ComRes on Religion and Other News

 

ComRes on religion

Exactly half the whole population (and 71% of those professing no religion) now denies that religion is a force for good in the world, according to a ComRes poll for ITV News on 16-18 January 2015, for which 2,036 adults were interviewed online. Only 24% overall agreed with the proposition with 26% undecided. Christianity was viewed somewhat more positively, a plurality (39%) agreeing that it is a force for good in the world (peaking at 55% of over-65s and 63% of Christians), against 30% who disagreed (including 53% of religious nones) and 31% who did not know. However, although 44% judged that religious leaders in Britain should not get involved in political debates (compared with 34% who thought they should), in practice there was majority support for some specific recent interventions: 65% approved of the criticisms made by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York of the behaviour of shoppers in the Black Friday sales; 63% of their charge that Britain has become dominated by consumerism and selfishness; and 50% of religious leaders speaking out about economic inequality. Data tables are at:   

http://comres.co.uk/polls/ITV_News_Index_Religion_20th_January_2015.pdf

British Cohort Study

On 27 April 2014 BRIN included in one of its regular weekly round-ups of religious statistical news an item on ‘When we’re 42’. This contained a preliminary (topline) analysis of a short religion module which had formed part of the latest wave of the 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS), which has been following the lives of babies born in Britain one week in 1970. Information was gathered by TNS BMRB between May 2012 and April 2013 from 9,841 members of the cohort at the age of 42, by a combination of face-to-face interview and self-completion questionnaire, the religion questions appearing on the self-completion form.  

A much fuller (27-page) analysis of the module, incorporating various cross-tabulations, was published on 21 January 2015 as Centre for Longitudinal Studies Working Paper 2015/1: David Voas, The Mysteries of Religion and the Lifecourse. It will also appear in a forthcoming issue of the journal Longitudinal and Life Course Studies but meanwhile can be accessed via the link at: 

http://www.cls.ioe.ac.uk/page.aspx?&sitesectionid=939&sitesectiontitle=Recent+working+papers

The press release for the report led on the substantial gender differences which were found in the two religious beliefs which were enquired into, an emphasis which was then reflected in the media coverage, although the phenomenon is hardly novel and, as Voas comments, still lacks a clear resolution. Perhaps of greater interest are his methodological conclusions and observations arising from the research, with a plea to avoid over-reliance on single-item measures of religiosity. This is exemplified in the sevenfold religious typology proposed by the author in table 8, based on pooling BCS data about religious identity, religious attendance, and belief in God and life after death, and which demonstrates that religiosity is far from being a black and white matter. The table is reproduced below: 

Label Description

%

Non-religious Does not have a religion and believes in neither God nor life after death

28

Nominally religious Identifies with a religion but believes in neither God nor life after death

7

Unorthodox non-religious Does not have a religion or does not attend services, believes in God or life after death but not both

21

Unorthodox religious Has a religion and attends services at least occasionally, believes in God but not life after death (or vice versa)

5

Non-identifying believers Does not have a religion but believes in God and life after death

10

Non-practising religious Has a religion and believes in God and life after death but does not attend services

14

Actively religious Has a religion and believes in God and life after death and attends services

15

Religious affiliation

Lord Ashcroft’s latest themed political opinion poll was published on 14 January 2015, this time on public attitudes to the National Health Service. Fieldwork was conducted online between 14 and 24 November 2014 among adults aged 18 and over, and, as usual, there was a background question asked about religious affiliation: ‘which of the following religious groups do you consider yourself to be a member of?’ Summary weighted findings appear below, with comparisons from previous years, from which it will be seen that Christian disaffiliation and profession of no faith are proceeding relatively rapidly. The full results (with breaks by gender, age, social grade, region, employment sector, working status, educational attainment, and voting intention) can be found in table 149 of the data tables at: 

http://lordashcroftpolls.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/NHS-poll-Full-data-tables.pdf 

% down

11/2011 All

11/2012 All

11/2013 All

11/2014 All

11/2014 18-24

11/2014 65+

Christian

56.4

55.0

52.6

53.7

32.4

72.1

Non-Christian

6.6

6.5

7.4

7.0

13.3

3.2

No religion

35.2

36.3

37.7

37.0

49.4

23.4

Refused

1.8

2.2

2.3

2.4

4.9

1.3

N =

5,000

20,066

8,053

20,011

2,402

4,201

Rating Pope Francis

Pope Francis was quick to condemn the Islamist outrages in Paris, but he subsequently raised more than a few eyebrows when he told journalists that there were limits to freedom of expression and that the faith of others should not be insulted, even cracking a joke in the process about punching anybody who foul-mouthed his own mother. The majority of Britons (51%) disagreed with the Pope’s (unguarded) statement (Londoners and UKIP voters most strongly, on 59%), against 36% who supported it, according to an online poll by YouGov among 1,747 Britons on 18-19 January 2015. Reviewing his pontificate more generally, 51% thought that the Pope is doing a good job, up by 15 points over two YouGov surveys undertaken during his first year in office in 2013, and very few (7%) suggested he is doing a bad job, as many as 42% being undecided. Almost one-quarter (23%) claimed they had a more positive view of the Catholic Church as a result of Pope Francis, albeit the plurality who hold a negative view of the Church is still as large as ever (36%, the same as in November 2013), the over-60s being most negative (48%). Nearly two-fifths (39%, 8 points up on November 2013) anticipated that the Pope would make the Church more liberal, notwithstanding there is as yet little tangible evidence that its teachings are about to be ‘modernized’ in any substantive way. A blog about the survey was published on 20 January 2015, with a link to the data tables, at: 

https://yougov.co.uk/news/2015/01/20/pope-francis-approval-rise/

Immigration

A plurality (47%) of the British public believes that immigration has weakened Christian values in Britain, according to an online poll by Survation for the think-tank Bright Blue, for which 1,052 adults were interviewed between 12 and 16 September 2014 (although the results were only released on 19 January 2015). The proportion holding this view soared to 81% among UKIP voters and also constituted a majority for several other demographic sub-groups, including retired people (66%), the over-55s (62%), Conservative voters (56%), the lowest (DE) social grade (55%), men (54%), and married persons (53%). Just 19% of the whole sample disagreed with the proposition that immigration had weakened Christian values in Britain, while 25% neither agreed nor disagreed and 8% registered as don’t knows. On a related matter, and referring to a recent situation in real life, 66% of Britons favoured granting asylum in the UK to a woman from a strongly Muslim country who had been threatened with execution because of her Christian beliefs. Data tables are at: 

http://survation.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/GB-Population-tables.pdf

The same questions were also posed to a separate sample of 1,307 current Conservative voters between 12 and 30 September 2014, and these data tables are at: 

http://survation.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Conservative-Voters-tables.pdf

Anti-Semitism – Jewish perspectives

Anti-Semitism was again in the media spotlight during the past week, in the wake of the recent Islamist outrages in France, in one of which four Jews were murdered in an attack on a kosher supermarket. The heightened coverage of anti-Semitism is being underpinned by original empirical research. 

The Jewish Chronicle has published the second in its new series of Jewish topical issues polls, undertaken by Survation among a representative sample of 939 UK Jews (including secular and non-practising) aged 18 and over, who were interviewed by telephone on 19-20 January 2015. Notwithstanding greater efforts being made by the authorities to protect Jews, 58% claimed not to have noticed any increased police presence in their own areas during the past fortnight (against 40% who had), with Jewish over-55s most likely to have detected no improvement (70%). Asked whether the Government was doing all it could to combat anti-Semitism, only 33% answered in the affirmative, while 55% thought it should be doing more (rising to 61% of female Jews and 64% of under-35s). However, there was majority welcome (60%) from UK Jews for the letter which the Communities Minister had written to Muslim leaders calling for renewed efforts on their part to explain how Islam can be part of British identity. Data tables, with breaks by age, gender, and region, are at:  

http://survation.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Jewish-Issues-Poll-2.pdf

As well as summarizing the results of its own poll, the current issue of The Jewish Chronicle (23 January 2015, pp. 6-7, 35) also allocated space to continued discussion about the validity of the poll of Jews conducted online by the Campaign against Antisemitism (CAA) between 23 December 2014 and 11 January 2015, whose findings were rather alarmist (as featured in our last post on 18 January 2015). In The Jewish Chronicle, CAA chair Gideon Falter had an article strongly affirming the ‘bulletproof’ nature of his organization’s research, while distinguished academic (and Holocaust survivor) Michael Pinto-Duschinsky urged the newspaper’s readers ‘don’t trust these misleading figures’, backing up previous criticisms of them by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research. Meanwhile, Geoffrey Alderman, a regular columnist on The Jewish Chronicle, called for an end to ‘point-scoring’ about the CAA survey of Jews, although he was skating on somewhat thin ice himself since he had apparently made some use of the CAA data in an article he had written for The Spectator. 

Anti-Semitism – public opinion

A survey of public attitudes to Jews and the Holocaust was published by the European Jewish Congress on 21 January 2015. It was designed by 202 Strategies and undertaken by Survation among a sample of 504 UK adults aged 18-35 (48% of whom described themselves as not religious), who were interviewed online between 8 and 10 January 2015. A significant minority of respondents was found to have ambiguous, prejudiced, or ill-informed views on both topics, albeit some might consider a few of the questions to be a little leading. Although a majority (53%) acknowledged the existence of anti-Semitism in the UK, 23% denied it and 24% were undecided. Three-fifths had been taught about the Holocaust at school but fewer, 40%, regarded it as the most important event in European history over the last century, just 34% knew who Adolf Eichmann was, 31% underestimated the number of Jews who had perished in the Holocaust (with a further 21% unable to answer at all), and only 29% were aware of Holocaust Memorial Day. One in seven inclined to Holocaust denial in that they agreed ‘the evidence surrounding the Holocaust is not complete and I would need to see more proof to believe without a doubt that it occurred’. A similar proportion (15%) backed the introduction of a legal requirement for businesses owned by Jews to have a special form of identification (22% saying the same about Muslim businesses) and 15% wanted individual Jews to carry religious identification (13% wishing to see a similar obligation on Christians). One-quarter thought it very or somewhat likely that laws discriminating against Jews could be passed in Europe today, and 24% anticipated that another Holocaust might happen in Europe during their lifetime. Full data tables have not yet been released (and may not be, since 202 Strategies rather than Survation did the analysis), but a 16-page report is available at:   

http://www.eurojewcong.org/docs/UKpoll.pdf

The Conversation of 22 January 2015 contained a preliminary analysis by Tim Bale of a poll which he had commissioned from YouGov to gauge voter reactions to the prospect of a Jewish politician leading a political party and becoming Prime Minister. This is more than a distant scenario, given that Ed Miliband leads the Labour Party and might, after the May general election, become the first British Jewish Prime Minister since 1880, albeit – conceivably – at the head of a minority or coalition government. In fact, only one-third of all UK voters are aware of Miliband’s religious background, and even fewer of those intending to vote Labour than for the other parties. Even if they were aware, for the vast majority (83%) it would apparently make no difference to their electoral choice. However, 13% of UKIP voters would be less likely to vote for a party with a Jewish leader, twice the proportion of Conservative and LibDem voters who said this, and three times the number of Labour voters. UKIP voters were also least likely (48%) to see a Jewish prime minister as equally acceptable as one from another faith, compared with 62% of all voters and 72% of Labour voters. More generally, just 10% agreed that Jews have too much influence in the country, a reduction from 18% in 2004 (albeit UKIP supporters are still at 18%). Bale’s post, which is a spin-off from his forthcoming Oxford University Press book on the Labour Party under Miliband, can be read at: 

http://theconversation.com/british-voters-open-to-a-jewish-prime-minister-but-some-are-more-welcoming-than-others-36611

Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion

Among the 11 essays in the latest edition (Vol. 25, 2014) of Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion, an annual published by Brill, are a couple which might interest BRIN readers, details of which are given below: 

  • pp. 2-16, Leslie Francis and Mandy Robbins, ‘Religious Identity, Mystical Experience, and Psychopathology: A Study among Secular, Christian, and Muslim Youth in England and Wales’ – a survey of the incidence of mystical experience and its association with psychoticism and neuroticism among 203 Muslim, 477 Christian, and 378 religiously unaffiliated young people aged 14-18 attending 12 schools in England and Wales 
  • pp. 78-108, Andrew Kam-Tuck Yip and Sarah-Jane Page, ‘Religious Faith and Heterosexuality: A Multi-Faith Exploration of Young Adults’ – a survey of the sexual values, attitudes, and behaviour of 515 self-defined heterosexual religious young adults aged 18-25 living in the UK

 

Posted in Measuring religion, People news, Religion and Politics, Religion in the Press, Religious beliefs, Survey news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia

The recent Islamist outrages in France continued to dominate the news last week, being the most noted story for 74% of the 2,070 Britons interviewed online by Populus on 14-15 January 2015. However, the domestic research agenda has now broadened out to include the implications for the Jewish community.

Anti-Semitism (1)

The Campaign against Antisemitism (CAA), a grass-roots movement which started in August 2014, published its Annual Antisemitism Barometer, 2015 Full Report on 14 January 2015, summarizing the results of two surveys which it had commissioned in Britain, one among the public and the other among Jews. These new data led the CAA to conclude: ‘Whilst antisemitism in Britain is not yet at the levels seen in most of Europe, the results of our survey should be a wakeup call. Britain is at a tipping point: unless antisemitism is met with zero tolerance, it will continue to grow and British Jews may increasingly question their place in their own country.’ The report, the preparation of which was funded by the Anglo-Jewish Association and private donors, can be viewed at: 

http://antisemitism.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Annual-Antisemitism-Barometer-Report.pdf

The survey of the general public was undertaken by YouGov among 3,411 adults interviewed online in two separate polls, on 21-22 December 2014 and 5-6 January 2015 (i.e. just before the recent Islamist outrages in France, including an attack on a kosher supermarket during which four Jews were killed). Respondents were presented with a list of seven stereotypical statements deemed by the CAA to be anti-Semitic in nature, and it was found that 45% of Britons believed at least one of them to be definitely or probably true, including 51% of men and 39% of women, the regional range being from 30% in Scotland to 48% in northern England. One-quarter (26%) believed at least two statements were true, 17% at least three, and 11% at least four.  

If the last statistic is taken as some kind of approximation of hard-core prejudice against Jews in Britain, then the proportion is similar to that discovered by Clive Field in his ‘meta-analysis’ of polls on anti-Semitism published in Jahrbuch für Antisemitismusforschung, Vol. 15, 2006, pp. 259-300.Also, more recently, according to The ADL Global 100: An Index of Anti-Semitism, released by the New York-based Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in May 2014, Britain has one of the lowest rates of anti-Semitism in the world – see BRIN’s coverage at: 

http://www.brin.ac.uk/news/2014/adl-index-of-anti-semitism/

Results for each of YouGov’s seven statements are tabulated below, showing highs and lows by demographic sub-groups.

% saying definitely or probably true

All

High

Low

Jews chase money more than other British people

25

39 (UKIP)

18 (LibDem; 18-24)

Jews’ loyalty to Israel makes them less loyal to Britain than other British people

20

28 (UKIP)

15 (women; Scotland; no religion)

Jews think they are better than other people

17

27 (UKIP)

11 (women)

Jews have too much influence in the media

17

29 (non-Christian)

11 (women)

Jews talk about the Holocaust too much in order to get sympathy

13

23 (non-Christian)

10 (women; Scotland)

In business Jews are not as honest as most people

11

17 (UKIP)

7 (Scotland; no religion)

I would be unhappy if a family member married a Jew

10

22 (non-Christian)

7 (LibDem)

The full data tables are at: 

https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/jqf80l3ea6/CampaignAgainstAntisemitismResults_MergedFile_W.pdf

For its second survey, the CAA claims to have polled ‘a representative sample of the British Jewish community’, with the assistance of various Jewish agencies. In practice, informants appear to have constituted a self-selecting sample, who responded to an online questionnaire between 23 December 2014 and 11 January 2015, and which they accessed via a weblink distributed via social media and email lists. So, although electronic identifiers enabled duplicate or non-UK responses to be filtered out, and although the British data were weighted to reflect the regional distribution of Jews in the census (it is unclear why other census demographics of Jews were not deployed), the results should still be treated with some caution and may not be representative. As we have noted previously, it is genuinely very difficult to achieve proper cross-sections of minority religious populations. 

In particular, those with a special angst about anti-Semitism and/or who felt particularly protective of Israel may have been more predisposed to reply to the CAA enquiry than other Jews. We may note that social scientist Keith Kahn-Harris is quoted in The Jewish Chronicle as having already dismissed the CAA survey as ‘methodologically invalid. There can be no confidence in its representativeness’. The equally respected Institute for Jewish Policy Research has issued a press release in which it criticizes the CAA study for being ‘littered with flaws’ and ‘rather irresponsible’. The release can be read online at: 

http://www.jpr.org.uk/newsevents/article.1012

With this significant caveat in mind, we should note, for the record, that, of the 2,230 British Jews who replied to the CAA: 

  • 84% agreed that boycotts of businesses selling Israeli products constituted intimidation (11% disagreeing)
  • 82% agreed that media bias against Israel fuelled persecution of Jews in Britain (11% disagreeing)
  • 77% reported that they had witnessed anti-Semitism disguised as a political comment about Israel (13% disagreeing)
  • 69% agreed that the Jewish community had to protect itself because the State does not protect it enough (18% disagreeing)
  • 63% argued that the authorities let too much anti-Semitism go unpunished (19% disagreeing)
  • 58% were concerned that Jews may not have a long-term future in Europe (28% disagreeing)
  • 56% had witnessed or experienced more anti-Semitism in the past two years than previously (26% disagreeing)
  • 56% concurred that the recent rise in anti-Semitism in Britain had echoes of the 1930s (27% disagreeing)
  • 45% were concerned that Jews may not have a long-term future in Britain (37% disagreeing)
  • 45% agreed that their family was threatened by Islamic extremism in Britain (37% disagreeing)
  • 37% avoided showing any visible signs of Judaism when they went out (42% disagreeing)
  • 27% often avoided mentioning their Judaism when they were with new people (57% disagreeing)
  • 25% claimed to have considered leaving Britain in the past two years due to anti-Semitism (63% disagreeing) 

Anti-Semitism (2)

To be fair to the CAA, it had settled upon its own survey of Jews only after approaching ‘major polling organisations’ who ‘advised that they did not have enough Jewish panellists on their databases to conduct an effective or valid survey of the Jewish community’. The CAA will doubtless have been as surprised as everyone else to have read the announcement by The Jewish Chronicle, on the same day as CAA’s Annual Antisemitism Barometer was published, that the newspaper had been working with Survation over several months to develop ‘an extensive targeted database of thousands of Jews across the UK who can be randomly contacted for polling’, each poll to have a sample of around 1,000 Jews.  

Survation has published the following description of its methodology: ‘SAMPLING METHOD: Respondents were sampled based on a modelled probability of residents identifying themselves as Jewish. This was done using a range of demographic indicators selected by Survation in consultation with Jewish community leaders and academics. Respondents were asked to confirm whether they were Jewish before completing the survey, this includes both secular and non-practicing Jews. Only those who identified themselves as Jewish were asked to complete the survey.’  

‘DATA WEIGHTING: Data were weighted to the profile of all Jewish adults aged 18+ in the UK … by age and sex … Targets for the weighted data were derived from Office of National Statistics 2011 Census data.’ 

The Jewish Chronicle had originally planned to publicize this panel of adult UK Jews towards the end of January 2015 but rushed it forward in the light of recent events in France, and commissioned its first poll, with 555 respondents contacted by telephone on 12-14 January 2015. Topline results for the four questions (excluding don’t knows) are shown below, but data tables (with breaks by gender, age, and region) have also been posted at:      

http://survation.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Jewish-Topical-Issues-Poll-Final.pdf 

  • Thinking about personal safety, how safe or unsafe do you feel as a Jewish person in Britain? – very safe 17%, quite safe 58%, quite unsafe 19%, very unsafe 3%
  • Do you feel life in general is getting better or worse for Jewish people in Britain, or is it about the same? – better 9%, about the same 45%, slightly worse 34%, much worse 9%
  • Have last week’s events in Paris made you more concerned about your safety in Britain or have they made no difference? – much more concerned 32%, slightly more concerned 41%, made no difference 27%
  • Have last week’s events in Paris made you consider leaving Britain? – yes 11% (16% among under-35s), no 88%  

An article in The Jewish Chronicle about the survey is at: 

http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/128162/jc-poll-reveals-88-cent-british-jews-have-not-considered-leaving-uk 

Anti-Semitism (3)

Further evidence that hard-core prejudice against Jews in Britain may not exceed 10% of the population came in a second YouGov poll for The Sunday Times on 15-16 January 2015, among 1,647 adults. Data tables are at:  

https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/wt26kxdn72/YG-Archive-Pol-Sunday-Times-results-160115.pdf

The survey revealed that, although 13% considered that, as regards other people, there was more prejudice against Jews than ten years ago (compared with 61% saying the level of prejudice was unchanged or lessened), the overwhelming majority of the public had a favourable personal view of Jews, with only a small minority (disproportionately located among UKIP voters) unfavourable. In particular: 

  • 10% disputed that British Jews are well integrated into British society, against 71% thinking they are and 18% uncertain
  • 8% denied that British Jews make a positive contribution to British society, with 73% believing that they do and 20% expressing no view
  • 7% admitted to having a negative opinion of Jewish people in Britain, 77% being positive, and 17% undecided 

Islamophobia (1)

The fall-out from the recent Islamist outrages in France has also negatively impacted Muslims in Britain, and matters are not helped by the fact that the population at large harbours an exaggerated notion as to how many Muslims there actually are in the country. According to the 2011 census, the proportion is just under 5%, yet only 9% of 1,782 adults interviewed by YouGov online on 12-13 January 2015 knew this, with the mean guess being 17%, more than three times the reality. Moreover, 26% of this national cross-section (and 54% of UKIP voters) also felt that ordinary Muslims needed to apologize when people claiming to be acting on behalf of Islam committed terrorist acts, with 63% considering that ordinary Muslims had nothing to apologize for, and 11% undecided. Data tables were published on 14 January 2015 at: 

https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/t92z3pag83/BuzzfeedResults_150113_Muslims_W.pdf

Islamophobia (2)

YouGov’s poll for The Sunday Times on 15-16 January 2015, published on 18 January, also probed Islamophobic attitudes, as well as reactions to the latest edition of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, whose front page showed another cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed. The majority (53% overall, 68% of UKIP voters) agreed that this had been the right thing for the newspaper to do, and a plurality of the whole sample (43%) and majority of men, Liberal Democrats, and UKIP supporters still took this line even though it would make further terrorist attacks more likely. On British Muslims, there were some sharp divisions of opinion: 

  • 58% (and 84% of UKIP voters) contended that most British Muslim leaders could be doing a lot more to combat radicalization and terrorism, against 27% accepting they were doing all they reasonably could
  • 46% thought that all, most, or a majority of British Muslims shared British values and the identical proportion that only a minority, hardly any, or no British Muslims did so, peaking at 73% of UKIP voters
  • 42% believed that British Muslims were well integrated into British society but 50% said that they were not, including 79% of UKIP voters and 59% of over-60s
  • 41% assessed that British Muslims were usually friendly to non-Muslim Britons but 20% judged them usually unfriendly, with a high of 39% among UKIP supporters
  • 33% agreed with the suggestion of UKIP leader Nigel Farage that ghettoes had sprung up in Britain where Sharia law prevailed and from which the police and other legal authorities had withdrawn, a view shared by 75% of Farage’s own backers, with 41% denying the statement (63% of 18-24s)

 

Posted in News from religious organisations, Religion and Politics, Religion in public debate, Survey news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Je suis Charlie and Other News

 

Last week’s news was dominated by a series of Islamist outrages in France, in which seventeen innocent people died, three police officers, four shoppers at a kosher supermarket, and ten journalists working for the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which in 2011 and 2012 had controversially published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. The attack on Charlie Hebdo prompted an international campaign in defence of freedom of speech under the banner ‘Je suis Charlie’.  

Unsurprisingly, these Paris shootings were the most noticed news story of last week, according to an online poll of 2,047 Britons aged 18 and over by Populus on 7-8 January 2015. The then still unfolding events in France topped the list with 42%, far ahead of the AirAsia plane crash (9%) and the crisis in NHS hospitals (6%), which were in second and third places respectively. In another online poll, by YouGov on 8-9 January 2015 (explored in the next two items, below), only 4% of the 1,684 respondents were unaware of the attack on Charlie Hebdo, with 72% closely following the story. The implications of this new spike in radical Islamism will doubtless be the subject of further surveys in the days and weeks ahead. 

Perceptions of Islam

The toll which Islamist terrorism takes on public perceptions of Islam was exemplified in an internally commissioned module of the YouGov poll taken in the immediate aftermath of the murders at Charlie Hebdo’s offices, on 8 and 9 January 2015. Three-fifths (61%) of the sample said that they entertained a wholly or mainly negative view of Islam, the range by demographic sub-groups being from 48% (Liberal Democrat voters) to 77% (in the case of UKIP supporters). The national figure was double the proportion holding a wholly or mainly negative view of Christianity (31%). Merely 2% regarded Islam completely positively (presumably mostly if not entirely Muslims), with 23% voicing criticisms alongside a generally positive view, and 15% unable to make their minds up. Moreover, the majority (57%) said they would feel comfortable expressing criticisms of Islam to people they knew, against 25% who would feel uncomfortable, worried, or scared about doing so (two and a half times the number saying the same about criticizing Christianity). A plurality (34%) of the whole sample and a majority (51%) of UKIP voters thought the media were more willing to criticize Christianity than Islam, with 15% saying the opposite. Data tables can be accessed via a link on a blog about the survey, posted on 9 January at: 

https://yougov.co.uk/news/2015/01/09/britains-cautious-attitude-criticising-islam/

Freedom of speech

A second module in the same YouGov poll, undertaken for the Sunday Times, demonstrated majority support for the media’s right to publish content which could upset some religious believers, with a minority expressing reservations. On the original publication of the cartoons of the Prophet in Charlie Hebdo, 69% deemed it acceptable and 14% unacceptable, while 63% defended other newspapers which had chosen to reprint the cartoons. More generally, 71% agreed that the media have an obligation to show controversial items which are newsworthy even if they might offend the religious views of some people, with 11% prioritizing the avoidance of causing offence and 18% undecided. Three-fifths or more also endorsed publication in newspapers or magazines of certain specific controversial religious content, as summarized below. Data tables are at:  

https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/10nth9jzk9/YG-Archive-Pol-Sunday-Times-results-090115.pdf 

% across

Allow

Disallow

Articles or drawings criticizing and questioning the beliefs and practices of any religion

70

18

Drawings, pictures, or cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed

68

17

Articles or drawings mocking and ridiculing the beliefs and practices of any religion

61

25

Articles or drawings deliberately mocking and ridiculing religious figures like Jesus or the Prophet Mohammed

60

24

Trust in religious professionals (1)

The reputation of clergy/priests for telling the truth has improved slightly during the past couple of years, according to the results of the latest Ipsos MORI veracity index, which was published on 5 January 2015 (and for which 1,116 Britons aged 15 and over were interviewed by telephone between 5 and 19 December 2014). Clergy/priests now rank fifth among eighteen groups of professionals in terms of the public’s trust in them to tell the truth, securing a confidence vote of 71% against 24% who mistrust their veracity (albeit rising to 30% with the under-35s). However, this only restores the standing of clergy/priests to 2009 levels, and they are still 14 points below the trust figure for 1983, the first year of the index. Doctors remain the group most trusted to tell the truth (by 90% of the public) and politicians generally the least (by 16%). Full computer tables for the 2014 survey will be found at: 

https://www.ipsos-mori.com/Assets/Docs/Polls/veracity%202014%20tables.pdf

Trend data back to 1983 are at:

https://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/15/Trust-in-Professions.aspx?view=wide

Trust in religious professionals (2)

Clergy may still be trusted to tell the truth, but religious leaders are not trusted across the board, according to the newly-released British results of the WIN/Gallup International End of Year 2014 poll, the fieldwork for which was undertaken by ORB International between 19 and 28 November 2014 among an online sample of 1,000 adults aged 18 and over (the survey was also carried out in 64 other countries). Indeed, 53% of Britons claimed not to trust religious leaders, who ranked just seventh out of ten occupations in terms of the degree of trust which they commanded, 23%, only slightly ahead of the traditional trinity of professional ‘villains’ – bankers, journalists, and politicians. The full scores are as follows: 

% across

Trust

Distrust

Don’t know

Healthcare workers

82

10

9

Teachers

75

13

12

Military

67

19

14

Judges

61

20

18

Police

59

28

13

Business people

27

50

24

Religious leaders

23

53

24

Bankers

13

75

13

Journalists

10

80

11

Politicians

7

84

10

The poll also included a couple of other questions measuring the saliency of religion in respondents’ lives. In the first, asked which of five identities was most important to them, only 7% chose religion, against 35% nationality and 25% locality. In answer to the second question, and irrespective of attendance at religious services, 30% described themselves as a religious person, peaking at 45% of over-65s, with 53% declaring they were not religious and an additional 13% they were convinced atheists. These figures demonstrate a marked secularizing shift since the question was first asked by Gallup in Britain, in March 1981, when 58% identified as a religious person, 36% as not religious, and 4% as a convinced atheist. The British WIN/Gallup International 2014 data tables are at: 

http://www.wingia.com/web/files/richeditor/filemanager/UK_Tables_V3_a.pdf

Opinium on religion

Self-assessed religiosity was also one of the questions posed in a survey released by Opinium Research on 5 January 2015, for which 2,003 UK adults were interviewed online between 19 and 23 December 2014. Results were broadly comparable with those obtained by WIN/Gallup International, with 26% agreeing they were religious (10% strongly and 17% somewhat) and 52% disagreeing (17% somewhat and 35% strongly); the remaining 22% said they were neither religious nor irreligious. In light of these findings, it was unsurprising that 70% of the sample believed that it was not important to be a Christian in order for a country to be defined as a democracy, residents of Scotland particularly taking this position (82%). Data tables, which complement those for a sample of first-time voters (already reported by BRIN), are at: 

http://ourinsight.opinium.co.uk/sites/ourinsight.opinium.co.uk/files/op4966_first_time_voters_-_omnibus_-_tables_0.pdf

School choice

The low score for religion in defining personal identity, reported by WIN/Gallup International, was matched by an identical vote of 7% for religious ethos as the most important factor in parental choice of a school or college for their children aged 5-18, even though respondents were allowed to select up to five options. This emerged on 9 January 2015 when ComRes released the results of a poll commissioned by NASUWT (the teachers’ union), for which 1,019 UK parents were interviewed online on 19-21 September 2014. The most influential factors determining parental choice were: a school’s location (67%), supportive staff (54%), curriculum (41%), inspection reports (39%), reputation for dealing with bullying or behaviour (38%), and buildings and facilities (36%). The relatively low value attached to religious ethos, which was the least important factor along with a smart school uniform, chimes in with some of Linda Woodhead’s YouGov research in 2013. She found that, while faith schools might be popular with parents, it is predominantly for non-religious reasons. The ComRes data tables are at:

http://comres.co.uk/polls/NASUWT_Parents_views_of_schools_or_colleges_Tables_pt1.pdf

Sistine Chapel

Michelangelo’s stunning Old Testament frescoed ceiling in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, completed in 1512, has been judged the greatest work of art ever made in an online poll of 1,642 Britons by YouGov on 21-22 December 2014, netting 25% of the vote (rising to 32% among UKIP supporters). This put him well ahead of Leonardo da Vinci, who occupied second and third places with, respectively, Mona Lisa (7%) and The Last Supper (5%). YouGov conducted its survey in two stages, first asking one set of panellists, with no prompting, ‘in your opinion, what is the greatest work of art ever made?’; and then posing the identical question to a second set, inviting them to choose from the top 15 responses volunteered by the first set. The story, incorporating a link to the full data table, is featured in a blog dated 4 January 2015 on YouGov’s website at:

https://yougov.co.uk/news/2015/01/04/sistine-chapel-ceiling-greatest-work-art-ever-made/

Christian conferences

The majority of speakers at 22 of the largest Christian conferences and festivals in the UK continue to be men, although the proportion of women on the platform increased from 24% in 2013 to 34% in 2014. The most ‘male-heavy’ events were the Keswick Convention and the Big Church Day Out, both of which had only 14% female speakers in 2014 (with Keswick having none in 2013). The analysis was made by Natalie Collins for Project 3:28’s UK National Christian Conferences Male/Female Speaker Statistics Report, 2014, which was published on 6 January 2015 and can be downloaded from: 

http://media.wix.com/ugd/7c3a0c_faf74569d68a4609bfd143369233fca1.pdf

Missed opportunity (1)

The current issue of The Tablet (10 January 2015, p. 34) reports that there will be no 2015 print edition of the Catholic Directory of England and Wales. The title has been published on behalf of what is now the Bishops’ Conference ever since 1838 and, inter alia, has been the principal public domain source for Catholic statistics in England and Wales, albeit their quality has left much to be desired, as frequent critiques by Tony Spencer of the Pastoral Research Centre clearly demonstrate. Although the Bishops’ Conference will be launching a new online directory on 19 January, it will apparently not include any pastoral statistics, which will be the responsibility of the 22 individual dioceses. Hopefully, this decision will be rethought, and some new published collation of national Catholic data will emerge in due course.

Missed opportunity (2)

Modern overviews of religion in Wales are comparatively rare, so expectations were inevitably raised with the recent appearance of The Religious History of Wales: Religious Life and Practice in Wales from the Seventeenth Century to the Present Day, edited by Richard Allen and David Ceri Jones with Trystan Hughes (Cardiff: Welsh Academic Press, 2014, vii + 281p., paperback, ISBN 978 1 86057 079 7). With a focus on ‘the religious multiplicity of Wales’, the volume comprises 21 chapters, 19 of them on particular faith traditions (there are also cross-cutting accounts of evangelicalism and ecumenism), written by 18 different authors (a mixture of academics and faith leaders). As with most such collaborative enterprises, the contributions vary somewhat in terms of length, approach, originality of research, and quality. But a clear weakness of pretty well the whole venture is the failure to engage with religious statistics in any meaningful and holistic way, and the lack of currency in those few data which are cited; thus, there are references to the results of the 2001 but not 2011 census of religion. This exemplifies other internal evidence which suggests that the book has been several years in the making and its publication delayed. BRIN readers will certainly regret the absence of a chapter or an appendix which pulls together the key historical and contemporary Welsh religious statistics.

 

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

Twixtmas News

 

Hopefully, BRIN readers have had a good rest over Christmas. In case any of you ‘switched off’ from the religious statistical news during the festivities, here is a round-up of seven stories which made headlines between 24 and 29 December 2014. This will definitely be our last news post of 2014, but we will naturally be back in 2015. A Happy New Year to you all! 

Belief in the Christmas story

Although 65% of 2,087 adult Britons interviewed online by YouGov on 16-17 December 2014 believed that Jesus Christ really existed, and no more than 18% disbelieved, only minorities accepted four key elements in the nativity story (as summarized in the table, below). Not unexpectedly, the proportions believing in the biblical account of Christ’s birth were considerably higher among those who acknowledged His existence as an historical figure than those who rejected it (four-fifths or more of the latter dismissing each of the four components of the story). Belief was also greatest among women and the over-60s. There was most scepticism about the Virgin Birth, which even 63% of believers in Jesus either disbelieved or were unsure about. This is a feature which has distinguished polling on religious beliefs since the first scientific study by Mass-Observation in Hammersmith in 1944-45. The YouGov data tables were published on 24 December 2014 and can be accessed from a link embedded in a brief blog post on the Christmas story at: 

https://yougov.co.uk/news/2014/12/24/public-opinion-christmas-story/ 

% across

Believe

Disbelieve

Don’t know

Newborn Jesus laid in a manger

47

29

24

Wise men guided by a star brought Jesus gifts

37

44

19

Angel appeared to shepherds to announce birth of Jesus

28

51

20

Jesus was born to a virgin

24

55

21

Christmas Day working

An Office for National Statistics press release on 24 December 2014 revealed that 863,000 people, equivalent to 2.9% of the total UK workforce, worked on Christmas Day in 2012 (the last year for which data are currently available), ranging from 2.1% in London to 3.6% in the North-East. Clergy headed the list in terms of the proportion at work on Christmas Day (49%), followed by communication operators (28%), paramedics (25%), prison officers (25%), and farm workers (20%). However, measured in actual numbers at work on Christmas Day, clergy were only sixth in the league table, with 26,000 on duty, compared with 136,000 care workers and 120,000 nurses or nursing auxiliaries. Data derive from the Labour Force Survey. The press release (which incorporates a link to the full data in Excel format) is at:    

http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp29904_390385.pdf

Christmas carol ‘top of the pops’

As in previous years, Classic FM radio invited its listeners (not representative of the adult population, of course) to vote online for their favourite Christmas carol from 1 December 2014 onwards, ‘tens of thousands’ doing so. The results of the poll were officially announced in ‘The Nation’s Favourite Carols’, broadcast on Christmas Day, with the top five also listed in several newspapers on 22 December. For the first time since 2002, Silent Night was the most popular carol, displacing O Holy Night, which had headed the chart for 11 years in succession. The change may doubtless be attributed in large measure to the centenary of the Christmas truce in 1914, which was reportedly inaugurated by German troops singing Stille Nacht (the original German-language version) from their trenches. The top 10 carols are shown below, while the top 30 appear on Classic FM’s website at: 

http://www.classicfm.com/discover/collections/christmas-music/nations-favourite-christmas-carols-2014/

  1. Silent Night
  2. O Holy Night
  3. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
  4. In the Bleak Midwinter (Holst version)
  5. O Come All Ye Faithful
  6. In the Bleak Midwinter (Harold Darke version)
  7. Once in Royal David’s City
  8. O Little Town of Bethlehem
  9. Away in a Manger
  10. Joy to the World

Alcohol and religion

An online poll by ComRes on 12-14 December 2014, commissioned by brewer AB InBev and published on 29 December, has revealed some modest differences in alcohol consumption among the various faith groups (some of which will be accounted for by demographic effects). As the table below shows, among the sample of 2,061 adults aged 18 and over, those professing no religion were more likely than average to drink alcohol and least likely to be giving it up or reducing their intake in January. Christians were just one point behind as alcohol drinkers, with non-Christians well below the norm for alcohol consumption, albeit they registered the largest proportion expecting to give it up or reduce their intake in January. Data tables are at: 

http://comres.co.uk/polls/AB_InBev_Alcohol-free_beer_at_Chirstmas_and_New_Year_Data_tables_18_December_2014.pdf 

%

Ever drink alcohol

Expect to reduce/give up alcohol in January

All Britons

80

18

Christians

83

20

Non-Christians

53

24

No religion

84

15

Obesity and religion

Did any BRIN readers notice headlines in the online media over Christmas such as ‘Holy Roast! Religious Brits More Likely to Be Overweight than Atheists’? The source of the story turns out to be an article in the online first edition of Journal of Religion and Health by Deborah Lycett: ‘The Association of Religious Affiliation and Body Mass Index (BMI): An Analysis from the Health Survey for England’. Examining data for 7,414 adults aged 16 and over interviewed (and measured) for the 2012 Health Survey for England, she discovered that religious affiliation was associated with an unadjusted 0.91 kilograms per square metre higher mean BMI, the association being strongest among professing Christians. Although some of the higher BMI was explained demographically, it was not accounted for by smoking status, alcohol consumption, or physical activity level. Even after all adjustments had been made on the linear regression models, affiliates of a religion still had an 0.58 kilograms per square metre higher mean BMI than the irreligious, with Protestants greater than Catholics. A significantly higher waist-to-hip ratio was also seen in Christian and Sikh men. The author observes that: ‘As the study reported here is cross-sectional, it cannot provide any suggestion of whether religion or higher BMI comes first and as such cannot be used to determine cause and effect, but it provides sufficient evidence for further exploration’. Options for accessing the article are outlined at:  

http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10943-014-9975-3

First-time voters

It is only about four months to go now before the next UK general election (it is scheduled for 7 May 2015), and already the opinion polling machine is cranking up for it. It is expected to be a hard-fought contest, and the electoral choices of first-time voters (those currently aged 17-22, who were not old enough to vote in the 2010 election) are likely to be critical in determining the outcome. Opinium Research, in partnership with The Observer, polled 503 of these first-time voters online on 18-22 December 2014, with extensive data tables of results made available on 27 December at: 

http://ourinsight.opinium.co.uk/sites/ourinsight.opinium.co.uk/files/op4966_first_time_voters_-_ftv_-_final.pdf

One thing is pretty clear from the survey: religious influences seem to hold little sway over this first-time voter generation and therefore, by implication, are unlikely to be a significant factor in affecting how they will cast their votes. Just 11% strongly agreed that they are religious, with a further 18% somewhat agreeing, while a majority (56%) disagreed (the remaining 14% being neutral). In a throwback to last year’s debate about whether Britain is or should be a Christian country, merely 10% identified being a Christian as an essential feature of a nation being considered as a democracy, the remaining 90% stating it was an unimportant characteristic. Shown a list of famous people, no more than 10% recalled the Archbishop of Canterbury (Justin Welby) discussing politics and current affairs, and under one-quarter of this minority actually agreed with what he said. As if to illustrate the point, first-time voters held socially liberal views on several of the issues on which the Churches have been seen by some as dragging their feet (by upholding ‘traditional’ morality), with, for example, 77% of first-time voters supportive of the legalization of same-sex marriage, and 78% finding nothing wrong in sex outside marriage.    

Moral leadership

Speaking of the Archbishop of Canterbury, he has not had the best of Christmases. First, he was struck down with pneumonia, having to ‘deliver’ his Christmas Day sermon online, and then he was given a relatively modest rating for moral leadership in a YouGov poll for The Sunday Times, for which 2,109 Britons were interviewed online on 18-19 December 2014. Panellists were presented with a list of famous names and asked to choose three or four who provided the best moral leadership. Archbishop Welby was placed fourth, with 15%, after Her Majesty the Queen (34%), the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (30%), and Malala Yousafzai (the Nobel Peace Laureate, 19%). Prime Minister David Cameron came fifth (8%) and Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, fifteenth (5%), the same as Labour leader Ed Miliband but behind actress Judi Dench and former footballer David Beckham, among others. Data tables are not yet online (hopefully, they will be in the New Year), but an article about the survey was published on the front page of the main section of the newspaper on 28 December 2014 (only available online to subscribers).

 

Posted in Official data, People news, Religion and Politics, Religion in the Press, Religious beliefs, Survey news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Quantiphobia and Other News

 

Quantiphobia

Quantiphobia – the fear or suspicion of statistics – surfaces among religious leaders from time to time, and, of course, has some biblical foundation in David’s alleged sin in numbering the Israelites (2 Sam. 24:1-25, 1 Chron. 21:1-30). It is particularly likely to manifest itself during periods when religious performance indicators are perceived as unhealthy, such as during the Edwardian era in Britain, when, according to one noted historian (Keith Robbins), there was ‘a crisis of Christendom’. Thus, Charles Booth, the pioneering religious sociologist, concluded his multi-volume assessment of religious forces in London in 1902 with the verdict: ‘Spiritual influences do not lend themselves readily to statistical treatment … The subject is one in which figures may easily be pressed too far, and if trusted too much are likely to be more than usually dangerous.’ And the Protestant leadership in the capital was so paranoid about declining church attendance in 1913 that it frustrated an attempt by the Daily News and Leader to replicate a census of churchgoing first taken in 1902-03, reminding the newspaper that: ‘The influence of the Church is often in inverse proportion to its numerical strength, as in the early days, under the Roman Emperors.’ (I have written up the story of this long forgotten episode as an article for forthcoming publication). 

Notwithstanding some pockets of church growth, few informed observers would deny that most branches of organized Christianity in Britain today are facing another crisis, with downturns in key metrics of religious belonging, behaving, and believing, and with the social significance of religion declining in the non-institutional arena, too, in a quantitatively measurable way. Statistics of the Churches, therefore, rarely present a good news story from their perspective these days, causing occasional voices to be raised against their use. The latest example is to be found in an article by Edward Dowler (Vicar of Clay Hill in the Diocese of London) on ‘Lies, Damned Lies, and the Gathering of Data’ which is published in the Church Times of 19/26 December 2014, p. 12 (only available online to subscribers). In it the author advises us to ‘be wary of an overemphasis on statistics at the expense of faithfulness to the gospel’. He is especially critical of the ‘data-driven approach’ which has characterized the Church of England in recent years, exemplified (he writes, in somewhat garbled fashion) by ‘the British Religion in Numbers project associated with Professor Linda Woodhead, and her surveys on the part played by religion in public life …’ In reality, the piece is a bit of a rant by Dowler against ‘the prevailing managerialist delusion of contemporary Western society’ and ‘a clear connection between collecting data and wielding economic power’. 

Of course, statistics should never be used in complete isolation, and they must be understood and interpreted within the context of relevant and rigorous qualitative evidence, where it exists, as well as against the historical background. And we should be on our guard against ‘bad statistics’, gathered in methodologically inadequate ways and presented without due regard to their limitations. But a plea for recourse solely to qualitative data (or none at all) can often degenerate into a reliance on the anecdotal and a tendency to generalize from the atypical, with the consequent potential to mislead. What is worse, it may result in self-delusion on the part of religious leaders, and being in denial of reality. Caution and moderation in the use of statistics would be wise counsel, yet Dowler goes beyond that, which is why, in the last resort, we are unpersuaded by his arguments. Doubtless his retort to BRIN would be, in the misquoted words of one of the principal characters in the Profumo scandal (who died last week), ‘well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?’      

Religion in the 2011 English and Welsh census

For some unexplained reason, the Office for National Statistics rereleased on 16 December 2014 Table QS210EW from the 2011 census of England and Wales, giving national totals for the six principal faith communities, as well as an analysis of the write-in answers for those who ticked the ‘other religion’ and ‘no religion’ boxes. The table will be found at: 

http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/census/2011-census/key-statistics-for-local-authorities-in-england-and-wales/sty-what-is-your-religion.html

Religion in colonial and Commonwealth censuses

Anthony Christopher explores ‘The “Religion” Question in British Colonial and Commonwealth Censuses, 1820s-2010s’ in Journal of Religious History, Vol. 38, No. 4, December 2014, pp. 579-96. The focus is on how investigation of religious affiliation in such censuses has developed, since being pioneered by the Australasian and North American colonies in the late 1820s, rather than on the presentation of results from them (which would have been difficult, given the diversity of approaches which are described). Nevertheless, drawing as it does on a range of primary and secondary sources, it is very useful to have all this information brought together in one place, seemingly for the first time, although its value would have been enhanced by inclusion of an appendix listing for each country or territory the dates for which religion data were collected. The article, which complements the author’s summary of the coverage of religion in the UK censuses (in Journal of Ecclesiastical History, Vol. 65, No. 3, July 2014, pp. 601-19), can be accessed at: 

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1467-9809.12107/abstract

News stories of 2014

For its end-of-year review, Opinium Research asked 2,001 members of its UK online panel on 9-12 December 2014 which of 30 events of 2014 they considered to be most memorable. Unsurprisingly, the Ebola outbreak (49%), the First World War poppy display at the Tower of London (44%), and the Scottish independence referendum (44%) occupied the top three spots. But Islamism had also made a big impression, with the rise of Islamic State in fourth place (41%) and the kidnapping of Nigerian schoolgirls by Boko Haram in eleventh (26%). The canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II, by contrast, was relegated to twenty-seventh position, being deemed memorable by just 5% of all adults (equivalent to about half the Catholic population), albeit the proportion rose to 14% in London (with its concentration of immigrants). Data tables are at: 

http://ourinsight.opinium.co.uk/sites/ourinsight.opinium.co.uk/files/op5096_lansons_end_of_year_-_predictions_memorable.pdf

Values

Asked to select their three most important personal values from a list of twelve, just 8% of 1,317 UK residents chose religion in the latest Eurobarometer (wave 82.3), undertaken by face-to-face interview by TNS UK between 8 and 17 November 2014. As the table below indicates, this was tenth in the UK’s value rankings, although not as bad as in the European Union (EU) as a whole (where religion came bottom of the list). Apart from Malta and the Republic of Cyprus (both on 17%), religion was not deemed an important personal value in most EU countries, falling to 2% in three instances. Even fewer (3% in both the UK and the EU) viewed religion as one of the three values best representing the EU, although 12% in the UK and 9% in the EU were willing to concede that religion helped create a feeling of community among EU citizens. These questions have been posed in previous Eurobarometers, with very similar results. Topline data for the latest wave are at: 

http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/eb/eb82/eb82_anx_en.pdf

Important personal values (%)

UK

EU

Respect for human life

37

34

Peace

34

44

Human rights

34

40

Equality

28

20

Individual freedom

21

25

Rule of law

19

15

Tolerance

18

17

Respect for other cultures

18

9

Democracy

17

25

Religion

8

6

Solidarity for others

6

18

Self-fulfilment

6

9

Christmas traditions

The Salvation Army’s UK Territory issued a series of five (one national and four regional) press releases between 4 and 8 December 2014, lamenting the disappearance of British Christmas traditions, both secular and religious, based on the evidence of a survey of the public which it had commissioned. Among the vanishing traditions was attendance at midnight Mass or the Christmas Eve church service, which just 7% reported plans to attend in 2014. Nativity plays and carolling were also investigated, apparently. The press releases did not present an especially coherent overview of the research and have attracted minimal media attention. BRIN’s efforts to obtain from the Salvation Army further details of the survey’s methodology and findings have gone unanswered thus far, but we will keep trying. The national press release is at:

http://news.salvationarmy.org.uk/dont-let-shopping-get-way-christmas-says-salvation-army

Church Commissioners

The Church Commissioners are the eighth largest charitable donor in the world, and the second in the UK (after the Wellcome Trust, in second place globally), according to City AM’s World Charity Index 2014, published on 18 December 2014. In their last reported year the Commissioners made £208 million of charitable donations to support the Church of England. More information about the Index can be found at: 

http://www.cityam.com/205869/city-ams-world-charity-index-2014-whos-made-list-top-givers

 

Posted in Measuring religion, News from religious organisations, Official data, Religious Census, Survey news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Understanding Society, Wave 4

Wave 4 of ‘Understanding Society’, the UK Household Longitudinal Study, is now available to registered users of the UK Data Service.

Every year the study collects data on the social and economic characteristics of people living in 40,000 households across the country. In addition, the British Household Panel Survey, which began in 1991, has been integrated into the study. There is also a large booster sample of ethnic minorities. The data allow researchers to study social change over past decades and prospectively for decades to come.

The study is largely funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). It is designed and managed by a group in the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER) at the University of Essex.  (To declare an interest, I am acting director of ISER as well as co-director of BRIN.)

The Wave 4 dataset is the product of interviews with nearly 70,000 adults and 9,000 children (age 10-15). It covers some new topics (for example on wellbeing, post-Olympic participation in sport, net income) and a number of areas of enquiry that have appeared previously. Respondents provided information about their religion in the first wave, and Wave 4 goes further.

The basic question on religious affiliation is posed using the filter plus follow-up wording: “Do you regard yourself as belonging to any particular religion?” [If yes] “Which religion do you regard yourself as belonging to?” The breakdown for adults in Great Britain is:

%
No religion                                                                              50.4
Church of England/Anglican                                              24.1
Roman Catholic                                                                       8.5
Church of Scotland                                                                  2.1
Free Church or Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland    0.2
Episcopalian                                                                             0.1
Methodist                                                                                   1.8
Baptist                                                                                        0.7
Congregational/United Reform/URC                                 0.3
Other Christian                                                                         1.9
Christian (no denomination specified)                                3.8
Muslim/Islam                                                                            2.7
Hindu                                                                                          1.1
Jewish                                                                                         0.3
Sikh                                                                                             0.5
Buddhist                                                                                     0.4
Other                                                                                            1.1

On frequency of attendance at religious services or meetings, the distribution is:

%
Once a week or more often                     10.8
Less often but at least once a month      6.0
Less often but at least once a year         14.2
Never or practically never                       22.2
Only at weddings, funerals etc.              46.8

Respondents were also asked “How much difference would you say religious beliefs make to your life? Would you say they make …”

a great difference                15.2
some difference                   17.5
a little difference                 18.9
no difference                       48.5

Wave 4 contained a religious practice module, but it was used for the ethnic minority boost rather than the entire sample. Respondents were asked to say whether “My religious beliefs affect … what I eat / drink (such as alcohol) / wear / my decisions related to marriage and dating / what school I would send my children to / my decisions for charitable giving and helping others / my decisions related to investment and savings / the friends I choose / the sort of job I would do.”

As expected, Muslims are considerably more religious than the majority of the population. Nearly three quarters (72%) claim to pray every day, and more than three quarters (77%) say that religious beliefs make a great difference in their lives. For most, religion has a substantial effect on what they eat, drink, and so on. Only for a minority, though, does faith affect schooling or friendship decisions. And not all self-identified Muslims are devout: one in eight (12%) pray less than weekly.

This descriptive summary provides only a hint of the work to come. The longitudinal and household nature of the survey mean that scholars will be able to analyse change in the religious involvement of individual respondents, the way that religiosity is linked to family, and so on.

 

Posted in Survey news | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Quality of Religious Research

 

Durham is the UK’s top-rated university for research in theology and religious studies, according to the results of the 2014 Research Excellence Framework or REF (successor to the Research Assessment Exercise, last held in 2008), which are published today (18 December 2014). The REF was undertaken by the UK’s four higher education funding councils by means of a series of peer-review panels (theology and religious studies being unit of assessment 33), with research quality assessed from the perspective of outputs (i.e. publications, accounting for 65% of the score), social, economic, and cultural impact (20%), and research environment (15%). The outcomes of the REF will inform the distribution of funding for higher education research from 2015/16. 

Quality was judged according to whether research was world-leading (4*), internationally excellent (3*), recognized internationally (2*), recognized nationally (1*), or unclassified (U). The 4* and 3* categories combined are likely to be commonly taken as an indicator of top-notch research, and, on this basis, 68% of UK research in theology and religious studies was so rated, 8% less than for all disciplines. Durham University headed the table for 4* and 3* research in theology and religious studies (at 85%), more than three times the score of the bottom ranked institutions, although it was pipped to the post by the University of Birmingham in terms of the proportion of its research in the subject which was 4*. 

The following table summarizes the overall quality profile for theology and religious studies for each of the 33 higher education institutions (just over one-fifth of the total) which submitted for this unit of assessment, but sub-profiles for outputs, impact, and environment and the distribution of the 413 full-time equivalent staff entered for this REF unit of assessment can also be viewed at: 

http://results.ref.ac.uk/(S(b301damae2a1plttxocljhf1))/Results/ByUoa/33 

%

3*/4*

4*

3*

2*

1*/U

Durham

85

50

35

14

1

Exeter

83

21

62

14

3

Leeds

82

33

49

18

0

Cambridge

80

34

46

19

1

Birmingham

79

51

28

17

4

University College London

78

37

41

22

0

Edinburgh

78

34

44

19

3

SOAS

78

29

49

20

2

King’s College London

76

39

37

18

6

Cardiff

76

33

43

21

3

Lancaster

75

42

33

23

2

Kent

75

38

37

23

2

Manchester

75

28

47

20

5

Nottingham

74

30

44

23

3

Oxford

72

34

38

24

4

Sheffield

72

21

51

28

0

Aberdeen

68

29

39

24

8

National average

68

28

40

27

5

Bristol

66

21

45

32

2

St Andrews

62

31

31

38

0

Heythrop College London

62

22

40

36

2

Wales Trinity St David

62

14

48

26

12

Glasgow

55

11

44

35

10

Open

53

18

35

47

0

Canterbury Christ Church

53

6

47

40

7

Liverpool Hope

46

9

37

38

16

Roehampton

43

16

27

45

12

Winchester

42

6

36

43

15

St Mary’s Twickenham

35

9

26

41

24

Chester

35

8

27

57

8

Leeds Trinity

34

0

34

32

34

Gloucestershire

33

3

30

52

15

Newman

26

0

26

28

46

York St John

25

2

23

57

18

By way of footnote, and nothing to do with the REF, some BRIN readers may be interested to know that this is the 700th post since the BRIN news blog started five years ago. It is the 49th for 2014, with 293 individual stories covered during the year.

 

 

Posted in Measuring religion | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Christmas Observance and Other News

 

Christmas observance

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

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

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

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

%

Attending Christians

Non-attending Christians

No religion

Christmas cards expect to send

 

 

 

Under 30

47

61

78

More than 30

47

34

18

Expect to have Christmas tree at home

 

 

 

Yes

87

87

77

No

11

12

19

Expect to have Christmas dinner

 

 

 

At home

62

58

57

Elsewhere

37

38

40

Likely to be present at Christmas dinner

 

 

 

Up to three other people

29

38

42

Four or more other people

68

59

54

Charitable donations in past year

 

 

 

Nothing

5

8

15

Under £100

52

67

62

More than £100

35

15

14

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

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

Full data tables for the poll are at: 

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

Leaving Christ out of Christmas

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

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

Christmas knowledge

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

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

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

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

Freedom of speech

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

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

Social integration

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

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

Pope Francis

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

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

% regarding Pope Francis

Very favourably

Somewhat favourably

Unfavourably

Italy

66

25

5

Poland

57

35

3

United States

38

40

11

Spain

34

50

9

France

30

58

11

Germany

25

57

11

Great Britain

20

45

17

Greece

8

41

24

BRIN source database update

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

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

 

Posted in People news, Religion and Politics, Religion and Social Capital, Survey news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Advent Pot-Pourri

 

Correlates of belief

The socio-structural and religious correlates of over-time belief in God, life after death, hell, heaven, and sin are explored in a new article by Ben Clements published in the advance access edition of Journal of Beliefs and Values on 26 November 2014: ‘The Correlates of Traditional Religious Beliefs in Britain’. Data derived from a multivariate analysis of the British samples from the four waves of the European Values Study between 1981 and 2008. No uniform decline in individual beliefs was detected, with the picture one of change (reducing belief in God, heaven, and sin) and continuity (for belief in life after death and hell), although the proportion holding none of the five beliefs did increase from 8% to 25% over the period of the surveys. Women, affiliates of a faith, attenders at religious services, and those attaching importance to religion were found to be more likely to believe. Age effects were not consistent, while higher socio-economic status (reflected in occupation and educational attainment) tended to be associated with lower levels of belief. Access options to the article are explained at: 

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13617672.2014.980070#.VH2Zi-kqXX4

Catholics, assisted suicide, and abortion

The Roman Catholic Church’s teachings on the sanctity of life are well-known and apparently continue to exercise some sway over the faithful, despite clear evidence of liberalizing opinion and the desire of many Catholics to make up their own minds about such matters. This is suggested by new research by Ben Clements into Catholic attitudes to assisted suicide and abortion which is reported in ‘An Assessment of Long-Term and Contemporary Attitudes towards “Sanctity of Life” Issues amongst Roman Catholics in Britain’, Journal of Religion in Europe, Vol. 7, Nos. 3-4, 2014, pp. 269-300. The empirical evidence is divided into two main sections. In the first, British Social Attitudes Surveys, European Values Studies, and some other recurrent polls are used to compare attitudes over time to the two issues among Catholics and the general public, mostly since the early 1980s. It is shown that, although the gap between the two has closed, Catholics still tend to hold more socially-conservative views than the rest of the population. In the second section, the YouGov/Westminster Faith Debates poll of Catholics in June 2013 is analysed to determine the socio-demographic and religious correlates of Catholic attitudes to assisted suicide and abortion. The variables found to have the most consistent effects in underpinning a conservative position on sanctity of life were ageing and greater religiosity (in terms of both believing and behaving indicators). Access options to the article are explained at: 

http://booksandjournals.brillonline.com/content/journals/10.1163/18748929-00704005;jsessionid=1h6f4t8e08s5w.x-brill-live-02

Catholic schools

The Catholic Education Service (CES) for England and Wales published digests of its 2014 census data for Catholic maintained and independent schools and colleges on 28 November 2014, with separate reports for England and Wales. A response rate of 100% was achieved. In England and Wales combined there were 2,245 Catholic schools attended by 845,762 pupils. Increases were recorded in the number of pupils educated in Catholic maintained schools and in teachers employed in them. The proportion of pupils from ethnic minority backgrounds and living in the most deprived areas also rose, exceeding the national average in each case, but the proportion receiving free school meals remained below the national figure. The number of pupils who were Catholics continued its slow decline, standing at 69.5% in English maintained schools and 56.5% in the Welsh ones. The CES press release, incorporating a link to the digests, is at: 

http://www.catholiceducation.org.uk/news/ces-news/item/1002981-catholic-education-service-annual-census-now-more-reliable-than-ever

School nativity plays

A traditional nativity play is held in only a third of schools, according to an online survey of more than 2,000 of its members by Netmums, the parenting website, which was released on 2 December 2014. Instead, more than half of schools now stage an ‘updated nativity’ featuring contemporary characters, while one in eight schools hold Christmas performances devoid of any religious content. Two-thirds of parents whose schools do not put on a traditional nativity play said that they would like it to. The Netmums press release is at: 

http://www.netmums.com/coffeehouse/general-coffeehouse-chat-514/news-current-affairs-topical-discussion-12/1213778-no-room-inn-traditional-nativity-plays-ditched-pop-songs-punk-fairies.html

The subsequent reporting of and comment in the media on the Netmums survey prompted YouGov to run a couple of questions on the subject in its regular weekly poll for The Sunday Times, for which 1,838 Britons were interviewed online on 4-5 December 2014. More than three-fifths (62%) of the sample thought it better for schools to stage traditional nativity plays, and this was especially so among Conservative voters (75%), UKIP supporters (80%), and the over-60s (75%). No question was asked about religious affiliation, but, given the distribution of responses to such questions in other YouGov studies, a significant minority of people professing no faith must also have elected for traditional nativity plays. More modern Christmas plays relevant to contemporary Britain were favoured by 17% (24% for 18-24s), while 12% did not want either sort of play, and 10% did not know what to think. Among parents of children attending primary school, 42% said that their child’s school put on a traditional play with religious content, 40% a modern play with religious content, 5% a modern play with no religious content, and 5% no play at all. Data tables are at: 

https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/juhk980ke8/YG-Archive-Pol-Sunday-Times-results-051214.pdf

Debt support

Four-fifths (79%) of Anglican clergy believe that helping people to manage their money wisely is an important part of the Church of England’s mission, with 48% of parishes actually providing formal or informal help to those in financial difficulties and 22% running debt advice or budgeting courses. The findings derive from an online survey undertaken in October 2014 by the Church Urban Fund and the Church’s Mission and Public Affairs Department, to which 1,685 clergy responded. The Church of England issued a press release about the research on 27 November 2014, which can be read at: 

https://www.churchofengland.org/media-centre/news/2014/11/growing-number-of-parishes-providing-help-to-people-with-debt.aspx

Christians in sport

Practising Christians in the UK are almost 10% less likely to participate in sport once a week than the general public (25.8% and 35.2%, respectively), according to a poll commissioned and published by Christians in Sport (in association with the Bible Society) on 26 November 2014. The press release, which is thin, fails to offer the obvious explanation for such a disparity, that (on the evidence of censuses of church attendance and sample surveys) practising Christians have a more elderly profile than the population as a whole, but it does mention that only 19% of churches actively encourage their congregations to play sport. Although noting that the study was undertaken by Christian Research, the press release gives little further detail. The presumption must be that it was conducted via Resonate, Christian Research’s online panel of UK practising Christians (including church leaders), with some 2,000 of the 15,000-strong panel completing this particular survey. Detailed data tables do not appear to be in the public domain, certainly not on the Christian Research website. We have had occasion in the past to express regret at the lack of visibility about the methodology and results of Resonate polls, which now take place monthly. Christian Research (which is part of the Bible Society family) and its clients potentially do themselves a great disservice by failing to report these Resonate polls more transparently and to open them up to professional scrutiny. The Christians in Sport press release can be found at: 

http://www.christiansinsport.org.uk/news.asp?itemid=5805&itemTitle=Press+release%3A+New+poll+says+Christians+prefer+the+armchair+to+arm+weights&section=22&sectionTitle=Stories&from=&to=

New Churches in North-East England

An interdisciplinary conference on New Churches founded in the North-East since 1980, based on a research project funded by the William Leech Foundation, will take place at St Johns College, Durham on 17 April 2015. The conference website, including a link to the draft programme, can be found at: 

http://community.dur.ac.uk/churchgrowth.research/conferences/new-churches-in-the-north-east-a-day-conference

Muslims and crime

In his (somewhat laboured) article published in the advance access edition of British Journal of Criminology on 30 November 2014, Julian Hargreaves challenges the dominant scholarly discourse concerning criminological issues faced by British Muslims. Utilizing British Crime Survey/Crime Survey of England and Wales data for 2006-10, he seeks to replace the current misleading generalizations about Muslim experiences of victimization, discrimination, and demonization. Instead, he paints a more nuanced picture in which there were only small or no statistically significant differences between Muslims and non-Muslims in being victims of personal crime, although Muslims were more likely to be victims of household crime (in reflection of living in areas of socio-economic disadvantage). Moreover, Muslim attitudes to the police were, by and large, positive and often more positive than those of non-Muslims. The full text of ‘Half a Story? Missing Perspectives in the Criminological Accounts of British Muslim Communities, Crime, and the Criminal Justice System’ is currently free to download from: 

http://bjc.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2014/11/26/bjc.azu091.full.pdf+html

Muslims and employment

Some BRIN readers may have noticed the headline in The Independent for 1 December 2014: ‘British Muslims Face Worst Job Discrimination of any Minority Group, according to Research’. Intrigued to know more, BRIN has tracked the findings down to a forthcoming article in Social Science Journal by Nabil Khattab and Ron Johnston on ‘Ethno-Religious Identities and Persisting Penalties in the UK Labor Market’. Utilizing pooled data from the British Labour Force Survey (covering 553,600 adults aged 19-65 interviewed in the April-June quarters of 2002-10), the authors have estimated the gross and net effects of ethno-religious background on the likelihood of (a) avoiding unemployment and (b) securing employment in professional and managerial (salariat) jobs. The net calculations take the ‘human capital resources’ (such as educational attainment) of the 14 ethno-religious groups into account. This is by no means an easy article to summarize (nor to read). However, the principal conclusion appears to be that ‘most non-white groups face an employment penalty, but Muslim groups – both men and women – experienced the greatest penalties. These penalties are exacerbated when … searching for a managerial or a professional job …’ The most advantaged group in terms of employment prospects was Jewish White British, even more so than Christian White British. Although the article formally only exists as a corrected proof at the moment, it is still possible to access it (by purchase or institutional subscription) at: 

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S036233191400130X

Religious book sales

The current issue (5 December 2014, p. 8) of The Church of England Newspaper reports an analysis by The Bookseller of the sales of books on religious and related topics. Until 2007, apparently, the value of sales of mind, body, spirit titles outstripped that of traditional religious books, the relative proportions being 56% and 44%. Thereafter, throughout the years of economic recession, the share of mind, body, spirit titles reduced to 41% (of a slightly diminished overall sales total), falling by 29%, while traditional religious books reached 59%, up 28% in sales. However, from 2014, as the economic recovery has taken effect, mind, body, spirit sales have risen by 10%, with a particularly large increase in sales of works on mindfulness. It is hard to comment without seeing the full data, which do not seem to be on The Bookseller’s public website and are presumably only available to subscribers.

 

Posted in Historical studies, News from religious organisations, Official data, Religion and Social Capital, Religious beliefs, Survey news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jesus Test and Other News

 

The Jesus test

Jesus Christ is not often dragged into the contemporary British political arena, but, when He is, people tend to ask what He would do or think about a current situation (or, in a few cases, even claim to know what His views are). In what the company describes as a ‘new thought experiment’, YouGov probed the British public on how they imagined Jesus would react to four political issues of the present day: immigration, same-sex marriage, (re)nationalization of the railways, and the reintroduction of the death penalty for murder. Interviews were conducted online on 24-25 November 2014 with 1,890 adults aged 18 and over.  

Needless to say, many respondents found the task impossible, with between 34% and 56% stating that they did not know what position Jesus would have taken on each issue (rising to 39% to 58% for those professing no religion). On railway nationalization, the views imputed to Jesus were much the same as those expressed by Britons overall in another survey, perhaps indicating that interviewees might have been simply playing back their own attitudes, not recognizing this as a moral/religious issue at all. On same-sex marriage, a plurality (35%) thought Jesus would have supported it, albeit this was a lower level of endorsement (by 19 points) than was found among the electorate at large last year. This difference presumably reflects popular knowledge of opposition to the legalization of same-sex marriage by the major Christian Churches and the assumption that this must be rooted in Christ’s teaching.  

On the remaining two questions, Jesus and the public were apparently at loggerheads. Thus, whereas 32% more believed that Jesus would oppose than approve the reintroduction of the death penalty (49% versus 17%), in August 2014 YouGov discovered a 6% margin (45% versus 39%) for the contrary position among electors. The gap was even wider when it came to immigration, with 76% of Britons quizzed by YouGov this month wanting to see tighter controls, including (for some) the cessation of all immigration. Jesus, on the other hand, was felt to favour fewer or no restrictions on immigration (39%) compared with 15% who judged Him as supporting tighter controls.  

In a blog accompanying the survey, dated 26 November, YouGov rationalized it thus: ‘Comparing the views that people hold themselves with what they imagine Jesus would think suggests interesting insights as to how virtuous, or at least Christian, they consider their own political views to be.’ The blog has sparked a lively debate, with some comments being fairly dismissive of the whole venture, such as ‘one of the most idiotic surveys of YouGov … ever!’ or ‘most ridiculous set of questions I’ve ever been asked on YouGov’. The blog, incorporating a link to the full data tables including breaks by religious affiliation as well as standard demographics, is at: 

https://yougov.co.uk/news/2014/11/26/the-jesus-test/

There is also an appraisal and analysis of the poll in a blog on the May2015 website, which concludes: ‘What would Jesus do? If we offer an opinion, it’s likely to be shaped by our own’. This can be found at: 

http://may2015.com/ideas/we-tend-to-think-jesus-would-do-what-we-would-do/

Some BRIN readers will doubtless be sceptical about the worth of such an investigation, and its value is certainly diminished by the high proportion of ‘don’t knows’. On balance, one reading of the data might be that they rather indicate people form their political opinions without much reference to religious factors. 

Pope Francis on the European Union

Talking of religion and politics, Pope Francis seems to have set the cat among the pigeons by a speech to the European Parliament on 25 November 2014 in which he made several forthright remarks about the current state of the European Union (EU), which he likened to a grandmother who was no longer fertile and vibrant. In a poll for The Times Redbox on 26-27 November 2014, YouGov asked 1,970 Britons whether they thought the Pope had spoken the truth about the EU and whether he had been right to express his opinion at all. Overall, 62% felt that what he had said about the EU was true (rising to 73% of Conservatives, 71% of UKIP voters, and 74% of over-60s), while 54% defended his right to speak out (against 22% who judged him in the wrong, with 24% undecided). Data tables are at: 

https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/yebku7qamp/RedBoxResults_141127_Pope_Francis_Website.pdf

Islamic State

The autumn has seen a marked diminution of interest on the part of pollsters and their clients in surveying public attitudes to the so-called Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria. But on 25 November 2014 ICM Research released the topline findings from a new multinational poll which had been commissioned by the Russian news agency Rossiya Segodnya. Based on telephone interviews between 7 and 11 November, including 1,002 in Britain, it revealed an appreciably greater appetite for their country’s participation in military intervention against IS among Britons than the French or, more especially, Germans. The Anglo-German difference is especially striking, given that the identical proportion (two-thirds) in each nation agreed that European involvement in military action against IS would increase the threat posed by radical Islamism in Europe, whereas only 45% of the French shared this view. Results are summarized below, while data tables are at: 

http://www.icmunlimited.com/data/media/pdf/RS-Airstrikes-Comb%20-%20Nov%2014.pdf

% supporting country’s involvement in

Britain

France

Germany

Airstrikes against IS

65

49

35

Ground operations against IS

53

41

20

Both

49

37

16

Neither

18

28

55

Also pertinent to the above is another recent poll, not previously reported on BRIN, by ComRes for ITV News on 24-26 October 2014, 2,004 Britons being interviewed online. This showed that a plurality (49%) agreed that the rise of IS was probably a direct result of British and American military involvement in the Middle East, with 26% dissenting and the identical proportion undecided. At the same time, 42% believed that Afghanistan would face a similar fate to Iraq and Syria under IS unless international forces remained in the country. Data tables are at: 

http://comres.co.uk/polls/ITV_News_Index_27th_October_2014.pdf

Youth social action

Two-fifths of UK young persons aged 10-20 have participated in some meaningful form of social action (defined as ‘practical action in the service of others to create positive change’) during the past 12 months, but the proportion is slightly higher among those who profess a religion (43%) than those who do not (37%). The headline appears in Youth Social Action in the UK, 2014, which was published on 24 November 2014, and based on research undertaken by Ipsos MORI for the Cabinet Office and Step up to Serve. Face-to-face interviews were conducted with 2,038 young persons between 11 and 22 September 2014. The report is available at:   

https://www.ipsos-mori.com/Assets/Docs/Publications/sri-ecf-youth-social-action-in-the-uk-2014.pdf

Liking the Church of England

YouGov Profiles, a new interactive segmentation and media planning tool, enables profiles to be built of people who ‘like’ a particular brand, person, or thing, showing what differentiates them from their natural ‘comparison set’ in terms of demographics, lifestyle, personality, brands, favourite entertainments, online activity, and media consumption. Statistical relationships between those who ‘like’ the brand, person, or thing in question and the ‘comparison set’ are expressed as ‘Z scores’, under 1 being weak, from 1 to 2 medium, and 2 and above strong. The source database comprises information gathered from YouGov’s 200,000-strong UK survey panel. The profiler can be searched at: 

https://yougov.co.uk/profiler#/

You may well struggle to extract data about specific religious groups, either because the sub-sample is rather small (for instance, there are only 104 individuals who ‘like’ the Catholic Church) or because there is nothing directly relevant; thus, keying in ‘atheists’ generates data for panel members who ‘like’ The Ruts (music artist), The Mist (film), and The Rats (novel). Moreover, any profiles recovered should not be interpreted as an approximation of a national cross-section of the group concerned. As YouGov explains, what is revealed is ‘the quintessential, rather than the average, member of that group’. BRIN strongly recommends that you read the FAQs before starting to use the tool; these are at: 

https://yougov.co.uk/find-solutions/profiles/

By way of illustration, we can take the Church of England, whose YouGov profile features in the latest edition of the Church Times (28 November 2014, p. 4), based on the 1,187 individuals who said they ‘like’ that Church. Although certain of their attributes and behaviours are predictable, and consistent with what is known from other research, in some respects they are, as the Church Times puts it, ‘off-beam’, including an unexplained preponderance in the Midlands and North-West. Still, if you want to amuse yourself by finding out what some ‘Anglicans’ eat, where they shop, what they watch on television, which newspapers they read, and so forth – all in relation to their ‘comparison set’ – then go to: 

https://yougov.co.uk/profiler#/Church_of_England/demographics

Cathedral statistics

Cathedral Statistics, 2013 was published by the Church of England’s Research and Statistics Department on 24 November 2014, comprising 13 tables, 12 figures, explanatory notes, and commentary. It includes comparative data back to 2003, albeit methodological changes significantly impact comparisons for Holy Week and Advent. The finding headlined by the Church was the increase in midweek attendances at cathedrals since 2003 (doubling in the case of adults), although Sunday congregations have remained more stable during the past decade. Easter attendances and communicants were slightly down on 2012 levels, those for Christmas somewhat improved, but turnout at both these festivals is notoriously variable, influenced by their timing (whether Easter is early or late, the day of the week on which Christmas falls) and the state of the weather. Visitor numbers rose to 10,248,000 (but were still less than in 2003), to which Westminster Abbey added another 2,000,000. The report, which is the subject of a sober editorial in the current issue of the Church Times (‘these figures offer challenges as well as reassurance to cathedrals’, 28 November 2014, p. 14) can be read at:  

https://gallery.mailchimp.com/50eac70851c7245ce1ce00c45/files/Cathedral_Statistics.pdf

FutureFirst

The latest issue (No. 36, December 2014) of FutureFirst, the bimonthly bulletin of Brierley Consultancy, has just been published. As usual, packed into its six A4 pages are sundry news stories about recent socio-religious research, this time including a couple of pieces with BRIN connections. Research by David Voas into the factors promoting or inhibiting growth in the Church of England is summarized in ‘Anglican Growth’, on pp. 1 and 4, while Clive Field writes on p. 6 about ‘Attitudes to Church and Clergy in Britain’ (based on his recent article in Contemporary British History). Peter Brierley also has an analysis on p. 3 of the YouGov poll of Anglican clergy conducted for Linda Woodhead this summer; he especially highlights gender variations within theological positions. New subscriptions to FutureFirst cost just £20 per calendar year; contact peter@brierleyres.com for more information.   

Advent calendars

Today (30 November 2014) is the first Sunday in Advent, but research by the Church of England Newspaper (28 November 2014, p. 1) has revealed that only 31 (3%) of the 976 Advent calendars on sale in stores on London’s Oxford Street had a religious theme. The dominant images were of One Direction, Hello Kitty, Frozen, and Santa Claus. 

Religion in the First World War

The secondary literature on religion and the First World War in Britain has disproportionately focused on ‘trench religion’, the faith of the fighting men and the experiences of their chaplains. Using statistical evidence, wherever possible, Clive Field takes a look at the domestic front in a new article entitled ‘Keeping the Spiritual Home Fires Burning: Religious Belonging in Britain during the First World War’, War & Society, Vol. 33, No. 4, October 2014, pp. 244-68. He shows that church attendance rose briefly at the start of the war but fell away thereafter in the Protestant tradition, accelerating a pre-existing trend, which was not reversed after 1918. The disruption caused by the war to the everyday life of organized religion, Field suggests, probably accounted for the decrease, rather more than loss of faith. Church membership also declined during the war in the Anglican and mainstream Free Churches, albeit not for other denominations and faiths, but it temporarily revived after the war. This was not the case for non-member adherents and Sunday scholars whose reduction was more continuous. Access options for the article are outlined at: 

http://www.maneyonline.com/doi/full/10.1179/0729247314Z.00000000041

 

Posted in church attendance, Historical studies, News from religious organisations, Religion and Politics, Religion and Social Capital, Religion in public debate, Survey news, visualisation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment