters of the sample thought the bakery’s actions should not constitute grounds for court action, and two-thirds agreed that the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland had been wrong to initiate such action against Ashers. Full data tables, giving breaks by standard demographics and religious group, are at:

http://comres.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Christian-Institute-_-Northern-Ireland-Poll-_-March-2015.pdf

Religious rights

Muslim immigrants, and especially religious Muslims, are more supportive of religious rights than native Christians, and religious natives are more approving of the rights of out-groups than the non-religious. This is according to an article published in the advanced access edition of Social Forces on 15 March 2015: Sarah Carol, Marc Helbling, and Ines Michalowski, ‘A Struggle over Religious Rights? How Muslim Immigrants and Christian Natives View the Accommodation of Religion in Six European Countries’. Data derive from the EURISLAM project which, in April-September 2011, surveyed by telephone 7,256 majority group members without immigrant backgrounds and Muslim migrants from the former Yugoslavia, Morocco, Turkey, and Pakistan living in Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, The Netherlands, and Switzerland. In Britain interviews were conducted with 387 people from the majority population and 798 migrants. The two rights investigated were religious education (Christian and Muslim) and wearing of religious garments (Christian symbols or headscarves) by teachers, both within the context of public schools. British natives were found to be especially critical of Islamic religious rights, not least surrounding the headscarf. Access options to the article are explained at:

http://sf.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/recent

For more information about EURISLAM in general, including a list of other publications, go to:

http://www.eurislam.eu/page=site.home

Anglican church growth row

According to reports on the Christian Today website (20 March 2015) and in The Tablet (28 March 2015), the Church of England’s General Synod has come under fire from Professor Linda Woodhead of Lancaster University for authorizing the Church Commissioners to sell substantial historic assets in order to fund an £100 million investment in additional clergy and initiatives to break the cycle of the Church’s ongoing decline. The investment was said to be in accordance with ‘proven growth formulae’. Arguing that such a strategy was ‘nonsense’, ‘unevidenced’, and ‘reckless’, Woodhead wrote to William Fittall, the Synod’s outgoing Secretary General, who, in his reply, was forced to concede that ‘proven growth formulae’ was perhaps an inaccurate phrase and that ‘established evidence about growth’ would have been more appropriate. Woodhead then commented that ‘there is a danger … that the Church is moving from complacency to blind panic’, noting that, in his response to her, Fittall had still been ‘unable to supply any evidence for thinking that the plan will reverse church decline’.

Jewish families and households

The Institute for Jewish Policy Research published on 19 March 2015 another title in its invaluable series of research reports on English and Welsh Jewry as depicted in the 2011 population census: David Graham with Maria Luisa Caputo, Jewish Families and Jewish Households: Census Insights about How We Live. It reveals that the number of Jewish households declined by 5% between 2001 and 2011, to 110,700, whereas there was an increase of 8% in the country as a whole. Jewish households were slightly smaller than in the general population, 2.31 against 2.36 persons, but the gap is closing. However, Jewish households were significantly larger than average in areas with predominantly haredi (strictly orthodox) Jews and Jewish student communities. One-third of Jewish households comprised Jews living alone, while 59% consisted of couples or families; in the latter case, Jews were more likely than the norm to live as married couples and less likely to cohabit or to be lone parents. The overwhelming majority (88%) of Jewish children under 16 lived in married couple families, far more than all children in England and Wales (58%). Overall, Jewish household structure most closely resembled that of Christian households, most especially in their older than average age profiles and large proportions comprising only people aged 65 and over. Jews were more likely to own their own home than the nation at large (73% versus 64%), albeit there was a 9% fall in Jewish home ownership between 2001 and 2011. The 48-page report can be found at:

http://www.jpr.org.uk/documents/JPR_Census_Jewish_families_and_Jewish_households_report_March_2015.pdf

 

Posted in church attendance, Historical studies, News from religious organisations, Official data, People news, Religion and Politics, Religion in public debate, Religious beliefs, Religious Census, Survey news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Grace Davie on Religion and Other News

 

Grace Davie on Religion in Britain

Twenty-one years ago, in 1994, Grace Davie published her seminal Religion in Britain since 1945, a sociological account which became a standard textbook for students of the sociology of religion and contemporary British history. It perhaps became best known for its sub-title of ‘believing without belonging’, encapsulating the persistence of the sacred alongside an ongoing decline in traditional forms of religious behaviour. A second edition of the book has just appeared: Religion in Britain: A Persistent Paradox (Wiley Blackwell, xv + 264pp., ISBN 9781405135962, £21.99, paperback). It has been so extensively revised and restructured as, in effect, to constitute an entirely new work. Its masterly survey of a wide and dynamic field, and the clarity and concision of the writing, are certain to ensure it a wide readership. 

Although the narrative still nominally starts in 1945, in practice the focus is on more recent decades, and coverage of the secondary historical literature is relatively sparse. Contemporary socio-religious scholarship and primary sources (including websites) are more heavily drawn upon, and this is especially true of research outputs from the AHRC/ESRC Religion and Society Programme (2007-13). Even so, given space constraints, the range of topics dealt with is necessarily selective, and some themes which had separate chapters in the first edition (such as age and gender or religious professionals) feature less prominently in the second. At the same time, more attention is devoted to religious issues in the public square. ‘Believing without belonging’ retains its pride of place, albeit in refined and developed form, together with the concept of vicarious religion (religious behaviour by proxy), which only emerged after the first edition of Religion in Britain was published. 

The second edition is informed throughout by statistics, but they are presented with a light touch. There are only eight figures and two tables, several of the former not being terribly clear when reproduced in black and white. This compares with one figure and eight tables in the first edition. The statistics derive from today’s standard sources, such as the census of population, sample surveys, and church data collected by Peter Brierley. In addition, good use has been made by Davie of the BRIN website, which ‘provides a huge amount of information about religion in Britain, and includes some helpful professional commentaries’.  

Religious freedom

In a further testimony to the declining significance of faith in contemporary Britain, religious freedom is regarded as an important ‘British value’ by just 13% of adults, being most prized by the over-65s (20%), Scots (17%), and Conservative voters (17%). Overall, freedom of speech (46%), respect for the rule of law (33%), a sense of humour (29%), politeness (27%), and tolerance of others (26%) are judged the most significant attributes. Data derive from a ComRes survey for Grassroots Conservatives, for which 2,017 Britons were interviewed online on 11-12 February 2015. Data tables were published on 10 March 2015 at: 

http://comres.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/February2015_Poll_Tables.pdf

Apocalypse

Just under one-quarter (23%) of Britons think it very or somewhat likely that an apocalyptic disaster will strike the world during their lifetime, according to a YouGov poll conducted among an online sample of 1,745 on 8-9 March 2015. This is a smaller proportion than in the United States where 31% consider such a disaster to be very or somewhat likely. Although the publics in both countries identify nuclear war as the most probable single cause of the apocalypse, as many as 16% of Americans attribute it to Judgement Day, compared with just 3% of Britons (albeit 7% of Londoners and 6% of young people aged 18-24). YouGov’s blog on the survey, posted on 10 March and including links to both national results, can be read at: 

https://yougov.co.uk/news/2015/03/10/apocalypse/

Mums in ministry

On 5-9 March 2015, in the run-up to Mothering Sunday, Christian Research undertook an online survey (presumably via its Resonate panel) of 176 mothers in Britain who were engaged in full-time Christian ministry, 13% of them still with children of primary school age. The vast majority (82%) felt really or pretty satisfied in their ministerial role, although 22% had had cause fundamentally to question their calling. Three-quarters (73%) said that having children of their own had made them a better minister, the positive impact being most keenly felt in relation to pastoral work (72%) and community outreach (51%). However, 48% of mums in ministry reported that finding sufficient time to spend with their children was a major or significant challenge. Even more struggled to find time to pursue a hobby (60%), generally relax (58%), or be with their closest friends (57%). The full report will only be made available to Christian Research’s subscribers, but a press release about the study can be found at: 

http://www.christian-research.org/mums/

Chaplaincy

The latest research report from Theos, this time prepared in partnership with the Cardiff Centre for Chaplaincy Studies, was published on 11 March 2015: Ben Ryan, A Very Modern Ministry: Chaplaincy in the UK. It provides an interesting overview of contemporary chaplaincy, from both quantitative and qualitative perspectives, perceiving it as an area of religious growth and innovation which is complementary to the notion of the ‘gathered congregation’ and has now broadened out somewhat from its Christian roots. Terminological issues, about what constitutes a chaplain, are aired but not completely resolved. For example, are street pastors – who are now thought to number 11,000 trained volunteers – to be considered as chaplains or not? The quantitative evidence is reviewed in part 1 of the report, with chaplains being found in areas as diverse as higher education (1,000), prisons (1,000 with 7,000 volunteers), police (650), armed forces (500), hospitals (350 full-time and 3,000 part-time), and sport (300). A survey in Luton in October-November 2014 identified 169 chaplains working in eight primary and eight secondary fields, equivalent to one for every 1,200 residents, albeit only 20 of these personnel were salaried. The Luton chaplains were overwhelmingly Christian, even though Christianity was professed by a minority of the town’s population (47%), with 25% Muslim. The report can be read at:   

http://www.theosthinktank.co.uk/files/files/Modern%20Ministry%20combined.pdf

Church social action

Jubilee+ published the results of the third biennial National Church and Social Action Survey on 7 March 2015: Geoff Knott, Investing More for the Common Good. ‘Several thousand’ places of worship of all denominations and all sizes across the UK were contacted, with replies being received from just 229 – a very small and potentially unrepresentative response. Scaled up nationally, factoring in church size, the report suggests that between 1.1 and 1.4 million volunteers participated in church-based social action in the UK in 2014, the number of volunteer hours having risen by 59% since the first survey in 2010. Direct church spending on social action grew by 37% over the same four years, to reach £393 million, but the total full economic cost to churches of their social initiatives is estimated at £3.5 billion per annum. The top three activities were food distribution (80%); parents and toddlers groups (70%); and school assemblies or religious education work (66%). The majority of churches (58%) planned to increase their social initiatives over the coming year. Volunteering by Christians in the community that is not initiated by a church is excluded from all these calculations. The report is at:

http://www.jubilee-plus.org/Articles/431253/Jubilee_Plus/Research/RESULTS_OF_THE.aspx

British Jews and Israel’s elections

Despite an otherwise generally close identification with Israel, large numbers of Britain’s Jews do not immerse themselves in the complex world of Israeli politics, even on the eve of elections to the Knesset (to be held on 17 March 2015). This is according to the latest in a series of polls conducted by Survation for the Jewish Chronicle, for which 1,000 self-identifying Jewish adults in Britain were interviewed by telephone between 4 and 9 March. Exactly 50% of respondents admitted not to follow Israeli politics much or at all, 46% did not know whom they would vote for in the elections (assuming they had a vote), and 41% could not say whether they preferred as next Israeli prime minister the Likud Party’s Benjamin Netanyahu (the incumbent prime minister) or the Zionist Union’s Isaac Herzog. Among those expressing an opinion, support for Netanyahu was more than double that for Herzog, whereas in Israel itself the latest polling shows the Zionist Union to be narrowly ahead of Likud. However, since only 31% of British Jews stated that they would vote for Netanyahu, the Jewish Chronicle’s claim (on the front page of its edition of 13 March 2015) that there was ‘huge backing’ for him among UK Jews seems inflated. Data tables were published on 11 March at: 

http://survation.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Israeli-Elections-Poll-Tables.pdf

Religion in the workplace and service delivery

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) published a major (226-page) report on religion and belief in the workplace and in service delivery in Britain on 12 March 2015: Martin Mitchell and Kelsey Beninger with Alice Donald and Erica Howard, Religion or Belief in the Workplace and Service Delivery: Findings from a Call for Evidence. Prepared by NatCen Social Research on behalf of the EHRC, it comprises an analysis of replies from 2,483 individuals and organizations to an online survey between 14 August and 31 October 2014. Respondents did not constitute a random sample but had been ‘invited to take part in order to ensure the widest possible range of views and experiences was gathered’. This is described as ‘a purposive and snowball approach to recruitment’. Although the report includes 25 tables and sundry other statistics, NatCen is at repeated pains to point out that ‘the study did not aim to measure the extent of perceived religious discrimination and unfair treatment because of religion or belief’. It is explained that the research was of an entirely qualitative nature and that any figures were tabulated for monitoring purposes only and cannot be generalized to the wider population. Predictably, some of the media coverage has failed to heed these important caveats. To judge by its press release, the principal conclusion drawn by the EHRC from the report concerns widespread public confusion and misunderstanding over the laws protecting freedom of religion or belief. The report can be found at: 

http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/sites/default/files/publication_pdf/RoB%20Call%20for%20Evidence%20Report.pdf

 

Posted in Ministry studies, News from religious organisations, People news, Religion and Politics, Religion and Social Capital, Survey news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Religious Voting Intentions and Other News

 

Religious voting intentions

Two large-scale online polls were released last week containing breaks of voting intentions by religious affiliation. There will naturally be heightened interest in these as we are now less than two months away from a general election.

The first survey was a cumulation of political polling conducted by Populus between 4 and 27 February 2015, involving interviews with 14,201 voters. Data tables (table 22 being the most relevant) can be found at: 

http://www.populus.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/OmOnline_Vote_February_2015-BPC.pdf

The second survey was undertaken for Lord Ashcroft and involved interviews with 8,072 electors between 20 and 27 February 2015. Data tables (table 54 being the most relevant) can be found at:

http://lordashcroftpolls.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/National-poll-tables-March-2015-LAM124A.pdf

Voting intentions from both polls for the four main parties only, i.e. excluding ‘minor’ parties and undecideds, are tabulated below. The most striking finding is that Muslims are more than twice as likely as the population as a whole to support Labour, which will partly be a function of their relatively deprived socio-economic status and thus of class-based voting. Other non-Christians are also disproportionately Labour supporters. However, although Labour was ahead in both polls, the Conservatives attracted the biggest single share of the Christian vote. People of no religion were significantly underrepresented among Conservatives, doubtless reflecting the concentration of ‘nones’ in the youngest age cohorts. In religious terms, UKIP had a fairly broad appeal, apart from to Muslims.

% across

Con

Lab

LD

UKIP

Populus

All

23.1

24.9

6.9

11.4

Christian

29.5

22.4

7.0

13.3

Muslim

9.7

59.8

3.0

1.2

Other non-Christian

21.5

33.2

8.9

6.5

No religion

15.8

25.4

6.9

10.1

Ashcroft

All

24.0

27.2

4.6

13.8

Christian

29.4

26.1

4.6

15.5

Muslim

8.8

60.6

2.9

2,9

Other non-Christian

23.1

33.3

5.3

9.4

No religion

17.9

26.1

4.7

13.0

Meanwhile, an online poll by YouGov for the British Youth Council, for which 1,175 young adults (aged 16-24) were interviewed on 20-26 February 2015, reported on current voting intentions both by religious affiliation and by self-assessed religiosity. Since more than twice as many respondents claimed to be non-religious as religious and to disavow any religion as to profess an affiliation, sub-groups were often too small to draw meaningful conclusions. However, those describing themselves as religious were somewhat more likely to favour either the Conservative or the Labour Party than were ‘nones’, the latter being more attracted to the smaller parties (especially nationalists and the Green Party). Data tables are available at:

https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/xmdkfy1i2e/BritishYouthCouncilUpdatedResults_150302_website.pdf

Curative astrology?

Conservative MP David Tredinnick, who sits on the House of Commons health and science and technology committees, recently suggested that integrating astrology into medicine could ‘take huge pressure off doctors’, and predicted that reading the stars will ‘have a role to play in healthcare’. Despite otherwise being mostly supportive of alternative medicine (especially acupuncture, chiropractic, and osteopathy), the British public was found to be unsympathetic to Tredinnick’s reasoning in an online poll by YouGov among 1,638 adults on 25-26 February 2015. Four-fifths suggested that astrology was not effective at treating illnesses, no more than 6% in any demographic sub-group thinking it would be effective, and 84% opposed astrology being made available for free through the NHS. Data tables can be accessed via YouGov’s blog on the poll, published on 6 March, at:

https://yougov.co.uk/news/2015/03/06/many-believe-alternative-medicine-effective/

Profile of Quakers

The most recent issue (Vol. 19, No. 1, September 2014) of Quaker Studies contains a very substantial article (pp. 7-136, mainly comprising appendices) by Jennifer May Hampton describing the principal findings of an important new survey of Quakers undertaken under the auspices of the Woodbrooke Quaker Studies Centre in 2013. The article, ‘British Quaker Survey: Examining Religious Beliefs and Practices in the Twenty-First Century’, is based on the author’s unpublished 2013 Lancaster University MSc statistics thesis of the same title. Data derived from a self-completion questionnaire answered by ‘a quasi-random’ sample of 649 adult members (70%) and attenders (29%) from 48 local meetings in Britain Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, a response rate of 79%. Besides demographics, topics covered included religious beliefs and practices and attitudes to moral issues. The article reproduces the full text of the questionnaire (appendix A) and results in (rather small) diagrammatic form (appendix B).

Some questions replicated those in broadly equivalent national Quaker surveys conducted in 1990 and 2003 (recorded in the BRIN source database), revealing quite substantial changes over time. Some of these were demographic, notably an ageing in the Quaker community (the number over 60 increasing from 37% in 1990 to 70% in 2013, when the mean age was 64 years) and a doubling in those educated to postgraduate degree level (from 17% to 32%). Other changes related to beliefs, such as the big declines in Quakers who believed in God (from 75% in 1990 to 58% in 2013) or self-identifying as Christian (from 52% to 37%). As many as 16% of these members and attenders did not even self-identify as Quakers. Among the 84% who did, latent class analysis enabled them to be categorized into ‘traditional’ Quakers (32%), non-theist Quakers (18%), and ‘liberal’ Quakers (50%). The article does not appear to be available online, but copies of the journal issue can be purchased for £10 from the Quaker Studies Research Association, Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre, 1046 Bristol Road, Birmingham, B29 6LJ (cheques should be made payable to the Association).   

Revision to 2011 census data

On 26 February 2015 the Office for National Statistics (ONS) issued an amended spreadsheet for the results of the religion question in the 2011 census of population in England and Wales. This followed the detection of a data processing error whereby the number of usual residents in the ‘religion not stated’ category had been overestimated by a total of 62,000 for three local authorities in London (Camden, Islington, and Tower Hamlets). This number has now been redistributed to the stated religion categories, with important changes for the three local authorities concerned and some knock-on effects at national level (for example, an additional 24,900 Christians, 14,400 Muslims, and 18,100 people of no religion in England and Wales). To locate the spreadsheet, search the ONS website for ‘Religion correction factors’. 

Gallup Poll religion data

Sample surveys are a vital source of religious statistics. They were pioneered in Britain by the Gallup Poll, formerly known as the British Institute of Public Opinion, which was founded by Henry Durant in 1937. Over the years, Gallup developed quite a strong interest in investigating religion, especially during Gordon Heald’s service with the company as director (1969-80) and managing director (1980-94). Topline time series of Gallup’s principal published (and some unpublished) data on religion and the paranormal between 1939 and 1999 have now been collated for the first time by Clive Field in a new 64-page BRIN working paper: Religion in Great Britain, 1939-99: A Compendium of Gallup Poll Data. It includes 111 thematically-arranged tables, together with a subject index. The introduction also provides a brief account of the history and methods of the Gallup Poll and of its publications and archives. The working paper can be found at:

http://www.brin.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Religion-in-Great-Britain-1939-99-A-Compendium-of-Gallup-Poll-Data.pdf

Religion in the ‘long’ 1950s

Historians and sociologists continue to debate the nature, causation, and chronology of secularization in Britain. Latterly, there has been increased scholarly attention on what happened immediately after the Second World War, not least in view of Callum Brown’s claims that the late 1940s and early 1950s in Britain were a period of religious resurgence prior to the onset of revolutionary secularization in the 1960s. In a new book, these claims are substantially rejected by Clive Field on the basis of the first systematic analysis of a balanced portfolio of quantitative performance measures, published and unpublished, for all faith traditions. They subsume the three dimensions of belonging, behaving, and believing – the typology increasingly applied to the study of religiosity. Field concludes that the long 1950s accord better with a gradualist interpretation of religious decline in modern Britain. An up-to-date historiographical and bibliographical review is also offered. His Britain’s Last Religious Revival? Quantifying Belonging, Behaving, and Believing in the Long 1950s is published by Palgrave Macmillan (xii + 140pp., ISBN 9781137512529, £45.00 hardback, also available in PDF and EPUB formats) and can be ordered via online sites such as Amazon or from the publisher at: 

http://www.palgrave.com/page/detail/britain’s-last-religious-revival-clive-d-field/?sf1=barcode&st1=9781137512529

Religion in the ‘long’ 1980s

Another key decade in Britain’s secularization history, the 1980s, dominated by the premiership of Margaret Thatcher between 1979 and 1990, is examined in a second recent book: Eliza Filby, God & Mrs Thatcher: The Battle for Britain’s Soul (Biteback Publishing, 2015, xxiii + 407pp., ISBN 9781849547857, £25.00 hardback). Filby focuses on the interrelationship of religion and politics in post-war Britain, with reference both to the politicization of Christianity and the Christianization of politics. The story is exemplified in the life and career of Thatcher, whom she describes as the country’s ‘most religious prime minister since William Gladstone’, and who is perhaps now best remembered religiously for the confrontations between the Conservative Party and the Church of England, the former lurching to the political right in Thatcher’s day and the latter seemingly shifting leftwards.

The origins and nature of Thatcher’s ‘theology’ are expounded. Paradoxically, Filby contends, Thatcher’s attempts to imbue the nation with the religious and moral values learned in her own Methodist childhood ended in failure. ‘It was not the sexual revolution of the 1960s … which ultimately undermined the Christian fabric of Britain, but the changes, struggles and upheavals of the 1980s … Margaret Thatcher’s time in office may have heralded a renaissance of individual freedom, but in doing so also hastened the death of Christian Britain … In her crusade to raise Albion from the ashes, Thatcher ended up destroying all that was familiar. The future was not to be conservative but consumerist, not English, but cosmopolitan, not Christian, but secular.’

This is an interesting argument but, despite the wide range of primary sources which are mined (including manuscripts, interviews, and memoirs), the thesis is not entirely substantiated, partly because criteria for measuring and evaluating ‘secularization’ are never properly articulated and operationalized. While Filby sensibly rejects the level of churchgoing as a complete indicator of the spiritual health of the country, viable alternatives are not really explicitly proposed. Minimal use is made of statistical sources, not even the contemporary sample surveys which could so profitably have illuminated the intersection of religion and politics at grass-roots level. Indeed, for all its readability and erudition, Filby’s portrait of the ‘soul’ of Britain in the 1980s is essentially a top-down one, more a study of politico-religious ideas than of religion and society.  

 

Posted in Historical studies, News from religious organisations, Religion and Politics, Religious beliefs, Religious Census, Survey news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Muslim Voices and Other News

 

Muslim voices

There is no shortage of national opinion polls asking what Britons think about Islam and Muslims, but there have been relatively few surveys conducted among British Muslims in recent years. Only in the aftermath of the 9/11 and 7/7 attacks in 2001 and 2005 respectively were attempts made to capture Muslim voices in a systematic fashion. This omission partly reflects the difficulties in recruiting a nationally representative sample from what is still a religious minority, albeit a large one, and the associated higher costs of interviewing them. Given this background, we must welcome the poll conducted by ComRes on behalf of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, for which 1,000 Muslims in England were interviewed by telephone between 26 January and 20 February 2015. Full details of sample recruitment methods have yet to be published, but data tables of results (with breaks by gender, age, and region) were released on 25 February 2015 and can be found at:  

http://comres.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/BBC-Today-Programme_British-Muslims-Poll_FINAL-Tables_Feb2015.pdf

From the perspective of community cohesion, we may note that 95% of Muslims profess loyalty to Britain, 93% agree that they should always obey British laws, 94% would inform the police about a Muslim planning an act of violence, 85% have no time for those fighting against the West, and 85% dispute that they would rather socialize with Muslims than non-Muslims. However, 20% deny that Western liberal society can be compatible with Islam, 35% think most Britons do not trust Muslims, and 46% report that Britain is becoming less tolerant of Muslims and that prejudice against Islam makes it difficult being a Muslim in Britain. About one in seven (14%) claim not to feel safe in Britain (particularly Muslim women) and to prefer to live in a Muslim country, if they could.  

With regard to the Islamist outrage against Charlie Hebdo in Paris at the start of the year, 32% understand and 27% sympathize with the motives of the perpetrators, and, more generally, 11% assert that organizations publishing images of the Prophet Mohammed deserve to be attacked, 24% rejecting the suggestion that such acts of violence can never be justified. As many as 78% say that they are personally offended by publication of images of the Prophet. Scaled up for a British Muslim population which must now be approaching three million, several of these percentages have been thought by some commentators on the poll to translate into a worrying level of alienation from British society and ‘British values’. For nearly all questions, there was remarkably little variation in replies between the various demographic sub-groups.  

Islamic State

More than three times as many adults, 66% versus 20%, deem Islamic State to be a greater threat to Britain’s security than Russia, notwithstanding the escalating crisis between the West and Russia over developments in Ukraine. This is according to a YouGov poll for the Sunday Times, for which 1,959 Britons were interviewed online on 26-27 February 2015. Islamic State is a particular concern to UKIP voters (75%), the over-60s (73%), and Conservatives (71%). Moreover, in future decisions regarding military expenditure, 52% wish to see resources prioritized to combat Islamist terrorism, with only 18% opting for investment to counter the danger from states like Russia. Data tables are at:   

https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/42tha4tjwo/YG-Archive-Pol-Sunday-Times-results-270215.pdf

Non-stun slaughter of animals

The practice of slaughtering animals without pre-stunning, which is particularly important in the Jewish and Muslim traditions, was in the news again last week, thanks to a new YouGov poll released by the RSPCA, for which 2,177 adults were interviewed online on 18-19 February 2015. The RSPCA has kindly made the full results available to BRIN (they are not online), but some headline findings were also included in the organization’s press release of 23 February 2015, which is at: 

http://media.rspca.org.uk/media/pressreleases/details/-/articleName/PressAlmost80PerCentOfUKWantsAnEndToNonStunSlaughter23Feb15

Current animal welfare legislation generally requires pre-stunning of animals killed for human consumption but allows an exemption for Jews and Muslims on religious grounds, which the RSPCA wishes to see ended. Overwhelmingly (77%), Britons agree with the RSPCA that ‘all non-stun slaughter should be banned, with no exceptions’, with only 8% opposed and 16% undecided. However, the vox populi is seemingly being driven by a mistaken association of non-stunning with halal meat and thus with Muslims alone. Two-thirds of respondents rightly identify the exemption with Muslims, but the same proportion wrongly suggests that the majority of halal meat is not pre-stunned, whereas the reality is that the large majority is pre-stunned, as research by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has confirmed. On the other hand, awareness that the exemption applies to Jews also is much lower (39%), and just 40% realize that, as the FSA revealed, no kosher meat produced for Jews using the shechita method is pre-stunned. About one-third could not hazard a guess about the amount of either halal or kosher meat which is not pre-stunned. Nearly one in seven (15%) incorrectly believes the statutory exemption from pre-stunning applies to Hindus and a few even to Christians. 

Jewish health

The Institute for Jewish Policy Research published the latest in its series of census-derived profiles of British Jewry on 23 February 2015: David Graham, Health and Disability in Britain’s Jewish Population: Details from the 2011 Census. Its 27 pages are divided into three parts: general health; disability and limiting health conditions; and other census data on health (relating to unpaid care provision, Jewish residents of medical and care facilities, and medical conditions in Scotland). Subjectively defined, and controlling for the older average age of the Jewish population, Jews were found to be among the healthiest of all religious and ethnic groups and to exhibit a very low prevalence of long-term disability. Unfortunately, in respect of general health, different question-wording was used in 2011 than in 2001, so reliable over-time comparisons cannot be made. The report can be downloaded from:   

http://www.jpr.org.uk/documents/Health_and_disability_in_Britains_Jewish_Population.pdf

Sectarianism in Scotland

The 2014 Scottish Social Attitudes Survey is only the second since the annual series was launched by ScotCen in 1999 to include a specific module on religion. Whereas on the previous occasion, in 2001, the questions covered general religious beliefs and attitudes and paranormal experiences, in 2014 the focus was on sectarianism, at the behest of the Scottish Government, which funded the module. Fieldwork took place between May and August 2014 among a sample of 1,501 adults aged 18 and over in Scotland. A 98-page report on the sectarianism module was published by Scottish Government Social Research on 20 February 2015: Stephen Hinchliffe, Anna Marcinkiewicz, John Curtice, and Rachel Ormston, Scottish Social Attitudes Survey, 2014: Public Attitudes to Sectarianism in Scotland. It is available to download from: 

http://www.scotcen.org.uk/media/830110/ssa2014_full-report-public-attitudes-to-sectarianism-in-scotland.pdf

The report presents a somewhat mixed picture of the extent of Protestant-Catholic sectarianism in Scotland, with some distance evident between perceptions and reality. Although the vast majority (88%) believed that sectarianism is a problem in Scotland, and 66% that it would always exist there, just 19% viewed it as an issue throughout Scotland as a whole, 69% regarding it as a localized phenomenon (notably in Glasgow and the West of the country) and 55% thinking football was its principal cause. No more than 3% felt that Protestant-Catholic relationships in Scotland had worsened over the past decade, 47% detecting an improvement and 40% no change. Only one person in seven (14%), disproportionately Catholic, claimed to have experienced some form of religious discrimination or exclusion during their lives. Overwhelmingly, people’s social networks straddled the denominational divide and the use of sectarian language was condemned. Opinion remained divided about the continuing existence of denominational (Catholic) schools in the state system, 43% opposing and 25% supporting them (rising to 62% among Catholics). 

Of the answers to a handful of questions about respondents’ religious background, perhaps the most interesting (and puzzling) was the 10% drop in the number claiming to profess no religion, from 54% in 2013 to 44% in 2014, despite identical question-wording. The authors explain this (p. 7) ‘as most likely to be an artefact of questionnaire content and ordering effects rather than a reflection of any true upsurge in religious adherence in Scotland … It is evidently possible that when, as in 2001 and 2014, a question about religious belonging is preceded by other questions about religion some people are stimulated into reporting a largely latent religious affiliation that they would not otherwise have acknowledged.’ The proportion disclaiming a religious identity was lower still, at 33%, comparable with the 37% who said they belonged to no religion in the 2011 Scottish population census (which covered children as well as adults). The self-reported incidence of regular churchgoing (monthly or more) was 22%, and 51% of those who identified with a religion described themselves as not very or not at all religious.     

Adolescents and religion (1)

An interesting case study of the saliency of religious affiliation is reported in Leslie Francis and Mandy Robbins, ‘The Religious and Social Significance of Self-Assigned Religious Affiliation in England and Wales: Comparing Christian, Muslim, and Religiously-Unaffiliated Adolescent Males’, Research in Education, No. 92, November 2014, pp. 32-48. Respondents comprised 547 male students aged 16-18 attending selected secondary schools in England and Wales at an unspecified date and who self-identified with one of the three religious groups under examination. They completed a questionnaire which explored, through statements measured by a five-point Likert scale, eight themes relating to religious beliefs (Bible, Koran, Jesus, Prophet Mohammed, Jesus and justice, Mohammed and justice, experiencing God, and theology of religions); and six themes relating to religion and public concerns (personal life, public life, the state, social rights, rights of women and children, and sex and morality). Results are presented in the form of 14 tables with commentary. The data highlighted some areas of commonality and others of strong divergence between the three groups. The findings are drawn together in eight main conclusions which cumulatively ‘demonstrate that self-assigned religious affiliation serves as a powerful and important predictor of matters of religious and social concern’. For access options to the article, go to: 

http://manchester.metapress.com/content/664n1302104l8787/?p=81083da44fea422ca01929800882a5c1&pi=2

Adolescents and religion (2)

Religion is correlated with character-building according to findings presented in a report published by the University of Birmingham’s Jubilee Centre for Character & Virtues on 27 February 2015: James Arthur, Kristján Kristjánsson, David Walker, Wouter Sanderse, and Chantel Jones, Character Education in UK Schools: Research Report. The research, conducted between February 2013 and June 2014, involved 10,200 students and 250 teachers from 68 UK schools, and the techniques comprised surveys, moral dilemma tests, and semi-structured interviews. On the moral dilemma tests, students who professed to be religious scored more highly than those who claimed to be atheist or otherwise to have no religion. Within the religious group, those who practised their religion scored more highly than those who did not. Students attending faith schools also achieved better scores than those going to non-faith schools. Although all these differences were statistically significant, in their conclusion the authors are cautious about interpreting the apparent link between religion and character-building (p. 24). This contrasts with their more emphatic rejection of the widespread conviction that participation in sport builds character. The 38-page report, which is not an easy read, can be found at: 

http://www.jubileecentre.ac.uk/userfiles/jubileecentre/pdf/Research%20Reports/Character_Education_in_UK_Schools.pdf

 

Posted in News from religious organisations, Religion and Ethnicity, Religion and Politics, Religion and Social Capital, Religion in public debate, Religious beliefs, Religious Census, Survey news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Demography of Churchgoing and Other News

 

Demography of churchgoing

Fresh insights into the demographic composition of British churchgoers, with particular reference to the number and position of single people, are provided in a series of three reports which have been published since the beginning of the year, and are available to download via the links at: 

http://www.singularinsight.com/

The reports, prepared under the direction of David Pullinger, are: 

  • The Eyes of the Perceiver: The Numbers and Issues of Single People in Churches. Published on 17 January 2015, this is based on online fieldwork by Christian Research among a self-selecting (and disproportionately male and Protestant) panel of 1,401 adult churchgoers and church leaders in July 2014, funded by Network Christians, and analysed by Single Christians. It revealed that church leaders have a better grasp than churchgoers of the entire spectrum of situations in which people find themselves single, embracing the never married, the previously married, the separated, and others experiencing singleness on a day-to-day basis. There was more consensus about the major issues facing single people, with loneliness at the top. 
  • Men Practising Christian Worship. Published on 28 January 2015, this is based on online fieldwork by YouGov among 7,212 Britons aged 16 and over on 23-26 September 2014, funded by Christian Vision for Men and Single Christians, and analysed by Single Christians. Respondents were asked whether they considered themselves to be practising Christians, how often they attended places of worship, and the age at which they had first got married. With our usual caveat about aspirational answers, the research revealed that 31% claimed to be practising Christians, with 19% saying they worshipped at least once a year and 10% at least once a month. Self-identifying churchgoers were disproportionately female, elderly, married, and middle class, unpartnered men (regardless of social grade) being especially underrepresented in congregations. 
  • The Numbers of Single Adults Practising Christian Worship. Published on 5 February 2015, this is based on the same YouGov survey as the preceding report and includes several of the same slides. As one might expect, the marital status of church attenders is the principal focus. Partnered people were found to be more likely than the unpartnered to say they were practising Christians and to report they went to a place of worship. The unpartnered comprised 40% of the population but 32% of regular (more than once a month) churchgoers. Whereas 12% of married persons claimed to be regular attenders, the same was true of only 7% of the never married. No strong evidence was found that regularly practising Christians married at a younger age than the non-practising. An accompanying press release highlighted the plight of a surplus of middle class unpartnered women in churches who would have to face life without the prospect of being able to marry somebody who shared their Christian beliefs. 

In terms of systematically analysed sample surveys, the YouGov research is perhaps the largest-scale study of the demographics of church attendance since Tearfund’s Churchgoing in the UK (2007). However, because of the well-proven tendency of respondents to over-claim their religious practice, sample surveys are probably a less reliable source of data in this area than censuses of church attendance, the last England-wide one being taken in 2005.  

The depth of analysis of the YouGov data by marital status is particularly interesting, but the picture which is revealed is doubtless not a recent phenomenon. In the case of Methodism, for instance, my own historical research has suggested that it was ‘a relative haven for the married and once-married’. For further details, see Clive Field, ‘Demography and the Decline of British Methodism: I. Nuptiality’, Proceedings of the Wesley Historical Society, Vol. 58, No. 4, February 2012, pp. 175-89.  

Religious sensibilities

Many Britons disagree with the protection of religious sensibilities, according to the results of a couple of questions included in a module about liberalism which YouGov put, on behalf of Prospect magazine, to an online sample of 1,630 Britons on 1-2 February 2015. Data tables were released on 19 February and are at: 

https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/l2udrfxki8/Peter_Prospect_Liberalism_results_150202_Website.pdf

One question, obviously framed in the light of last month’s Islamist attack on the staff of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, in retaliation for that newspaper’s publication of satirical cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, asked whether the law which limits racist speech should be extended to protect religions from deliberately offensive speeches, articles, and cartoons. The majority (53%) of the British public thought not, including 62% of men and 65% of UKIP voters. Around one-third (32%) wished to see religions protected in this way, while 15% were undecided. 

The other question was a throw-back to the legal case, which ended up in the Supreme Court, involving a Christian couple who owned a B&B who had refused (on religious grounds) the use of a double room by a homosexual couple. YouGov panellists were asked in general terms whether people with strong religious views who provided B&B accommodation should have the right to turn away same-sex couples. Exactly 50% believed they should not have such a right, among them just under two-thirds of Labour and Liberal Democrat supporters and of those aged 25-39. About two-fifths (39%) backed the B&B owners’ position, including 51% of Conservative and 61% of UKIP voters and 58% of over-60s. The remaining 11% expressed no opinion.    

Anti-Semitism

Anti-Semitism has never been out of the news since the Islamist outrages in Paris at the beginning of the year, and YouGov has taken the pulse of public opinion on the subject again in two recent online polls. In the first, of 1,548 adults on 16-17 February 2015, respondents were asked whether they agreed with the recent plea by the Israeli Prime Minister for European Jews to move to Israel, given the apparently rising tide of European anti-Semitism. Only 11% felt these Jews would be safer in Israel, 26% suggesting they would be safer in Europe, 42% equally safe in either place, and 21% expressing no view. Specifically in relation to the UK situation, 34% wanted the Government to initiate a major campaign to reassure British Jews they are safe and welcome in the country, while 41% considered there to be no need for this, the remaining 25% favouring neither option. The survey also probed attitudes to the recent emergence of Islamic State (IS) in Libya and to potential British involvement in air strikes against IS there, 59% being in favour. Data tables are at:  

https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/plste3fsim/Internal_Results_150217_ISIS_ArabSpring_Intervention_Website.pdf

The second survey was undertaken for the Sunday Times among a sample of 1,568 Britons on 19-20 February 2015. Just 4% admitted to holding some personal views which were anti-Semitic, the range within demographic sub-groups being from 2% to 9%, while 89% denied doing so and 7% were unsure. However, 20% considered that anti-Semitism was very or fairly widespread in British society (64% regarding it as uncommon), and 19% that anti-Semitism had worsened in Britain during the past 20 years (as against 21% who detected an improvement in the situation and 40% no change). One person in 14 (7%) reported that they had often witnessed anti-Semitic behaviour on the part of others. Data tables are at:  

https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/l6vpm82uzr/YG-Archive-Pol-Sunday-Times-results-200215-FULL.pdf

Faith and politics

With the general election less than three months away, and with the recent briefings by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland and the Church of England designed to inform the electorate about the issues at stake, any data about the political thinking and intentions of Christians is naturally of great interest. So, many BRIN readers will probably want to read the research reported by the Evangelical Alliance on 19 February 2015 in its Faith in Politics? This is the twelfth in a series of studies of 21st Century Evangelicals. An accompanying press release, incorporating a link to the report, can be found at:  

http://www.eauk.org/current-affairs/politics/poverty-and-inequality-is-the-single-most-important-issue-for-evangelical-voters-new-survey-shows.cfm

A couple of caveats should be borne in mind. First, the research was undertaken as far back as August-September 2014, so it is unlikely to be a completely accurate guide to current attitudes. Second, the representative nature of the sample is even more in doubt than usual. The core sample derived from 1,356 members of the Evangelical Alliance’s self-selecting research panel, but their number was boosted by 1,006 participants recruited via social media, the latter disproportionately interested in and engaged in politics. This gave a total of 2,362 respondents, 12% of whom did not define themselves as evangelicals. The report itself is based on the 2,020 individuals who did regard themselves as evangelical. The findings, therefore, should be regarded as having more of an illustrative than statistical value. The report itself contains an appropriate note of caution about the limitations of the data. 

Among the statistics featured in the report are:

  • 86% of evangelicals are very or fairly interested in politics (compared with 42% of the population)
  • 76% say their political views and voting are influenced by their reading of the Bible (yet 57% have no idea what the Bible teaches about politics)
  • 92% think more Christians need to get involved in politics
  • 59% believe none of the main political parties supports Christian values
  • Just 32% deem it important for politicians to be Christian – integrity and conviction are seen as far more significant attributes
  • 94% are certain or likely to vote in the general election
  • 39% will not be voting for the same party as in the 2010 general election
  • 24% were still undecided, at the time of interview, how they will vote (23% supporting Labour, 21% Conservative, 8% LibDem, and 9% UKIP)
  • 71% regard policies ensuring religious liberty and freedom of expression as a very important determinant of their own vote
  • 39% will prioritize voting for a party best helping others in need
  • 32% consider poverty/inequality to be the single most important issue facing the UK (4% in the population at large)
  • 6% consider race/immigration to be the single most important issue (21% in the population)

Religious group membership

One-fifth (21%) of UK adults report being members of religious groups or church organizations, according to Veronique Siegler, Measuring National Well-Being: An Analysis of Social Capital in the UK, which was published by the Office for National Statistics on 29 January 2015. This is the same proportion as are members of trade unions and professional organizations but less than the 33% in membership of sports clubs. Overall, 52% of adults are in membership of some form of organization. Data derive from the 2011/12 wave of Understanding Society, the UK longitudinal household panel. Siegler’s report is at: 

http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171766_393380.pdf

Travelling man

John Wesley (1703-91) is widely regarded as the principal founder of Methodism and an itinerant preacher on a grand scale. But just how far did he travel? In a recent issue of the Methodist Recorder (13 February 2015, p. 8) John Taylor has endeavoured to answer the question, based on an analysis he did some time ago of Wesley’s published journals from 1735 onwards. From this date until his death he calculates that Wesley travelled just over 250,000 miles, typically on horseback, broken down as follows: 

 

Miles

%

England

181,277.5

72.4

Wales

9,327.5

3.7

Scotland

9,533.5

3.8

Ireland

28,301.0

11.3

Islands in British seas

310.0

0.1

On board ship

15,526.0

6.2

America

3,522.5

1.4

Germany

1,622.0

0.7

Holland

890.5

0.4

TOTAL

250,310.5

100.0

 

Posted in church attendance, News from religious organisations, Official data, Religion and Politics, Religion and Social Capital, Survey news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Atheism and Other News

 

Atheism

Two-fifths (42%) of Britons now declare that they have no religion, and the plurality (45%) of these regard themselves as atheists, according to a YouGov poll commissioned by and published in The Times on 12 February 2015, for which 1,552 adults were interviewed online on 8-9 February. The proportion of self-reported atheists in the entire population is thus 19%, rising to 31% of 18-24s, although the number of Britons who definitely do not believe in any sort of God or greater spiritual power is higher still (33% overall, 46% among 18-24s), including 9% of professed Christians. People no longer seem fazed by atheism. Not only do 88% of atheists feel comfortable about talking about their lack of religious identity, while 24% of Christians who believe in God are uncomfortable discussing their convictions, but very few adults react negatively to public figures who have openly acknowledged their atheism. Thus, only 6% of all Britons and 16% of Christians who believe in God feel more negatively about Labour leader Ed Miliband and LibDem leader Nick Clegg simply because they are atheists, and no more than 13% say the same about actor and presenter Stephen Fry following his recent outburst against ‘a capricious, mean-minded, stupid God who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain’. The Times story (with quotes by BRIN’s David Voas) is only available online to subscribers, but YouGov has a blog on the survey, with a link to the full data tables, at: 

https://yougov.co.uk/news/2015/02/12/third-british-adults-dont-believe-higher-power/

Future of religion

The team blog of the Theos think tank is carrying a series of guest posts on the future of religion in Britain, timed to coincide with, and to mark, the forthcoming appearance of the second edition of Grace Davie’s seminal 1994 book on Religion in Britain (on which we will report in due course). Davie is one of the Theos bloggers, with other contributions (thus far) from David Goodhew, Nick Spencer, David Voas, and Adam Dinham.   

In the first post, published on 9 February 2015 and focusing on Christianity, Goodhew suggested that ‘the future … will be a persistent paradox of secularisation from above and resacralisation from below’. His conclusion stemmed from a somewhat caricatured critique of the alleged ‘dodginess’ of many national data on religion (including the Church of England’s) and examples of more localized church growth, from London and elsewhere. As I have said before on the BRIN website, Goodhew’s thesis is undermined by its lack of long-term historical perspective. His blog is at: 

http://www.theosthinktank.co.uk/comment/2015/01/20/secularisation-from-above-resacralisation-from-below

The fourth blog, by Voas, was published on 12 February 2015 but previewed in The Times of 9 February. Voas predicts that the prospects for faith among white Britons are bleak and that ‘the future of religion in Britain is black and brown’, largely revolving around black-majority Churches and Islam. In terms of mainstream Christianity, he thinks that ‘the secularization of religious behaviour has reached the point of no return’; ‘the default position now is that we do not gather together to sing and pray and listen to an indifferent speaker deliver a thought for the week’, most ordained ministers having ‘the leadership ability of bank managers’. Orthodox belief has also declined, especially in God, which ‘has taken a battering’. The post is at: 

http://www.theosthinktank.co.uk/comment/2015/02/02/what-is-the-future-for-religion-in-britain

Christians and politics

Churches Together in Britain and Ireland has recently launched a 2015 general election website to keep Christians briefed about issues and practicalities during the campaign, and to promote debate around its ‘Vision 2020 of the Good Society’. It has also collaborated with Church Action on Poverty (CAP) to commission ComRes to conduct an online survey of 2,135 practising UK Christians between 20 and 26 January 2015. The headline results were published by CAP on 13 February 2015 under the banner ‘Christians Tired of Short-Termism in Politics’. The press release, which includes a link to a summary report prepared by ComRes, can be found at: 

http://www.church-poverty.org.uk/news/pressroom/pressreleases/archive/20150213

The poll revealed that 91% of practising Christians claimed they would be more likely to vote for a Parliamentary candidate who communicated a positive long-term vision for society, and yet 88% felt that UK politicians were more interested in short-term political concerns and that the leaders of the main political parties failed to articulate such a long-term vision. Almost without exception (97%), practising Christians agreed that Churches had a key role to play in encouraging debate about what makes a good society, with 80% considering that hitherto they had been ineffective in challenging politicians to communicate their vision for society, and 68% that Churches did not talk enough in public about matters like food poverty, homelessness, and tax avoidance.    

Church of England: social action

The social action of the Church of England is examined in Bethany Eckley and Tom Sefton, Church in Action: A National Survey of Church-Based Social Action, which was published on 9 February 2015. The research, which was conducted by the Church Urban Fund (CUF) and the Church’s Mission and Public Affairs Team, was based upon an online survey of Anglican incumbents in September 2014, 1,812 of 5.097 responding (36%), with a slight skew towards larger churches and churches in London, and – possibly – an underrepresentation of those less involved in social action. Some of the questions replicated those in a previous survey by CUF in December 2011. The latest report can be read at: 

http://www.cuf.org.uk/sites/default/files/PDFs/Research/Church-in-Action-2015_0.pdf

Overwhelmingly (95%), Anglican clergy agreed that ‘engaging with the poor and marginalised in the local area is a vital activity for a healthy church’, although fewer (53%) reported that ‘we are tackling poverty as a fundamental part of the mission for our church’. The social issues which presented a major or significant problem in their communities were deemed to be: isolation/loneliness (65%), family breakdown (50%), debt (47%), lack of self-esteem/hope (46%), low income (46%), unhealthy lifestyles (45%), and mental health problems (44%). Just 7% of churches admitted not to be addressing any local issues, with 27% tackling up to four, 31% between five and eight, and 35% (disproportionately in London) nine or more. The most prevalent forms of church-based social action were schools work (76%), food banks (66%, double the 2011 figure), parent and toddler groups (60%), and lunch/drop-in clubs (53%). Activities in support of credit unions were to be found in only a minority of parishes. The main barriers to increased social action by churches were identified as resource constraints, both human (leaders and volunteers) and financial.  

Church of England: rural Anglicanism

A profile of the Church of England in the countryside was published by the Archbishops’ Council on 30 January 2015: Released for Mission: Growing the Rural Church (GS Misc 1092). It is based on a mixture of qualitative (47 interviews with clergy and lay people) and quantitative research, the statistics deriving from an analysis of the 2011 parochial returns, a summary of which is tabulated below. It will be seen that, in terms of churches and parishes, two-thirds of the Church of England is to be found in the countryside, but only about two-fifths of its clergy (who are disproportionately female) and attenders (except at Christmas). The pattern of church growth and decline in rural and urban parishes is similar. The report is available at: 

https://www.churchofengland.org/media/2148423/gs%20misc%201092%20-%20rural%20multi%20parish%20benefices.pdf 

%

Rural

Urban

Organization

 

 

Churches

65

35

Parishes

66

34

Benefices

48

52

Deaneries

67

33

Ministry

 

 

All clergy

42

58

All incumbents

43

57

Male incumbents

40

60

Female incumbents

50

50

All assistant curates

31

69

Male assistant curates

30

70

Female assistant curates

33

67

All self-supporting clergy

47

53

Male self-supporting clergy

45

55

Female self-supporting clergy

49

51

Membership and attendance

 

 

Electoral roll

46

54

Minimum attendance

37

63

Maximum attendance

43

57

Average attendance

40

60

Sum of attendance

39

61

Christmas attendance

49

51

Church growth over 10 years

 

 

Growing

18

18

Declining

25

29

Inconclusive

57

53

British Muslims in Numbers

On 11 February 2015 the Muslim Council of Britain launched an 80-page report (including 33 tables and 4 figures) on British Muslims in Numbers: A Demographic, Socio-Economic, and Health Profile of Muslims in Britain Drawing on the 2011 Census. Prepared by the Council’s Research and Documentation Committee, with Sundas Ali as lead analyst, it examines the Muslim-related data from the 2011 census for England and Wales (Scotland, which had only 77,000 Muslims, is not really covered, despite the work’s title) under four broad headings: demographics, civic life, inequalities, labour market and education. The census findings are supplemented by other empirical evidence and accompanied by a series of ‘observations’ directed at a variety of audiences and a list of priorities for future research. The report can be downloaded from: 

http://www.mcb.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/MCBCensusReport_2015.pdf

Probably the most striking demographic is the relative youth of the Muslim community, with a median age of 25 compared with 40 in the overall population, and 33% of Muslims under 16. Taken alongside factors such as immigration, this young profile seems likely to ensure the community’s ongoing rapid growth, both absolute and relative (the absolute increase from 2001 to 2011 was 75%). In terms of national identity, as many as 73% of Muslims in 2011 stated their only identity as British (or other UK national), even though 53% were born overseas. On some indicators, the incidence of deprivation among Muslims remained high, with, for example, 46% living in the 10% most deprived local authority districts, up from 33% in 2001. However, there were also signs of greater levels of educational attainment and social mobility among Muslims. 

Islamic State

New polling from YouGov for The Sunday Times, in which 1,668 Britons were interviewed online on 5-6 February 2015, has revealed that just 32% support Britain and the USA sending ground troops back to Iraq to help fight the so-called Islamic State (IS), the plurality (45%) being opposed, much the same as in October 2014 (when the question was last asked). This is despite the fact that only 20% are convinced that the current combination of Western air strikes and Iraqi and Kurdish forces will be sufficient to defeat IS, 49% alternatively indicating a need for ground troops ‘from elsewhere’. At 63%, approval of the existing RAF involvement in air strikes against IS has gone up by four points since last October, with 56% supporting an escalation of this involvement in terms of more planes and an increased number of strikes. Data tables are at: 

https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/k24ox3l7ay/YG-Archive-Pol-Sunday-Times-results-060215.pdf

YouGov has also updated its Iraq, Syria, and IS tracker report to take account of the new findings. This can be viewed at:

https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/51xpyhtlev/YG-Archives-Pol-Iraq-Syria-and-ISIS-060215.pdf

Conspiracy theories

YouGov online polling for YouGov@Cambridge on 3-4 February 2015 explored public attitudes to nine ‘conspiracy theories’, among a sample of 1,749 adults. One of them was a suggestion that some courts in the UK legal system are choosing to adopt Sharia law, which 18% thought was definitely or probably true, including 31% of UKIP voters and 26% of over-60s; a further 31% said it might or might not be true, while 51% were certain that it was false. Another potential conspiracy posited that humans had made contact with aliens but that the news had been deliberately hidden from the people, which 14% agreed was definitely or probably true against 61% who were clear it was not and 25% who were unsure. Nevertheless, belief in both these ‘conspiracies’ paled into relative insignificance compared with the 55% convinced that the Government is hiding the real number of immigrants in the country and the 52% that European Union officials are gradually seeking to take over all the UK’s law-making powers. Data tables are at: 

http://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/bhw7u94epz/GB%20Conspiracy%20Theories%20Pilot.pdf

Anti-Semitism

The All-Party Parliamentary Group against Antisemitism published the Report of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism on 9 February 2015 and, alongside it, a sub-report summarizing the results of a Populus poll which it had commissioned, for which 1,001 Britons aged 18 and over were interviewed between 22 and 25 January 2015. Asked to rate the seriousness of anti-Semitism in contemporary Britain on a scale of 1-10 (where 1 was low and 10 high), the mean score was 4.66, much as it was ten years ago (4.52), although 37% thought that the problem had worsened over the decade (against 16% who detected an improvement). Moreover, only 55% said that they would be able to explain what anti-Semitism was to somebody else, ranging from 37% of 18-24s to 71% of over-65s, while awareness of recent incidents which were widely regarded as anti-Semitic was relatively limited, the murder of four Jews in a kosher supermarket in Paris excepted, which was known to 91%, albeit one-fifth did not classify the attack as anti-Semitic.  

Some anti-Semitic stereotypes continued to find favour, such as the 11% who agreed that Jews have too much power in UK media and politics and the identical proportion that they have too much influence over the direction of UK foreign policy; 15% believed that Jews talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust. The identification of British Jews with Israel was problematical for rather more, 32% thinking that British Jews always defend Israel, regardless of the rightness or wrongness of its actions, and 30% that their loyalties are either divided between Britain and Israel or vested in Israel alone. This is despite the fact that 89% acknowledged Israel’s right to exist. The number of Jews in Britain was vastly over-estimated by respondents, the average guess being 2.7 million, nine times the real figure in the 2011 census, whereas the Muslim population was over-estimated by just one-third. The poll summary can be found at:   

http://www.antisemitism.org.uk/wp-content/themes/PCAA/images/Polling-Anti-Semitism-Summary%202015.docx.pdf

 

Posted in church attendance, News from religious organisations, Official data, Religion and Politics, Religion and Social Capital, Religion in public debate, Religion in the Press, Religious Census, Survey news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Church Buildings and Other News

 

Church buildings

Churchgoing may be a distinctly minority activity in contemporary Britain, but as many as 45% of the population claim to have visited a church or chapel during the past year for either religious or non-religious purposes, rising to 60% of over-65s and Christians, and even including 27% of those who profess no religion. This is according to a ComRes poll for the National Churches Trust which was published on 29 January 2015, and for which 2,061 adults aged 18 and over were interviewed online between 12 and 14 December 2014. Data tables have been posted at: 

http://comres.co.uk/polls/National_Churches_Trust___Data_Tables.pdf

The heritage and community value of church buildings was also widely appreciated by respondents to the survey. In particular: 

  • 79% agreed that churches and chapels are an important part of the UK’s heritage and history (including 51% of religious nones)
  • 75% agreed that it is important for churches and chapels to have good access and modern facilities to make it easier for people to use them (66% of nones)
  • 74% agreed that church buildings play an important role for society as a venue for community activities (64% of nones)
  • 59% disagreed that repairing and restoring historic church buildings only benefits churchgoers (55% of nones)
  • 55% agreed they would be concerned if their local church or chapel building was no longer there (34% of nones)
  • 39% disagreed that their local church or chapel does not play a large role in supporting people in the community (28% of nones)

Fresh Expressions 

Church growth advocates, especially in the Church of England and the Methodist Church, are often keen to talk up the potential of Fresh Expressions (FEs) of church as a counterpoise to the more familiar narrative of church decline. However, a somewhat more sobering account of FEs, from theoretical and empirical standpoints, is offered by John Walker, Testing Fresh Expressions: Identity and Transformation (Farnham: Ashgate, 2014, xv + 254p., ISBN 9781472411846, hardback). The book is divided into two substantive halves, the first being a contextual review of the existing British evidence and literature about the fall in churchgoing and secularization. The second half outlines the author’s mixed methods research in the Diocese of Canterbury from 2009, examining five parish churches and five FEs by means of semi-structured interviews, questionnaires, and attendance data.   

Walker concludes by rejecting, on both sociological and theological grounds, any suggestion that FEs alone constitute the future of the Church. In particular, ‘fresh expressions … do not and cannot compete with the depth and breadth of life and experience of parish churches, they are no better at attracting the non-churched than parish churches, and both fresh expressions and parish churches grow through exactly the same process.’ The author presents some interesting ideas and evidence, but his research is ultimately small-scale, and it is debatable whether it benefits from being reported at such excessive length.     

Religious authority: Pope vs Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama is more admired in Britain than Pope Francis, according to a YouGov poll released on 30 January 2015. In January publics in some 23 countries were asked online two questions about their most admired figures from a global list of 25 men and 25 women, the answers then being combined into a single score. In Britain, the list of male personalities was headed by Stephen Hawking (on a score of 14.8), with the Dalai Lama in sixth position (6.3) and Pope Francis in ninth (5.0). Both the Pope and Dalai Lama scored more highly in Britain than the global mean (4.1 and 4.0, respectively). However, the rating of the Pope was much lower in Britain than in Brazil (17.5) and the United States (9.1), albeit it exceeded that in France and Scandinavia, where the Dalai Lama was much more likely to be admired (his French score being 14.6, with 10.5 in Sweden and 10.3 in Denmark). In the United States, Pope Francis was placed second among the most admired men, followed by Billy Graham in third spot (7.2), and the Dalai Lama in seventh (4.8). A blog about the survey is at: 

https://yougov.co.uk/news/2015/01/30/most-admired-2015/

Religious authority: declining status of the Bible

Those who have been unable to access my article on the decline in Bible-centricism in Britain in the October 2014 issue of Journal of Contemporary Religion, because it is hidden behind a paywall, may wish to read a summary of it in the second half of a presentation which I recently gave to Bible Society staff. The first half deals with the context of the statistical measurement of religion. The presentation can be read by clicking on the following link:

Bible – Bible Society presentation

Christians and pornography

The film version of Fifty Shades of Grey hits the cinema screens next week, and in parallel Premier’s Christianity magazine has decided to publish an article in its February 2015 issue exploring the theme of Christians and pornography. To illustrate the piece, its author, Martin Saunders, ran an online survey of UK practising Christians in December 2014, to which he received over 500 anonymous replies. His sample was clearly self-selecting, and Saunders makes no claim to its statistical representativeness. Certainly, some of the results seem a little improbable (or, if true, would be seen by some as rather disturbing). For example, 55% of Christian men reported that they view internet pornography at least once a month with a further 20% accessing it less often (compared with, respectively, 15% and 20% for Christian women), 42% of Christian men acknowledging an addiction to pornography. Even 30% of church leaders admitted to viewing internet pornography at least monthly. The article can be read online at: 

http://www.premierchristianity.com/Past-Issues/2015/February-2015/Grey-Matter-50-Shades-pornography-and-the-shaping-of-our-brains

Muslims and the general election

The Muslim News is currently running an apparently open poll on its website to identify the top issues which may determine how UK Muslims vote in the general election on 7 May 2015, with the intention of using the findings to influence political parties to listen to the views of the Muslim community. This follows the newspaper’s recent research which suggested that the Muslim vote could shape the electoral result in as many as 40 parliamentary constituencies in England, 39 of them held by Labour or priority Labour targets. Of the 40, 25 were classed as marginal seats and 15 as safe seats, but all deemed to be capable of influence by Muslim voters, based upon a correlation of the proportion of the population which was Muslim at the 2011 census with the size of the majority for the successful candidate at the 2010 general election. It is unclear how far the analysis takes account of the disproportionately younger profile of Muslims, which is likely to mean that their share of voters will be rather less than that of the population as a whole. In all, there are said to be 80 constituencies where Muslims exceed 10% of the residents. For more information about the research, including the sensitivity tests which were applied, see: 

http://www.muslimnews.co.uk/newspaper/home-news/muslim-voters-may-determine-next-government/

Mosques

By far the best source of information about mosques in the UK is the database maintained by Mehmood Naqshbandi as part of the (unofficial) Muslims in Britain website. According to the latest report generated from the database, on 19 October 2014 and extending to 64 pages, there are 1,743 active mosques (including prayer rooms) in the UK, of which 1,625 are in England (an estimated 37% being registered as charities). They belong to a variety of Islamic traditions, but with Deobandi (43%) and Bareilvi (24%) being the most dominant. There are 59 mosques which accommodate more than 2,000 people, the largest being a Bareilvi mosque in Bradford, with space for 8,000. The data are also analysed by parliamentary constituencies and local authorities. The report can be downloaded from: 

http://www.muslimsinbritain.org/resources/masjid_report.pdf

An earlier (April 2013) snapshot of the database was recently summarized on pp. 6-7 of Innes Bowen, Medina in Birmingham, Najaf in Brent: Inside British Islam (London: Hurst & Company, 2014, x + 230p., ISBN 9781849043014, paperback). At that time, there were 1,664 mosques in the UK with an estimated capacity of 837,000. Bowen’s book is a useful introduction to the diversity of British Islam and its constituent ideologies and cultures.

Slaughter of animals

UK animal welfare legislation permits slaughter without pre-stunning to be carried out in accordance with religious rites. The practice is particularly important in the Jewish and Muslim communities but is increasingly controversial with veterinarians and sections of the public, and seemingly now contrary to UKIP policy. The prevalence of slaughter without pre-stunning was revealed on 29 January 2015 when the Food Standards Agency (FSA) published the results of its September 2013 survey of animal welfare in Great Britain, during the course of which assessments were made at 301 slaughterhouses. It found that 1% of cattle, sheep and goats, and poultry were slaughtered by the Shechita (Jewish) method, none of which were pre-stunned. The incidence of slaughter by the Halal (Muslim) method was 3% for cattle (25% not being pre-stunned), 41% for sheep and goats (37% not pre-stunned), and 21% for poultry (16% not pre-stunned). Overall, 2% of cattle, 3% of poultry, and 15% of sheep and goats were not stunned prior to slaughter, the last figure having risen from 10% in a 2011 survey. For all three classes of animals the proportion slaughtered by the Halal method without pre-stunning increased significantly between 2011 and 2013, supposedly because of stronger campaigning by some Muslims who believe that stunning kills animals. The FSA report is at: 

http://www.food.gov.uk/sites/default/files/2013-animal-welfare-survey.pdf

Anti-Semitic incidents

The Community Security Trust (CST), which has been monitoring anti-Semitic incidents in the UK since 1984, reported on 5 February 2015 that there was a record number in 2014, 1,168, which was more than double the total in 2013 (535) and 25% above the previous highest figure of 931 in 2009. The single biggest contributing factor to this record number was the conflict in Israel and Gaza between 8 July and 26 August 2014, during which time no fewer than 501 incidents occurred. However, even controlling for the distorting effect of this ‘trigger event’, the CST still calculated that there was an underlying increase of 29% in anti-Semitic incidents in 2014 over 2013.  More than three-quarters of all incidents in 2014 took place in Greater London and Greater Manchester, where the two largest Jewish communities in the UK are concentrated, with incidents in Greater London 137% above the 2013 level. Overall, abusive behaviour accounted for 76% of incidents, those involving extreme violence or assault being far less common (7%). For a full analysis and commentary, see the 41-page Antisemitic Incidents Report, 2014, which can be found at: 

http://www.thecst.org.uk/docs/Incidents%20Report%202014.pdf

New Religious Movements

New religious movements (NRMs) seem to get relatively less exposure in mainstream academic research and literature than they once did, so we should welcome the recent book by James Lewis, Sects & Stats: Overturning the Conventional Wisdom about Cult Members (Sheffield: Equinox Publishing, 2014, ix + 209p., ISBN 9781781791080, paperback). The volume provides a contemporary quantitative overview of NRMs from a global perspective, principally derived from questionnaire surveys (some undertaken by the author) of the membership of selective NRMs and analysis of national census data from Anglophone countries (but excluding the United States, which has no religion census, although some sample surveys are available). The book contains relatively little UK data, the principal exception (pp. 184-6) being toplines of the write-in responses to the 2001 and 2011 censuses.  

Scottish Social Attitudes Survey, 2013

The complete dataset for the June-October 2013 Scottish Social Attitudes Survey was made available for secondary analysis by the UK Data Service as SN 7519 on 20 January 2015. Fieldwork was conducted by ScotCen Social Research by means of face-to-face interview and self-completion questionnaire administered to 1,497 adult Scots. Although no religion module was included, the standard background questions about religious affiliation (current and by upbringing) and attendance at religious services (by those professing a religion) were asked. These can obviously be used as variables for analysing the replies to the other questions, which, on this occasion, disproportionately related to constitutional change, alcohol, mental health, and policing. 

Magna Carta

In 2015 we are celebrating the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta, one of the most iconic of all historical documents, the four surviving copies of which have been briefly reunited at The British Library and the House of Lords this week. Yet, beyond knowing that it is significant, many Britons remain unaware of or hazy about its actual content, which was determined by a specific set of circumstances operating in 1215. Although it could be said to have influenced the development of some human rights, in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights sense, Magna Carta cannot be regarded as the progenitor of them all. An example is ‘freedom of religion’, which is only covered in Magna Carta to the more limited extent that chapter 1 established the freedom of the English Church (then Roman Catholic, of course) from state (royal) interference. Nevertheless, 16% of 1,630 Britons interviewed online on 1-2 February 2015 for Index on Censorship thought that Magna Carta had mentioned freedom of religion, including 25% of Liberal Democrats and 22% of over-60s. This was a somewhat lower proportion than the 25% of the public who had given a similar reply to Ipsos MORI in October 2012. The YouGov data tables are at:      

https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/xysuhertyl/IndexOnCensorshipResults_150202_Magna_Carta_W.pdf

 

Posted in News from religious organisations, Religion and Politics, Survey news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment