Counting Religion in Britain, May 2017

Counting Religion in Britain, No. 20, May 2017 features 27 new sources. It can be read in full below. Alternatively, you can download the PDF version: No 20 May 2017


Global Trends, 2017

Results from the second wave of the Ipsos MORI Global Trends Survey (the first wave being in 2013) have recently been published, based on online interviews with 18,180 adults aged 16-64 across 23 countries between 12 September and 11 October 2016, including 1,000 in Great Britain. Abbreviated topline results for the three specifically religious questions are tabulated below, for Great Britain, the United States, and the all-country mean. They confirm the international relative irreligiosity of Britons. Britain ranked eighteenth on interest in having a more spiritual dimension in life and nineteenth on the importance attached to religion. Full topline data can be found at:

% down

Great Britain

United States

All countries

Religious affiliation
No religion




Spiritual but not religious












Interest in having more spiritual dimension in daily life








Neither/don’t know




Religion/faith very important








Neither/don’t know




Supernatural beliefs

The incidence of various supernatural beliefs has been gauged by BMG Research in an online poll of 1,630 Britons on 13-16 May 2017. Topline results are tabulated below, revealing a span of belief from 16% in astrology to 51% in karma. Disbelievers outnumbered believers with regard to astrology, ghosts/spirits, and life after death. Women were far more likely to believe than men, apart from in life on other planets, when the positions were reversed. In terms of age, and somewhat curiously, the greatest level of belief in life after death was actually among under-35s (39%), falling away through successive cohorts to reach 21% for the over-75s. A similar pattern obtained for belief in life on other planets, held by 55% of under-35s. Breaks were also given for social grade and past voting (in the general election and European Union Referendum). Data tables are at:

% across








Life on other planets












Life after death








Trust in the Church

The Church ranked seventeenth in nfpSynergy’s latest survey of public trust in 24 institutions. Of the 1,000 Britons aged 16 and over interviewed online in February 2017, 33% said they trusted the Church a great deal (9%) or quite a lot (24%) while 58% trusted it not much (28%) or very little (30%). The most trusted institutions were the National Health Service (71%) and the armed forces (70%), the least trusted multinational companies (18%) and political parties (12%). A report on the survey can be downloaded from:

Churches and communities

Despite their scepticism about the Church as a national institution, one-half of UK adults claim they would consider the closure of their nearest church a significant loss to their local community and one-third would campaign against its closure (the same proportion who said they would provide financial support if their local church experienced financial difficulties). This is according to research commissioned by Ecclesiastical Insurance from OnePoll, for which 4,500 UK adults were interviewed online in February 2017. Local churches were regarded as part of the history of their community by 51% of respondents and as part of the fabric of their community by 36%. Data tables are not available but Ecclesiastical’s press release will be found at:


Kate Woodthorpe’s Keeping the Faith surveys the role of religious beliefs in contemporary UK funerals. It was prepared for Royal London, which is the country’s largest mutual life, pensions, and investment company. Although the report is essentially qualitative, there are occasional glimpses into quantitative online research commissioned by Royal London from YouGov among three separate samples (cumulating to 3,240 individuals) who had been responsible for organizing a funeral in recent years. The report can be found at:

Talking Jesus

Insights into the religiosity of 2,000 English young people aged 11-18 are provided by a newly-released online ComRes survey undertaken between 7 and 19 December 2016 on behalf of HOPE and the Church of England. A majority (51%) was not religious in the sense of being disbelievers or uncertain believers in God, the remainder comprising 20% Anglicans, 11% Roman Catholics, 10% other Christians, and 8% non-Christians. Irreligiosity increased with age, being 48% among 11-13-year-olds, 51% for 14-16-year-olds, and 57% for 17-18-year-olds. A majority (54%) also doubted that Jesus Christ was a real person who had actually lived while 63% disbelieved in, or were unsure about, His Resurrection. Of the 825 Christians, 51% described themselves as an active follower of Jesus, with 47% claiming to read the Bible at least monthly, 65% to pray with the same frequency, 51% to attend church once a month or more, 40% to participate in church-related youth activities, and 41% to have talked about Jesus with a non-Christian within the past month. Full data tables, extending to 208 pages, are available at:

Papal power

United States President Donald Trump and Pope Francis recently held their first face-to-face meeting at the Vatican. Asked on 26 May 2017 which of these two world leaders has the more power, 49% of 7,134 YouGov British panellists replied the United States President and 16% the Pope, with 15% regarding them both as equally powerful and 20% undecided. Only in Scotland (22%) and among Scottish National Party voters (29%), both sub-samples with (in all likelihood) an above-average number of Catholics, did the Pope fare a little better. Data are available at:

Jewish vote

The overwhelming majority (77%) of Jews intend to vote for the Conservatives in the forthcoming general election (8 June 2017), 13% for Labour, 7% for the Liberal Democrats, and 2% for another political party. This is according to a telephone poll of 515 self-identifying British Jews undertaken by Survation on behalf of the Jewish Chronicle on 21-26 May 2017, once electors who were unlikely to vote or undecided or refused to say had been excluded from the calculation. There appeared to be two main reasons for the Jewish disinclination to support Labour. One was Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, with 44% of respondents agreeing they would be much or a little more likely to vote for the party were he not its leader. The other was the perceived level of anti-Semitism among Labour Party members and elected representatives, 39% rating it at the highest point on a five-point scale. Full data tables are available at:


Asked by BMG Research which religious group is served by Ramadan, 27% of 1,374 Britons interviewed online on 19-22 May 2017 were unable to say (15%) or gave an incorrect answer (12%). People of no religion (70%) were less inclined to know than Christians (76%) that Ramadan is associated with Islam and Muslims. The full data table is available via the link at:

Islam and intolerance

Two-fifths (41%) of Britons agreed with the statement ‘Islam is an intolerant religion’ in an app-based survey by YouGov reported on 11 May 2017 at:

Islam and extremism

Four-fifths of Britons are either very (43%) or somewhat (36%) concerned about extremism in the name of Islam, according to the Spring 2017 Pew Global Attitudes survey, for which 1,066 adults aged 18 and over were interviewed by Kantar Public UK by telephone between 6 March and 3 April. The combined figure of 79% was three points less than when the question was last asked in Britain in 2015 and also below the level of concern found in Italy (89%), Germany (82%), Spain (82%), and Hungary (80%), being identical to the median for 10 European Union countries. British results varied by age (from 61% of under-30s to 87% of over-50s) and by political alignment (from 61% of left-leaners to 86% of right-leaners). Remaining Britons were either not too concerned (15%) about extremism in the name of Islam or not at all concerned (5%). Pew’s press release can be found at:

On his recent visit to the Middle East, United States President Donald Trump described the world’s fight against Islamic State and Islamist extremism as a battle between ‘good and evil’. One-half of 7,420 Britons interviewed online by YouGov on 22 May 2017 agreed with this description, the proportion being especially high among Conservatives (63%), over-65s (67%), and UKIP voters (71%). The other half of the sample divided between those who rejected the terminology of good versus evil (24%) and don’t knows (26%). Full data are at:

Manchester bomb

On 22 May 2017, an Islamist suicide bomber detonated an explosive device outside the Manchester Arena, killing 22 people. It was the worst terrorist incident on British soil since the 7/7 bombings in London in 2005 and was hailed by Islamic State (IS). In the following days, YouGov ran several online surveys which touched on the event and its implications.

On 24-25 May, on behalf of The Times, 2,052 Britons were asked about the advisability of implementing specific new measures to combat terrorism in Britain. Among the options was encouraging imams in mosques in Britain to preach solely in English. Only 37% deemed this ‘the right thing to do’, including a majority of over-65s (55%) and UKIP voters (70%). A plurality (41%) was opposed, considering it would be an over-reaction, peaking at 60% of Liberal Democrats and 63% of under-25s. The remaining 22% were unsure. Thinking about how the rest of the world deals with the threat posed by IS, a plurality (46%) judged it likely to be solved by military force whereas 18% advocated dialogue with 37% uncertain. Two-thirds of interviewees viewed the threat of IS as arising wholly or partially from social, religious, and political issues in the Middle East. Data tables are at:

On 25 May, YouGov asked respondents to an app-based survey whether they thought religion-motivated terrorism could ever be stopped. The majority (68%) doubted that it could be while 23% thought it could be halted and 9% were unsure. Anger (71%), concern (57%), and shock (56%) were the commonest reactions to the Manchester outrage, although 71% said their personal confidence had been unaffected by it. Topline results are at:

On 25-26 May, on behalf of the Sunday Times, YouGov asked 2,003 Britons whether they approved of the Government’s counter-terrorism strategy of early identification of people in danger of being radicalized, including a requirement for schools and social projects to report extremist sympathies to the authorities. The overwhelming majority (73%) approved of this approach, but there was a minority of 10% who deemed it inappropriate, on the grounds that it intruded too much into the lives of those who had not committed any crime and risked alienating law-abiding British Muslims. The proportion rose to 14% for under-25s, 15% for Liberal Democrats, and 17% for Labour voters. The remaining 17% of the entire sample was undecided. For further details, see p. 11 of the data tables at:

On 26 May, YouGov asked respondents to an app-based survey whether terrorist attacks by IS should be considered as a criminal act or an act of war. The majority (58%) opted for the former description, 34% for the latter, with 8% undecided. Topline results are at:


Faith in Research

The Church of England’s annual Faith in Research Conference was held in Birmingham on 17 May 2017 and attended by 95 delegates. As usual, there was a mix of plenary sessions and parallel streams showcasing the most recent qualitative and quantitative research into faith matters, not exclusively Anglican-related. Highlights of the 17 presentations included first results from wave 1 of the longitudinal panel survey into ‘Living Ministry’ and from the ‘Talking Jesus’ study among 11-18-year-olds in England fielded by ComRes (noted above). Slides from the majority of the presentations are already available at:

Belonging to church

The Faith in Research Conference was chaired by David Walker, Bishop of Manchester, whose recent book is an example of the genre of empirical theology: God’s Belongers; How People Engage with God Today and How the Church Can Help (Abingdon: Bible Reading Fellowship, 2017, 158 pp., ISBN: 978-0-85746-467-5, £7.99, paperback). In it, Walker proposes a fourfold model of belonging to church, through relationship, place, events, and activities, replacing the traditional dichotomy between church members and non-members. His particular concern is with Anglican occasional churchgoers, investigated through his surveys of attenders at harvest festival services in the Diocese of Worcester in 2007 and at cathedral carol services at Worcester in 2009 and Lichfield in 2010. The detailed findings from these studies have been reported in a series of academic papers, listed in the bibliography on pp. 156-7, but, selectively and relatively unobtrusively, they are drawn upon to help sustain the argument in this book, whose purpose is essentially missional. The volume’s webpage can be found at:


In advance of special services to celebrate Godparents’ Sunday on 30 April 2017, the Church of England released a calculation that at least six million people have been godparents at a Church of England christening since the start of the new Millennium. This reflected that there were more than two million baptisms of infants and children between 2000 and 2015, with a minimum requirement of three godparents for each person baptised. The Church of England’s press release is at:

Church Commissioners

The Church Commissioners, who manage investable assets amounting to £7.9 billion and who contribute some 15% of the Church of England’s income, have presented to Parliament their annual report for 2016. The total return on investments for that year was 17.1%, compared with 8.2% for 2015, and well ahead of the target of inflation plus 5%. Indeed, the Commissioners notched up their strongest performance for more than three decades, with notable successes in global equities, timber, and indirect property. The report can be found at:

Ethnic churchgoers

In his latest monthly column for the Church of England Newspaper (12 May 2017, p. 9), reprinted in No. 51 (June 2017, p. 2) of his bimonthly magazine FutureFirst, Peter Brierley usefully collates the statistical evidence from church censuses about the proportion of BME churchgoers since 1998. Although the picture is mixed, Brierley contends that there has been especially rapid growth of Black Christians, both within White congregations and in Black churches. In England in 2017, Brierley estimates, 30% of all church attenders are BMEs (and 40% of evangelicals) while in London the majority (51%) are.

Youth culture

A parallel piece of research to the ‘Talking Jesus’ study, mentioned above, is Youth for Christ’s Gen Z: Rethinking Culture, based on a survey completed by 1,001 Britons aged 11-18 in November-December 2016. The questionnaire, covering four core areas (culture, influences, priorities, and religion and faith), was scripted, hosted, and managed by DJS Research while using the Youth for Christ online platform. Almost half (46%) of respondents professed no religion, 43% were Christian, and 7% non-Christian. With regard to beliefs, 32% said they believed in a God, 22% in ghosts and spirits, and 47% in neither. Among believers in God 59% considered themselves a follower of Jesus and the Christian faith but just 41% prayed (four-fifths of them at least once a week). The 44-page report can be downloaded from:


Religious nones

In Catholic Research Forum Reports, 3, published by the Benedict XVI Centre for Religion and Society at St Mary’s University Twickenham, Stephen Bullivant analyses The ‘No Religion’ Population of Britain: Recent Data from the British Social Attitudes Survey (2015) and the European Social Survey (2014). The British Social Attitudes Survey revealed that 49% of adults identified as belonging to no religion. They were predominantly white (95%) and male (55%), although among under-35s men and women were equally likely to be religious nones. Three-fifths had been brought up with a religious identity whereas fewer than one in ten of those reared nonreligiously currently subscribed to a religion. For every one person brought up with no religion who had become a Christian, 26 people brought up as Christians professed no religion at the time of interview. On the other hand, according to European Social Survey statistics, 15% of nones still rated themselves as religious and/or prayed monthly or more. The report is available at:

Religious affiliation and party political liking

In a blog on LSE’s Religion and the Public Sphere website, Siobhan McAndrew utilizes data from wave 10 of the 2015 British Election Study Internet Panel (with fieldwork conducted by YouGov between 24 November and 12 December 2016) to investigate the liking of adults for the main political parties. Scores, on a scale running from 0 to 10, were generally below 5, with the exception of a score of 5.6 by Anglicans towards the Conservative Party. The lowest score was 2.3, by non-Christians towards UKIP. Non-Christians and Catholics showed a stronger liking for Labour while there was little variation between religious groups when it came to the Liberal Democrats. Factoring in other demographic variables, identities, and values tended to attenuate these associations. The post can be found at:

Religious affiliation and Brexit

In his latest blog on the British Religion in Numbers website, Ben Clements offers an analysis of the voting of religious groups in the 2016 referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union (EU), based upon data from wave 9 of the 2015 British Election Study Internet Panel (with fieldwork conducted by YouGov between 24 June and 6 July 2016). The most pronounced findings were the predisposition of Anglicans to leave and of non-Christians and no religionists to remain in the EU. The post can be found at:

Catholic vote

In another blog for the LSE’s British Politics and Policy website, Ben Clements examines the party political preferences of Roman Catholics, mainly based on trend data from British Election Studies and British Social Attitudes Surveys. He shows that, historically, Catholics have disproportionately favoured the Labour Party, especially in Scotland, but that the link has become weaker in recent years, as expressed both in voting behaviour at general elections and overall party allegiance. Scotland apart, older and female Catholics have been most drawn to the Conservative Party. The post can be found at:

Muslim women

Muslim women’s civic and political involvement in Britain and France, with particular reference to Birmingham and Paris, is investigated by Danièle Joly and Khursheed Wadia in Muslim Women and Power: Political and Civic Engagement in West European Societies (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017, xviii + 322 pp., ISBN: 978-1-137-48061-3, hardback, £86). Harnessing Joly’s expertise as a sociologist and Wadia’s as a political scientist, it distils their and others’ secondary literature and reports on fresh empirical research, notably participant observation, interviews, focus groups, and a questionnaire completed by 119 Muslim women in Britain and 107 in France (the results from which are described as ‘reliable rather than statistically valid’). The demographic context is derived from census and other sources. The authors argue that Muslim women’s interest in and knowledge of politics and their participation in both institutional and informal politics is higher than expected. The book’s webpage is at:

Ministerial deployment

Despite their frequent assertions of a priority for the poor, religious groups distribute their active stipendiary ministers inversely to socio-economic deprivation (measured at household and neighbourhood levels) and (implicitly) to pastoral care needs, and it seems unlikely that this relationship has occurred by chance. So claims Michael Hirst in his analysis of data, aggregated to local authority areas, from the 2011 census of population in ‘Clergy in Place in England: Bias to the Poor or Inverse Care Law?’ which is published in the ‘early view’ edition of the journal Population, Space, and Place. Parallels are drawn by the author with the concept of inverse medical care law proposed by Julian Hart. By its very nature, the primary source deployed cannot differentiate between ministers who live in less deprived areas but who work in more deprived ones. It also necessarily excludes retired, self-supporting, and non-stipendiary ministers. Access options to the article are outlined at:

Comparative historical secularization

The seemingly greater religiosity of the United States over Western Europe has been a central element of investigation and debate in the scholarly literature of secularization. A comparative religious history of these two areas, noting both parallels and divergences, is now attempted in Secularization and Religious Innovation in the North Atlantic World, edited by David Hempton and Hugh McLeod (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017, xiv + 407 pp., ISBN: 978-0-19-879807-1, £75, hardback). It comprises an introduction by McLeod followed by nine pairs of chapters, eight pairs exploring particular themes (such as evangelicalism, gender, and popular culture) and the last offering a separate conclusion by each editor which, notwithstanding their different approaches and emphases, provides a degree of coherence to what might otherwise be quite a disparate volume of insightful case studies. Of the 17 individual contributors, the solitary sociologist of religion is Grace Davie; the rest are essentially religious historians. Although chronological coverage starts with the eighteenth century, there is a special focus on the second half of the twentieth century. Likewise, consideration of Western Europe is disproportionately about Britain. Descriptive statistics are referenced throughout the work but there are no tables, while several opportunities are missed for systematic comparative quantitative analysis, notably for the past half-century, which might simultaneously have provided some common criteria for measuring secularization. The volume’s webpage can be found at:

David Martin on secularization

David Martin is a notable absentee from the line-up of Hempton and McLeod’s book, notwithstanding he has written extensively about secularization, including about the comparative experience of Europe and America. In his Secularisation, Pentecostalism, and Violence: Receptions, Rediscoveries, and Rebuttals in the Sociology of Religion (London: Routledge, 2017, xi + 194 pp., ISBN: 978-0-415-78859-5, £115, hardback), Martin, who is now in his late 80s, offers an autobiographical cum bibliographical retrospect of the three core themes of his scholarship during the past half-century. The 10 chapters include one (pp. 57-85) which recapitulates the sociology of religion in Britain during the 1950s and 1960s and briefly considers the contribution of religious statistics, of which Martin was evidently initially quite sceptical, and specifically references British Religion in Numbers. The book’s webpage can be found at:


SN 8168: Scottish Household Survey, 2015

The Scottish Household Survey, initiated in 1999, is undertaken on behalf of the Scottish Government by a polling consortium led by Ipsos MORI. Information is collected about the composition, characteristics, attitudes, and behaviour of private households and individuals in Scotland; and about the physical condition of their homes. For the 2015 survey (January 2015-March 2016) data were gathered on 10,330 households and 9,410 adults. The specifically religious content of the questionnaire covered: religion belonged to; experience of discrimination or harassment on religious grounds; and incidence of volunteering for religious and other groups. A catalogue description for the dataset is available at:


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


Posted in church attendance, Historical studies, Ministry studies, News from religious organisations, Religion and Ethnicity, Religion and Politics, Religion in public debate, Religious beliefs, religious festivals, Religious prejudice, Rites of Passage, Survey news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How religious groups voted in the 2016 referendum on Britain’s EU membership

Recent research has shed light on the voting preferences of the British electorate at last year’s Brexit referendum, looking at how support for remain or leave was distributed across a range of socio-demographic groups, as well as showing how it varied based on party support, policy preferences and ideological beliefs. How did religious groups in wider society vote? Were some more likely than others to have voted to leave the EU or vice versa? Data from wave 9 of the British Election Study Internet Panel Study, undertaken after the referendum (with fieldwork conducted by YouGov between 24 June-6 July 2016), allow a comparison of voting behaviour based on religious affiliation. The core sample for wave 9 is used, which enables cross-sectional analysis of the data.

The figure below shows the proportions voting remain and leave within different religious groups. Some groups showed an even split between the two options on the ballot (Methodists and Baptists) and some showed a slight preference for one side or the other (Catholics and Church of Scotland / Presbyterian for remain; Jews and other Christian for leave); but more distinct voting patterns are also evident. Those who identify themselves as Anglican or Church of England were clearly in the leave camp – 60% backed Britain leaving the EU and 40% supported staying. Muslims were clearly in the remain camp, with 69% choosing this option and 31% in favour of leaving the EU. Those with no religion (a group with a younger age profile) were in the ‘remain camp’, by 57% to 43%, as were those belonging to other non-Christian faiths (55% to 45%) and those who preferred not to disclose their religious affiliation (55% to 45%).










Source: Author’s analysis of BES Internet Panel Study 2014-2018, wave 9 (core sample).


Fieldhouse, E., J. Green., G. Evans., H. Schmitt, C. van der Eijk, J. Mellon & C. Prosser (2016) British Election Study Internet Panel Waves 1-9.

Posted in Religion and Politics, Religion in public debate, Research note, Survey news | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Counting Religion in Britain, April 2017

Counting Religion in Britain, No. 19, April 2017 features 27 new sources. It can be read in full below. Alternatively, you can download the PDF version: No 19 April 2017


Lenten abstinence and Easter activities

Just under one-fifth (18%) of a sample of 1,552 Britons claimed to have given something up for Lent this year, when questioned online by BMG Research between 31 March and 4 April 2017. The proportion was greatest for professing Christians (24%) and people who regarded religion as important to them (36%) but it was also curiously high among non-Christians (23%); it was lowest for religious nones (10%). Of those who abstained, the most common forfeits were chocolate (17%), alcohol (12%), and takeaways (10%).

One-third of respondents did not celebrate Easter at all, including 38% of religious nones and 55% of non-Christians. Of the remainder, its religious aspect was only the third most significant part of the festival (12%), way behind spending time with friends and family (58%) and also surpassed by being off work (13%). Even for Christians, the religious dimension was no more than 22% and for those considering religion important 34%. One in ten (11%) observers of Easter anticipated attending church on the day, disproportionately women (13%), over-65s (15%), Christians (22%), and persons for whom religion was of importance (34%). Full data tables are available at:

Easter associations

A majority (55%) of 2,670 adult Britons interviewed by YouGov via mobile phone app on 13 April 2017 associated Jesus Christ with Easter, rising to two-thirds among over-50s and Conservative and Liberal Democrat voters. Nevertheless, rather more respondents identified Easter with chocolate eggs (76%), a bank holiday (67%), and hot cross buns (62%). Least associated with Easter was Simnel cake (14%), the festival’s traditional speciality, although it still held fond memories for 26% of over-65s. Full data tables can be accessed via the link in the blog at:

Eastertide beliefs

One-half the whole population and two-thirds of under-25s do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, according to a poll commissioned by BBC local radio and released on Palm Sunday, for which 2,010 Britons were interviewed by telephone on 2-12 February 2017. These disbelievers included 23% of professing Christians and 5% of active (regular churchgoing) Christians. Believers numbered 44%, among them 9% of religious nones, and peaking at 59% of over-65s; the majority of them did not subscribe to the literal Biblical account of the Resurrection.

Belief in life after death stood at 46% and has been remarkably stable since Gallup first enquired into the subject in 1939; it was highest for Christians (61%), non-Christians (69%), and active Christians (85%). Asked about the nature of the afterlife, 65% selected another life where your soul lives on (such as heaven or hell) and 32% reincarnation. Disbelief in life after death also stood at 46% overall, reaching 73% with religious nones.

Other topics covered were religious affiliation (51% Christian, 9% non-Christian, and 37% none) and claimed attendance at religious services other than for rites of passage (20% weekly, 11% monthly, 31% less often, and 37% never). Full data tables are available at:

There is a BBC press release at:

Eastertide traditions

Almost one-third of Britons do not know the origins of Easter, including 10% who think it commemorates the birth (rather than the death and resurrection) of Jesus Christ, according to a poll of 2,000 adults commissioned by the cleaning brand Oven Pride. Just 12% claim to attend church over the festival while 23% believe its date is set by the government and 9% by the European Union. One-third cannot explain the significance of Ash Wednesday, although 21% say they have given up alcohol during Lent and 6% social media. Easter continues to be valued as a secular break, with 66% planning to spend the bank holiday weekend with family, friends, and good food. A traditional roast dinner on Easter Sunday is enjoyed by 70%, even if Simnel cake will only be consumed by 3%. Oven Pride has failed to respond to enquiries about the poll, so the principal public domain report of the survey is a somewhat garbled article in the Daily Mail at:

Easter eggs

Prime Minister Theresa May, a practising Anglican and member of the National Trust, waded into the public row about the omission of the word Easter from advertising for an Easter egg hunt sponsored by chocolate manufacturer Cadbury and held on National Trust properties. She criticized the decision as ‘absolutely ridiculous’. The event had previously been branded as an Easter egg trail. A plurality (43%) of 2,866 Britons interviewed online by YouGov on 5 April 2017 considered it appropriate for May to have commented on this sort of issue, peaking at 59% of over-60s and 69% of UKIP supporters. But 39% disagreed with her intervention, including majorities of Labour, Liberal Democrat, and Scottish National Party voters. The remaining 18% had no clear view on the matter. Full results are available at:

Religion and identity

Ethnic minorities remain more likely than white Britons to select religion as the principal component of their identity, according to an Opinium Research report on Multicultural Britain in the 21st Century: What People Think, Feel, and Do, written by James Crouch and Priya Minhas, and based upon online fieldwork undertaken since the 2016 referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union (EU). However, even for the 616 ethnic minority persons in the sample, religion was a lesser aspect of their identity (19%) than ethnicity (36%) or nationality (30%), and it was accorded a still lower priority (16%) by the second and subsequent generations born in the UK. This is partially explained by the fact that 29% of ethnic minorities declared they had no religion. For the 1,762 white Britons interviewed, religion was the main element of identity for just 7%, compared with 59% choosing nationality, 15% local community, and 7% ethnicity. Other topics in the survey included attitudes to toleration and integration in the UK, with the replies from ethnic minorities disaggregated by religious group. Muslims were especially likely (59%) to feel Britain had become less tolerant since the EU referendum. Data tables have not been released, but the report can be found at:

Brexit and identity

Trevor Phillips had an interesting article (‘To Understand Leavers, Look to Anglicans’) in the Daily Telegraph for 14 April 2017 (p. 20). It reported an analysis he had conducted with Richard Webber of a new opinion poll by YouGov among 6,000 voters living in England and focusing on their attitudes to the European Union (EU). In terms of voting at the 2016 referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU, the sample divided between Leavers on 53% and Remainers on 47%, reflecting the actual outcome of the referendum. But there were some notable differences according to religious affiliation. The two extremes were religious nones, who opted to remain by 52% to 48%, and Anglicans, who overwhelmingly wanted to leave (62% versus 38%). Further investigation revealed that the Anglican predisposition to leave the EU could only be partially explained by the fact that many of them were also Conservatives, three-fifths of the latter being Leavers. Another key variable appeared to be Englishness, with Anglicans identifying as English rather than British by a margin of 28% (compared with, for example, only 9% for Catholics). In their voting at the referendum, therefore, Anglicans seemingly exemplified the desire for a reassertion of English national identity. As Phillips concluded, ‘Attitudes to the EU are driven at least as much by identity – including religious affiliation – as by economics.’ There is no public domain version of the article, but it can be accessed via a paywall at:

Religious affiliation

The latest large-scale political poll commissioned by Lord Ashcroft, and conducted online among 10,153 electors on 21-28 March 2017, included the standard background question about religion: ‘which of the following religious groups do you consider yourself to be a member of?’ It revealed that the religious profile of Britain is currently 50% Christian, 6% non-Christian, 41% no religion, and 2% prefer not to say. The proportion of professing Christians was greatest among over-55s (68%). It has fallen to just 27% of under-25s, 57% of whom are religious nones and 12% non-Christians (more than half of them Muslims). Differences by social grade and region were much less marked than for age but there was some correlation between religion and voting in the 2015 general election and the 2016 referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union, albeit these effects were also at least partly the function of age. Conservative and UKIP voters in 2015 and ‘leavers’ in the referendum were most likely to be Christian, with the majority of Scottish National Party and Green voters claiming no religion. More details can be found in table 100 at:

Religious freedom

The Pew Research Center’s latest annual report about global restrictions on religion revealed that, across the 198 countries surveyed, government restrictions on religion and social hostilities involving religion increased in 2015 for the first time in three years, including particularly in Europe. The report is available at:

Pew’s research prompted YouGov to ask 2,670 adult Britons via mobile phone app on 13 April 2017 whether, in the UK context, they would prefer to see fewer or greater government restrictions on religion in terms of laws, policies, and other actions. One-third of the sample was unable to answer, but there was more support (28%) for greater restrictions than for fewer restrictions (16%), with 23% wishing to see no change. Men (34%) and UKIP voters (38%) were the groups most endorsing greater restrictions while 18-24s (27%) were most inclined to favour fewer. Full data tables are available at:

Another YouGov poll on the same subject, reported on 13 April 2017, used slightly different question-wording, which had the effect of polarizing opinion more sharply. In this survey, 38% opted for ‘more control over religions’ in the UK and 12% for ‘more religious freedom’, with 39% wanting no change and 11% undecided. These topline results, which seem to add credence to Linda Woodhead’s claim that religion is becoming a toxic concept, are at:

General election issues (1): Tim Farron on homosexuality

The unexpected 2017 UK general election campaign had hardly begun before religion reared its head, in the guise of the initial refusal of Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron (a practising Evangelical Christian) to say whether he believed that homosexuality is a sin.

The controversy prompted YouGov to ask 3,800 adult Britons via mobile phone app on 19 April 2017 whether they preferred politicians to be open about their religious views or to keep them private. The public was divided on the subject, 36% wanting politicians to be transparent about their religious opinions and 44% to keep them to themselves. The remaining fifth of voters was undecided. There were few major differences by demographic groups apart from 53% of Liberal Democrat and Scottish National Party supporters and 52% of over-65s preferring politicians to keep their religious views private. Full data tables are available at:

YouGov returned to the topic on 25-26 April 2017, when it interviewed online a more conventional sample of 1,590 adults on behalf of The Times. By this stage, after several further evasions, Farron had clarified that he did not regard gay sex as sinful. A plurality of Britons (41%) thought he had the right to keep his personal religious views private, the proportion reaching 51% among professing Christians and 65% of Liberal Democrat voters. One-third (34%) replied that Farron ought to have answered the question about gay sex sooner, since his religious views were relevant to his political opinions; religious nones (43%) were especially of this mind. The remaining one-quarter of adults was uncertain what to think. More generally, just 12% of respondents believed that gay sex is sinful, and no more than 16% even of Christians; 74% of all Britons were emphatic it is not a sin, among them 87% of religious nones. For this second YouGov poll, see page 12 of the data tables which can be accessed via the link in the blog at:

The Christian Institute entered the fray from a different perspective, arguing that Farron had been bullied in public for holding traditional views about homosexuality. The Institute commissioned ComRes to undertake a telephone poll of 1,001 Britons between 20 and 24 April 2017, asking whether a politician who believes gay sex to be a sin should be free to express such an opinion. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of respondents upheld that freedom, peaking at 71% of skilled manual workers and 73% of men, with 32% denying a politician the liberty to proclaim the sinfulness of gay sex. A similar proportion (67%) agreed that a politician believing gay sex to be sinful but keeping that view private should still be allowed to hold office, 25% dissenting and 8% uncertain. Full data tables are available at:

General election issues (2): UKIP and the burka

Early on in the general election campaign, Paul Nuttall, leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), indicated he would be pushing for a ban on the burka and Sharia courts, while denying he was trying to reinvent UKIP as an anti-Islam party.

On behalf of The Observer, Opinium Research asked an online sample of 2,007 UK adults on 25-28 April 2017 whether they had heard of a policy proposal to ban the burka in public places and, if so, with which party they associated that plan. Three-fifths of interviewees were aware of the policy (and not many more, 65%, among UKIP voters), of whom four in five correctly identified it as a UKIP proposal. The remaining 40% either had definitely not heard of the mooted burka ban (18%) or were unsure whether they had done so (22%). The full data can be accessed via the link in the blog at:

The matter was also addressed in YouGov’s second poll on the Farron affair, noted above, which fielded on 25-26 April 2017. YouGov, however, was more interested in knowing what the public actually thought about a legal ban on the wearing of burkas and niquabs (in other words, a full body and face veil). Almost half the electorate (48%) favoured such a ban, the number being particularly high for Christians (56%), manual workers (58%), Conservatives (63%), over-65s (68%), Leave voters in the 2016 EU referendum (70%), and UKIP followers (85%). Slightly fewer, 42%, held that people should be free to decide for themselves what to wear, including a majority of Londoners (54%), under-25s (60%), Labourites (61%), Remain voters in the EU Referendum (62%), and Liberal Democrats (67%). YouGov’s blog on the issue, containing a link to the full data, is at:

The same YouGov survey likewise tested general election voting intentions, which showed that the Conservative Party had a strong lead over Labour among Christians at that point, 55% versus 20%, while religious nones divided 36% to 34%, respectively.

Academic research

ComRes have completed a major study for Research Councils UK and the Natural Environment Research Council, interviewing online and by telephone (between 20 and 31 January 2017) a sample of 3,000 adult Britons on their engagement with publicly-funded research into science and other academic subjects. The data tables, which run to 604 pages, include breaks for every question by a range of background variables, one of which concerned active membership of a religious group (‘active’ being defined as ‘regularly’ reading/listening to a religious text, praying, or attending religious services other than for rites of passage). According to this definition, 50% of the population self-classified as active members (42% Christian and 8% non-Christian) and 49% as not (comprising 39% with no religion and 10% who considered themselves religious but not active members of a religious group). In general, active membership of a religious group (or not) only had a marginal impact on the answers to the mainstream questions about academic research. For instance, active members were 4% more supportive of publicly-funded research than inactive members and religious nones and 5% more likely to have engaged with four or more research areas during the month prior to interview. At the same time, active members of a religious group were 7% less comfortable with the pace of change in the world and they were 6% less civically engaged although they were 12% more likely to have donated money to charity within the past half-year. The data tables are at:

Syrian refugees

The UK Government has been accused, by former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, of being institutionally biased against Christian refugees from Syria, who are underrepresented among those being moved to the UK under a flagship resettlement scheme. However, a majority (54%) of Britons surveyed by YouGov, in an app-based poll reported on 18 April 2017, thought religion should not be a criterion for the UK accepting refugees. One-third favoured taking a greater number of Christian refugees or only Christian refugees, while a hardline 11% opposed accepting any refugees at all. Topline results only are available at:


Scottish church census, 2016

The number of Scots attending church on an average weekend has slumped from 853,700 in 1984 to 389,500 in 2016, falling – relative to population – from 16.6% to 7.2% over the same period. This is the headline finding from the initial report on the fourth (2016) Scottish church census which appears as a special eight-page edition (No. 50, April 2017) of FutureFirst, the bimonthly magazine of Brierley Consultancy. The census was undertaken by Peter Brierley, at the behest of a consortium of Scottish Churches and Christian organizations, by means of postal and online returns of attendance on 7-8 May 2016. Of Scotland’s 3,689 congregations, 40% responded, missing data being estimated, taking account of variations by denomination, churchmanship, and area. Decline was experienced across most denominations, the Pentecostals alone significantly bucking the trend, albeit many immigrant churches and so-called Messy Churches had also been started. Three-fifths of worshippers were women and 42% were aged 65 and over (double the national average), peaking at 56% in the Church of Scotland. East Lothian had the lowest churchgoing rate (4%) and the Western Isles the highest (45%). Aberdeenshire was the only area to register absolute growth between 2002 (when the third church census was held) and 2016, largely attributed to the establishment of 25 new Roman Catholic congregations for Poles working in the oil industry. Despite claims of greater irregularity in attendance, as many as 80% of weekend churchgoers were recorded as attending weekly, 9% going fortnightly, 7% monthly, and 4% less often. Mid-week activities attracted an additional 234,500 people, 58% of whom did not frequent church at the weekend, giving a total reach by the Churches of 10% of the Scottish population at some stage during the week. A full report on the census, provisionally entitled Growth Amidst Decline, will be released by ADBC Publishers towards the middle of 2017; meanwhile, various outputs from the census (including the special edition of FutureFirst) are being assembled at:

Brierley also wrote a full-page article about the census, entitled ‘Church Life in Scotland’, for the Church of England Newspaper (21 April 2017, p. 8).

The Church of Scotland has issued a press release about the census results at:,000_christians_regularly_attend_church

Family faith

Newly published by the two Christian charities Hope and Care for the Family is Faith in Our Families: How Do Parents Nurture Their Children’s Faith at Home? What Does the Church Do to Support and Equip Them in This? A Research Report. It is based upon an online qualitative and quantitative study undertaken with the help of 9dot-research, the statistical component comprising a UK-wide survey of 983 parents (all practising Christians with at least one child aged 3-11 and committed to nurturing faith in the home), 175 church leaders, and 479 church children’s workers recruited via the Care for the Family database or Facebook. As the report itself acknowledges, the methodology adopted inevitably resulted in a skewed sample, ‘a snapshot of the more motivated and engaged parents and churches’, with, for instance, 84% of respondents being women and just 3% Roman Catholics. However, even among these active religious parents, 95% of whom conceded it was largely their responsibility to teach their children about Christianity, 92% admitted they should be doing more, with only 37% always or often looking for opportunities to nurture their child’s faith. The degree of parental confidence about passing on their faith had a significant effect on what they currently did at home to do so. Lack of time was seen as the principal barrier to the transmission of faith in the family, followed by lack of knowledge. Just 12% of leaders felt their church put a lot of effort into supporting parents to nurture faith in the home, very much less than for six other church activities, and 94% agreed they should be helping more in this regard. The 32-page report is available at:

Church of England attendance

Mark Hart wrote about ‘The C of E’s Unsung Success Story’ in the Church Times for 31 March 2017 (p. 13). Revisiting the Church’s attendance statistics on the basis of various (potentially contestable) assumptions, he tentatively identified a significant, but hidden, area of growth – among the over-65s, notwithstanding rising Anglican death rates and absolute and relative decline in churchgoing levels. His article can be read at:

Hart’s article drew a response from BRIN’s co-director, David Voas, in the next issue of Church Times (7 April 2017, p. 18). In a letter to its editor, Voas pointed out that the missing factor in Hart’s calculations was almost certainly immigration, with a net annual inflow of a quarter of a million people for more than a decade, the majority from Christian countries, from which the Church of England has presumably benefited to some extent. There is no public domain version of this letter.

Faith in Research

The Church of England’s next annual Faith in Research conference takes place at the Novotel, Broad Street, Birmingham on Wednesday, 17 May 2017 and will be chaired by the Bishop of Manchester, David Walker. The plenary speakers include Clive Field from BRIN, who will give a brief presentation on ‘Has the Church of England Lost the English People? Some Quantitative Tests’, based on his recent article in Theology. Programme and registration details can be found at:

Methodist Statistics for Mission

At its latest quarterly meeting, on 1-3 April 2017, the Methodist Council received an update on the compilation of the full Statistics for Mission Report, 2017, which will be presented to the Methodist Conference in the summer. Methodist membership in Britain on 31 October 2016 was returned as 188,400 (excluding ministers), representing a decline of 3.3% on 2015, 9.7% on 2013, an annual average of 3.6% over the triennium 2013-16, and an annual average of 3.5% over the preceding decade (2006-16). Methodist membership now stands at just 22% of its peak at the beginning of the twentieth century. The mean number of weekly attendances at worship services was 202,100 in October 2016, an average decrease of 3.4% annually both over the triennium and the decade. In addition, an estimated 500,000 attendances are registered weekly at non-worship activities and events, attracting a wide spread of ages, in marked contrast to the heavy skew towards an older demographic which characterizes both members and worshippers. The paper, which also moots several changes in statistics gathering and reporting, is available at:

The Methodist Recorder found the update to Methodist Council so salutary yet so depressing that it ran a full-column comment, entitled ‘Confronting the Realities of Decline’, in its edition of 21 April 2017 (p. 6). The editorial warned that there was a real prospect of the Methodist Church in Great Britain ‘ceasing to meet’ (to borrow the Methodist parlance), at least in its present form, and urged its leadership to contemplate, and develop a strategy to manage, such a possibility.

Jewish students

The National Union of Students (NUS) has published a 50-page internal research report on The Experience of Jewish Students in 2016-17, as revealed by an online survey of 485 self-defining Jewish students (out of a total universe of 8,500 Jewish students in higher education in the country) between 28 November 2016 and 10 February 2017. The vast majority of respondents were in full-time education, aged 17-24, studying at undergraduate level, and UK citizens. Significant numbers expressed disquiet about the provision of specific facilities and services by their institutions (such as affordable kosher food and timetabling of classes and events in relation to the Sabbath); about the attitudes of academics and other students to issues relating to Jews, Judaism, and Israel/Palestine; and about their confidence in engaging with the NUS and individual student unions, and their faith in the ability of the national and local unions to represent the interests of Jewish students. Their experience or fear of being victims of harassment, abuse, and hatred was also recorded. Sundry recommendations were made to address these concerns, principally directed to the NUS itself but some to the wider higher education sector and campus student unions. The report is available at:


God and Mammon

Individuals are less likely to attend religious services regularly if their income rises, according to a paper delivered by Ingrid Storm at the recent British Sociological Association (BSA) annual conference in Manchester. Analysing longitudinal data from the British and UK Household Panel Surveys for 1991-2012, she found that a rise in income of about £10,000 a year reduced by 6% the likelihood of attending religious services monthly. However, a fall in income had no effect on worship patterns. Storm hypothesized that adults turned away from religious services when their income increased because they had less need for the social support found in religious communities. ‘Religious participation is most appealing to people who have available time, but less available financial resources … when their income rose, the extra money could increase access to other forms of social activities and entertainment, and these take up time and attention that could otherwise have been spent on religious practice.’ BSA’s press release is at:

Changing religious landscape

There were 450,000 fewer births than deaths among the UK Christian population between 2010 and 2015, according to the Pew Research Center’s latest projections of the global religious landscape. By contrast, the natural increase in the UK Muslim population over the same period was 340,000 and among the religiously unaffiliated it was 880,000, reflecting (in both cases) their younger age profiles (and thus greater fertility) than Christians. A similar pattern was found across Europe as a whole. Globally, Muslim births are predicted to outnumber Christian ones by 2035. Estimates were derived from a range of census and sample survey data. The full report is available at:

Secularization in Scotland

Principally drawing upon the series of Scottish Social Attitudes (SSA) Surveys for 1999-2014, augmented by the Scottish Election Surveys of 1992 and 1997, Ben Clements has investigated ‘Religious Change and Secularisation in Scotland: An Analysis of Affiliation and Attendance’, Scottish Affairs, Vol. 26, No. 2, May 2017, pp. 133-62. Over-time decline was charted on both these religious indicators, with the Church of Scotland suffering heavy losses in terms of adherence. Approximately half the Scottish population now profess no religion and three-fifths never attend religious services. Comparisons with British Social Attitudes Surveys revealed a converging pattern of secularity in both Scotland and England. In-depth examination of the socio-demographic correlates of religious affiliation and attendance in the 2014 SSA highlighted the importance of gender and, most notably, age differences and substantiated Steve Bruce’s characterization of older women as one of the primary carriers of religion in Scotland. The article is currently available on an open access basis at:

Clements has also written a blog summarizing the article at:

As is customary with sample surveys, there is a significant mismatch between claimed attendance at religious services in SSA and actual attendance on an average Saturday/Sunday as recorded by the 2016 Scottish church census (reported above).

Sectarian disadvantage in Scotland (1)

The extent to which sectarian disadvantage persists in Scotland has been a hotly contested topic over the years, and the public and academic debate may well be reignited by a large-scale longitudinal study reported in the May 2017 ‘in progress’ volume of Health & Place: David Wright, Michael Rosato, Gillian Raab, Chris Dibben, Paul Boyle, and Dermot O’Reilly, ‘Does Equality Legislation Reduce Intergroup Differences? Religious Affiliation, Socio-Economic Status, and Mortality in Scotland and Northern Ireland: A Cohort Study of 400,000 People’. The authors conclude that Catholics in Scotland remained at greater socio-economic disadvantage relative to Protestants than in Northern Ireland and were also at a mortality disadvantage (which Northern Irish Catholics were not). It is suggested that this differential may be due to the lack in Scotland of the raft of explicit equality legislation which has diminished religion-based inequality in Northern Ireland during recent decades. Access options to the article are outlined at:

Sectarian disadvantage in Scotland (2)

Coincidental with the appearance of the preceding item, and similarly drawing upon a very large dataset, Steve Bruce and Tony Glendinning offer a far more optimistic assessment of sectarian disadvantage in Scotland: ‘Sectarianism in the Scottish Labour Market: What the 2011 Census Shows’, Scottish Affairs, Vol. 26, No. 2, May 2017, pp. 163-75. Analysing census data on religion, social class, education, gender, and region for persons who were born in Scotland, and estimating the likelihood of Scots of different backgrounds attaining middle class occupations given their educational qualifications, the authors found no sectarian association between religion and social class among people at the peak age (35-54 years) of their labour market involvement. Indeed, the class profile for Roman Catholics was pretty much the same as for other Christians, thereby implying a lack of sectarian discrimination against Catholics, for which Bruce and Glendinning suggest possible explanations. The two clear outliers in the study were both from the ‘other religions’ group, ill-educated other religion men doing better than expected in reaching a middle class occupation and well-educated other religion women achieving less well. Access options to the article are outlined at:

Catholic schools

The relative inclusivity of Catholic schools in England and Wales is often questioned on the basis of statistics of pupil eligibility for free school meals (FSM). In The Take-Up of Free School Meals in Catholic Schools in England and Wales (Benedict XVI Centre for Religion and Society, St Mary’s University Twickenham, 2017, 17pp.), Francesca Montemaggi, Stephen Bullivant, and Maureen Glackin challenge over-dependence on FSM data as an indicator of socio-economic deprivation. They make four substantive points: there is a widespread tendency to conflate receipt of FSM with eligibility, thereby ignoring eligible families who may not take up their entitlement; other Government measures suggest Catholic schools disproportionately recruit from the lowest socio-economic brackets and ethnic minorities; FSM uptake is affected by cultural and demographic factors, with the ethnic profile of Catholic schools resulting in low FSM uptake; and FSM ineligibility does not imply that families are affluent. These conclusions, informed by a literature review and fresh empirical research (in the form of small-scale surveys, interviews, and focus groups), will naturally prove convenient for Catholic interests but a Department for Education spokesperson (quoted in The Tablet for 8 April 2017, p. 29) defended its use of FSM figures, stating that being eligible for and claiming FSM is a suitable proxy for deprivation. The Benedict XVI Centre’s report is at:

Young British Muslims

The statistical content of Young British Muslims: Between Rhetoric and Realities, edited by Sadek Hamid (London: Routledge, 2017, ix + 180pp., ISBN: 978-1-4724-7555-8, £95, hardback) is minimal and mainly contextual. The volume comprises nine theoretically-informed and qualitative case studies which cumulatively challenge the dominant negative external representation of British Muslim youth by focusing on their everyday lived experiences. This is an important alternative perspective, enriching our knowledge of contemporary Muslims. The editorial introduction (p. 3) estimates that approximately four-fifths of these young people are, in reality, ‘cultural Muslims’, practising their faith in a limited way. This is a point which would have been worth addressing more systematically and comparatively (in relation, say, to ‘cultural Christians’ or ‘ethnic Jews’), as well as underpinning by some quantitative evidence. The book’s webpage is at:

Social correlates of non-religion

An online YouGov poll from February 2015 has been used by Ben Clements for the purposes of ‘Examining Non-Religious Groups in Britain: Theistic Belief and Social Correlates’, Journal of Contemporary Religion, Vol. 32, No. 2, May 2017, pp. 315-24. Three non-religious groups were separately investigated (atheists, agnostics, and other non-religion) in comparison with those professing a religious affiliation. Multivariate analysis demonstrated that age and ethnicity were the strongest differentiators between religion and non-religion, but gender had less than the expected impact (except in relation to atheism) while educational attainment, social grade, and region had negligible significance as variables. Access options to the article are outlined at:


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

Posted in Attitudes towards Religion, church attendance, News from religious organisations, Official data, Religion and Ethnicity, Religion and Politics, Religion in public debate, Religion in the Press, Religious beliefs, religious festivals, Religious prejudice, Survey news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Counting Religion in Britain, March 2017

Counting Religion in Britain, No. 18, March 2017 features 25 new sources. It can be read in full below. Alternatively, you can download the PDF version: No 18 March 2017


Belief at work

‘British employers struggle to manage expressions of religion and belief in the workplace’, according to the first major piece of thought leadership from the newly-established ComRes Faith Research Centre – ‘Belief at Work: Faith in the Workplace Study, 2017’ by Katie Harrison and Oscar Watkins. It is based upon online interviews in February 2017 with 251 HR managers, managers, and senior HR decision-makers at British companies with more than 50 employees and with 984 paid British workers at lower than director equivalent level, as well as upon more informal evidence-gathering. The research tested levels of awareness and access to provision relating to seven of the protected characteristics in the Equality Act 2010 (including religion or belief). Bullying, harassment, or discrimination in the workplace on the grounds of religion or belief had been observed by 3% of the workers, with the identical number having experienced it themselves or been the recipient of an inappropriate comment about their religion or belief. Religious clothing or iconography was regularly (monthly or more) worn at work by 6% but just 3% often talked about their faith with work colleagues. About one worker in five thought their employer made provision for prayer during working hours or for planning working hours around holy days or religious festivals. The report and two sets of data tables are available at:

Religious symbols in the workplace

Determining a Belgian case involving a receptionist wearing a headscarf to work, the European Court of Justice recently ruled that employers are entitled to ban their employees from ‘visible wearing of any political, philosophical, or religious sign’ in the workplace. A plurality (42%) of the 5,036 Britons questioned by YouGov by means of its mobile app on 14 March 2017 agreed that employers should indeed have the right to be allowed to ban visible religious symbols such as headscarves, reaching a majority among the over-40s and UKIP voters (66% in the latter case). Just over one-third (36%) thought employers should not be allowed to act in this way, including 50% of 18-24s, while 22% were undecided. Results (by standard demographics) are at:

The subject was further explored in another YouGov mobile app poll published on 15 March. This revealed that 16% of adults had worn religious symbols at work, evenly split between those who judged they should be allowed and those who understood why they should not. Asked whether the ban on wearing religious symbols should also apply to children in nurseries and schools, 58% agreed that it should, with 33% opposed and 9% unsure. Topline figures only in this instance are available at:

Religion as conversation topic

A surprisingly large minority (34%) of Britons claim to have had a conversation about religion in the last few weeks, according to a YouGov Daily app-based poll published on 27 March 2017. However, religion was the least talked about of the ten topics on the list, apart from celebrities (18%). The principal subjects of conversation were politics and the weather (82% each). Topline figures are available at:

Islamic terrorism

One-quarter of Britons interviewed by YouGov via mobile app assessed Islamic terrorism as the biggest current threat to the UK. This was the same proportion as were anxious about Brexit negotiations going wrong but less than the 34% who feared the consequences of going through with Brexit. Immigration (19%), a second referendum on Scottish independence (16%), the rise of nationalism across Europe and the West (15%), and Russian meddling in Western politics (12%) were also matters of concern. Topline results only were published on 16 March 2017 at:

Ken Livingstone

On 30 March 2017 the Jewish News published the headline findings of a ComRes poll it had commissioned among an online sample of 2,034 British adults on 24-26 March. The release was timed to coincide with the commencement of a disciplinary hearing against Ken Livingstone, Labour politician and ex-Mayor of London, being conducted by the Labour Party’s National Constitutional Committee. Livingstone’s current difficulties arise from his defence of a Labour MP who had shared a social media post widely perceived as anti-Semitic and from his own subsequent comments which were construed as linking Hitler and Zionism. One-fifth (22%) of respondents thought those comments were anti-Semitic while 28% judged the Labour Party to have a ‘particular problem’ with anti-Semitism, to the extent that 34% said they would think twice before voting for Labour. Just under one-third (29%) favoured Livingstone’s expulsion from the Labour Party. Although fewer (23%) of Labour voters did so, 37% accepted that the party needed to work harder to repair its relationships with the Jewish community. At the time of writing, the full data tables from this poll have not been posted to the ComRes website but the report in the Jewish News is freely available at:


Visitor attractions

Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s Cathedral in London were the most visited ecclesiastical buildings in Britain during 2016, according to the latest survey of members of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions. They recorded, respectively, 1,819,945 and 1,519,018 visits, ranking them fourteenth and nineteenth in the list of 241 attractions. Outside London, Canterbury Cathedral was the most visited ecclesiastical building, in thirty-eighth position with 903,319 visits. The most visited institutions of any type were the British Museum (6,420,395) and the National Gallery (6,262,839). For the full list, and comparative annual statistics back to 2004, go to:

Christian conferences

Women accounted for 36% of the speakers at 22 national Christian conferences in the UK in 2016, the same proportion as in 2015, according to a report from Project 3:28. Only two (The Pursuit and Ichthus Revive) had gender-balanced platforms, with the Keswick Convention having the lowest number of female speakers (13%, seven points less than in 2015). The report, which includes data for all years since 2013 (when the gender audit began), is available at:

Jewish school places

In the Institute for Jewish Policy Research’s latest report, Daniel Staetsky and Jonathan Boyd highlight the widening gap between applications and admissions to the six mainstream Jewish secondary schools in the capital and project future demand for places, based on three alternative scenarios: Will My Child Get a Place? An Assessment of Supply and Demand of Jewish Secondary School Places in London and Surrounding Areas. The report is available at:


Marriages in England and Wales, 2014

The proportion of marriages between opposite-sex couples in England and Wales solemnized in religious ceremonies has fallen again, to 27.5% in 2014 compared with 28.5% in 2013. The figure was lower in England (27.3%) than Wales (31.9%). Hardly any (just 23) same-sex couples married in religious ceremonies in 2014, a mere 0.5% of all same-sex weddings. For further information, including access to a configurable dataset, go to:


Religious nones

The January 2016 edition of Counting Religion in Britain noted Linda Woodhead’s lecture to the British Academy on ‘Why No Religion is the New Religion’, which drew upon the results of YouGov polls she had commissioned revealing that most ‘nones’ are not straightforwardly secular. The text has now been published in print in British Academy Lectures, 2015-16, edited by Janet Carsten and Simon Frith (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017, ISBN: 978-0-19-726604-5, £40, paperback) and online in Journal of the British Academy, Vol. 4, 2016, pp. 245-61. An eprint of the article, which has been retitled ‘The Rise of “No Religion” in Britain: The Emergence of a New Cultural Majority’, is available at:

Losing religion

At a quick glance, Callum Brown’s Becoming Atheist: Humanism and the Secular West (London: Bloomsbury, 2017, x + 231 pp., ISBN: 978-1-4742-2452-9, £21.99, paperback) might easily be dismissed by BRIN users, being neither exclusively about Britain nor particularly statistical, based as it is on qualitative interviews with 85 people of the 1960s generation born in 18 countries. However, it needs to be read as the third and final volume of a trilogy which has taken us on a journey through secularization, starting with a cultural analysis of The Death of Christian Britain in 2001 followed by a quantitative and international account of Religion and the Demographic Revolution in 2012. Becoming Atheist draws on these predecessor volumes and other sources for a certain amount of statistical context as well as providing fascinating insights, by means of the oral testimonies, into the loss of faith in relation to childhood, gender, and ethnicity. The book’s webpage is at:

Losing Anglican activists

Another new book which, in certain respects at least, is complementary to Brown’s is Abby Day’s The Religious Lives of Older Laywomen: The Last Active Anglican Generation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017, xi + 257 pp., ISBN: 978-0-19-873958-6, £50, hardback). It is an ethnographic study of Anglican laywomen from what Day calls Generation A (born in the 1920s and early 1930s), based on interviews and participant observation in the UK and North America (generally written up in the first person), contextualized within discussions of religious gender and generation differences and sociological theory. There are some fascinating insights into the practical and intellectual contributions made to the Church by Generation A, including as ‘pew power’ (contrasting with leading from the front), but perhaps Day has a tendency to exaggerate its uniqueness since there are no directly comparable studies of previous generations, long since dead. Almost by definition, the sub-title’s prediction that this will be ‘the last active Anglican generation’ (indeed, we are told, potentially the final one in mainstream Christianity) was going to be hard to evidence, and Day’s attempts to do so, throughout and in the rather bullish conclusion (where it is anticipated that churches will be increasingly populated by gay men – the new old ladies), are not fully persuasive. Statistically-based actuarial projections, founded in church or sample survey data, might have been equally advantageous. The book’s webpage is at:

Rowan Williams and Sharia law

The row over his speech supposedly acknowledging the inevitability of an accommodation with Sharia law in Britain must have been one of the low points during Rowan Williams’s time as Archbishop of Canterbury. In a methodologically and historically fascinating essay, Peter Webster has used the JISC UK Web Domain Dataset (an extraction from the Internet Archive) to study online reactions to the speech: ‘Religious Discourse in the Archived Web: Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Sharia Law Controversy of 2008’, in The Web as History: Using Web Archives to Understand the Past and the Present, edited by Niels Brügger and Ralph Schroeder (London: UCL Press, 2017, ISBN: 978-1-911307-56-3), pp. 190-203. Webster’s methodology was to analyse the pattern of unique hosts linking to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s official website, the number being 49% higher in 2008 (when the speech was delivered on 7 February) than in 2007 and 42% higher than the mean for 2005-07. Of the hosts linking to the site in 2008, 44% were doing so for the first time, the most significant component of which were blogs. The Web as History is published on an open access basis at:

United Reformed Church

In a revision of his doctoral thesis, Martin Camroux offers an ecumenically-framed account of the formation (in 1972) and subsequent ‘catastrophic implosion’ of the United Reformed Church, of which he is an ordained minister: Ecumenism in Retreat: How the United Reformed Church Failed to Break the Mould (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2016, xi + 238 pp., ISBN: 978-1-4982-3400-9, $30, paperback). He has utilized a wide range of printed primary and secondary sources, including membership and other statistical indicators, and also conducted an impressive number of oral history interviews. The book’s webpage is at:


As an additional – and less familiar – key performance indicator of secularization, Clive Field offers a meta-analysis of over-time quantitative data about private prayer in modern Britain, mostly derived from national cross-sectional sample surveys among adults. Despite the fragmentary nature of the evidence, and its methodological challenges, with consequent variability in results, the direction of travel is clear. Self-reported regular (weekly or more) private prayer has declined from one-half to one-quarter of the population over the past half-century, while the proportion never praying has risen from one-fifth to one-half. There have been parallel falls in belief in prayer and its efficacy. Gender, age, and ethnicity are the main secular attributes impacting prayer behaviour, relatively higher levels of which also correlate with above-average religiosity, belief in God, and churchgoing and with being Roman Catholic or non-Christian. Prayer statistics thus corroborate other indicators which suggest that secularization in Britain has been a progressive, rather than sudden, process. ‘Britain on its Knees: Prayer and the Public since the Second World War’ is published in Social Compass, Vol. 64, No. 1, March 2017, pp. 92-112, and access options are outlined at:

Death and religion

Jonathan Jong, Robert Ross, Tristan Philip, Si-Hua Chang, Naomi Simons, and Jamin Halberstadt have examined ‘The Religious Correlates of Death Anxiety: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis’ for the 2017 online edition of Religion, Brain, and Behaviour. Their sample of 125 international English-language research articles revealed little consensus about the relationship between death anxiety and religiosity with, in general, weak negative correlations between the two. Their paper is freely available at:

Covering similar ground, but in more depth, and reaching similar conclusions is Jonathan Jong and Jamin Halberstadt, Death Anxiety and Religious Belief: An Existential Psychology of Religion (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016, xiv + 233 pp., ISBN: 978-1-4725-7-162-5, £85, hardback). The book’s webpage is at:

Faith schools

Understanding School Segregation in England, 2011 to 2016, prepared by The Challenge, SchoolDash, and the iCoCo Foundation, applies an innovative methodology to the analysis of the latest Department for Education statistics. It finds that, in terms of the ethnicity and socio-economic background of their students, faith schools continue to be more segregated than non-faith schools in the same area, at both primary and secondary levels. Segregation is most pronounced in Roman Catholic and non-Christian faith schools. The report is available at:

Religious education

The Empirical Science of Religious Education, edited by Mandy Robbins and Leslie Francis (London: Routledge, 2016, xxxii + 290 pp., ISBN: 978-1-138-92985-2, £95, hardback) reprints 20 articles originally published in the British Journal of Religious Education between 1996 and 2010 (when Robert Jackson was editor) alongside a new introduction by Robbins and Francis (pp. xviii-xxxii) which briefly traces the history of the discipline in Britain since the 1960s and the contribution of the journal to it, as well as explaining the principles informing the selection of the chapters. A majority of them relate to Britain, including several of quantitative interest, notably the overview by Robbins and Francis (pp. 260-72) of the Teenage Religion and Values Survey in England and Wales, undertaken among 34,000 adolescents in the 1990s. The book’s webpage is at:

Sixth-form values

Longitudinal research among 150 students pursuing a course in Religious Studies (RS) at A Level is reported in Leslie Francis, Andrew Village, and Stephen Parker, ‘Exploring the Trajectory of Personal, Moral, and Spiritual Values of 16- to 18-Year-Old Students Taking Religious Studies at A Level in the UK’, Journal of Beliefs & Values, Vol. 38, No. 1, 2017, pp. 18-31. Although some values were unchanged over the two-year period, attitudes towards sex and relationships had become more liberal, while students had become less convinced that knowledge of more than one religious tradition enhanced their own spirituality, less certain about life after death, and less open to mystical orientation. There were also significant reductions in their frequency of attendance at worship and in their affirmation of having undergone a religious experience. The authors acknowledge the methodological limitations of the research and are cautious about asserting causality between these changes and pursuing a course in RS. Access options to the article are outlined at:

Religiosity and educational attainment

‘Students in Countries with Higher Levels of Religiosity Perform Lower in Science and Mathematics’, according to an article in press by Gijsbert Stoet and David Geary published online in the journal Intelligence. The authors compared educational performance scores for adolescents in mathematics and science (from the Programme for International Student Assessment and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) with self-assessed religiosity scores for adults from the World Values Survey and European Social Survey. Data are reported for 76 countries (including the United Kingdom, ranked thirteenth in terms of non-religiosity) for three time periods: 2000-04, 2005-09, and 2010-15. Possible causes of the negative correlation between religiosity and educational attainment are discussed, although gender does not appear to be a significant factor. Access options to the article are outlined at:

Leeds Beckett University, where Stoet works, has issued a press release about the findings at:

Islamist terrorism

Hannah Stuart’s Islamist Terrorism: Analysis of Offences and Attacks in the UK (1998-2015) (London: Henry Jackson Society, 2017, xxv + 1013 pp., ISBN: 978-1-909035-27-0, £83) is a comprehensive quantitative and descriptive survey of 269 individual Islamist-related offences across 135 distinct terrorism cases. One-third of the offences occurred in 2005-07 and a further 38% in 2011-14. The overwhelming majority (93%) of offences were committed by men while the mean age of offenders was 27 years with a range between 14 and 52. Offences were mostly perpetrated by UK nationals (72%) including 47% born in the UK; 16% were converts to Islam. An extended preview edition of the report, incorporating a full executive summary (pp. viii-xiv) and the statistical section (pp. 918-1010), but omitting the profiles (pp. 1-916), is freely available at:

Historical demography

The historical demography of religion in Britain is a relatively under-researched area, and it is unusual to have a new monograph in this field: Albion Urdank, Birth, Death, and Religious Faith in an English Dissenting Community: A Microhistory of Nailsworth and Hinterland, 1695-1837 (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2016, xvi + 133 pp., ISBN: 978-1-4985-2352-3, £49-95, hardback). The book is described as ‘an outgrowth’ of the author’s previous volume Religion and Society in a Cotswold Vale (1990), which examined the same Gloucestershire community. The new work offers a comparative study of the life events and experiences, notably fertility and mortality, of Anglicans and Particular Baptists based on a family reconstitution exercise, and by means of both qualitative and quantitative (notably path analysis) techniques. The author’s special interest is the extent to which ‘religious values informed procreative activity’. The principal conclusion appears to be that the likelihood of another birth increased following a religious conversion experience. Church historians will not find the book an easy read, and two-fifths of the short main text comprises endnotes and other ancillary matter. The book’s webpage is at:


SN 8139: Smith Commission Survey – Devolution Preferences in Scotland, England, and Wales, 2014

The Smith Commission was established, following the ‘no’ vote in the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence from the UK, to make proposals for further devolution of powers to the Scottish Parliament. Against this background, the School of Social and Political Science at the University of Edinburgh secured funding from the Economic and Social Research Council to investigate attitudes to devolution and broader political issues among samples of electors in Scotland, England, and Wales. Fieldwork was conducted online by ICM between 4 and 18 November 2014, and interviews were achieved with 1,500 adults in Scotland and 1,000 each in England and Wales. The questionnaires were, to a certain extent, customized for each home nation, but all respondents were asked to give their religious affiliation (using a ‘belonging’ form of question) and to state how often they attended ‘religious ceremonies’, useful background variables for analysing the answers for the political topics. A catalogue description for the dataset is available at:

SN 8141: Scottish Crime and Justice Survey, 2014-2015

The Scottish Crime and Justice Survey was established in 1993 and is now commissioned by the Scottish Government. For the 2014-15 study, face-to-face interviews were conducted by TNS BMRB Scotland with 11,472 adults aged 16 and over living in private households in Scotland. A question on religious affiliation was included as part of a module on identity, and this can be used to analyse responses to the other modules on experiences of crime and the criminal justice system, attitudes to the police, harassment, drug use, and partner abuse. A catalogue description for the dataset is available at:

SN 8160: Annual Population Survey, January-December 2016

The Annual Population Survey is compiled from variables present in the Labour Force Survey. It is undertaken by the Office for National Statistics Social Survey Division through a combination of face-to-face and telephone interviews. The 2016 sample comprised a cross-section of 289,176 persons resident in the UK and living in private households or young people living away from the parental home during term-time. This is a sufficiently large total to yield analyses which are robust at unitary or local authority level. Respondents in Britain were asked ‘what is your religion?’ A catalogue description for the dataset is available at:


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

Posted in Attitudes towards Religion, Historical studies, News from religious organisations, Official data, Religion and Politics, Religion in public debate, Religion Online, Religious beliefs, Religious prejudice, Rites of Passage, Survey news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Counting Religion in Britain, February 2017

Counting Religion in Britain, No. 17, February 2017 features 31 new sources. It can be read in full below. Alternatively, you can download the PDF version: No 17 February 2017


Places of worship

The overwhelming majority (87%) of Britons, including 86% of non-Christians and 79% of religious nones, perceive that the UK’s 42,000 churches, chapels, and meeting houses bring important benefits to the country, according to a survey by ComRes on behalf of the National Churches Trust, for which 2,048 adults were interviewed online on 15-18 December 2016. The greatest benefits were seen as their value as places of worship (52%), examples of beautiful architecture (51%), and as an aspect of local identity (42%). A similarly high proportion agreed that churches, chapels, and meeting houses are important as part of the UK’s heritage and history (83%) and as spaces for community activities (80%), with 74% endorsing their future use as community centres. Somewhat fewer (57% on both issues) supported Government financial aid to protect them for future generations or said it would have a negative impact on the community if their local place of worship was to close. Asked whether they had visited a church, chapel, or meeting house during the past year, 57% replied in the affirmative and 43% in the negative, the latter figure peaking in Wales (54%) and among religious nones (61%). Breaking down the purpose of the visit, 37% of the whole sample claimed to have attended a religious service, 16% a non-religious activity, and 24% to have come as a tourist. One-quarter also reported they had made a donation to a church, chapel, or meeting house within the previous twelve months, over-65s (37%), Christians (41%), and visitors to churches (44%) being most likely to have done so. Full data tables are available at:

St Valentine’s Day

St Valentine’s Day, celebrated annually on 14 February, originated as a Western Christian liturgical feast honouring two early saints Valentinus. However, the customary association of the day with courtship seems to be connected with either the pagan festival of Lupercalia or the natural season, rather than with the saints Valentinus. In contemporary times, its religious associations have been all but lost and St Valentine’s Day has become more of a cultural and retail event. One-quarter of 2,051 UK adults interviewed online by YouGov on 10-13 February 2017 said that they hated or disliked St Valentine’s Day, more than the 19% who liked or loved it (peaking at 23% for women and 24% for under-35s), with 53% neutral. Two-fifths felt pressured to do something romantic on St Valentine’s Day, one-half disagreed that it was a beautiful tradition, while 87% judged it too commercial. Asked about their own intentions for the day, 18-24s were the group most likely to be planning something romantic with their partner (42%), double the national average (20%), and also already to have a definite date for the day (16%). Results tables are accessible via the link in the blog post at:

For headline findings from another online poll, by Opinium Research for PwC in January 2017, and focusing on Valentine’s Day spending patterns, see:


YouGov marked Ash Wednesday by asking 6,742 of its panellists on 28 February 2017 whether they were planning to give up, or cut down on, anything during Lent. The overwhelming majority (69%) said they would not be making any Lenten sacrifices, rising to 75% of over-60s and 77% of UKIP voters. Almost one Briton in eight (13%) had not made up their minds, leaving 18% intending to observe Lent in some way, including 21% of women, 23% of Londoners, and 25% of 18-24s. Given a list of eight potential forfeits, the most popular was forsaking or cutting back on certain items of food or drink, selected by 8% of the whole sample. If previous years are anything to go by, the number of Lenten observers will be rather less than aspirations. Poll results can be found at:

National identity

Religion is not a major determinant of national identity in Britain according to the latest release of results from the Spring 2016 wave of the Pew Global Attitudes Project. Asked about the importance of being Christian in order to be truly British, 18% of all adults replied that this was a very important attribute. This was far fewer than made the comparable claim about the dominant religion and national identity in Greece (54%), Poland (34%), the United States (32%), Italy (30%), and Hungary (29%), albeit it was more than in Canada (15%), Australia (13%), Germany (11%), France (10%), Spain (9%), The Netherlands (8%), and Sweden (7%). In Britain the proportion fell to just 7% among the under-35s but rose to 26% for the over-50s. A further 19% of all Britons assessed being Christian as somewhat important for being truly British while 24% rated it as not very important and 38% as not at all important. The total for very or somewhat important was thus 37%, which compared with 98% saying the same about being able to speak English in order to be truly British, 87% about sharing British customs and traditions, and 56% about being born in Britain. Pew’s report and topline data can be found at:

Muslim integration

The majority (54%) of Britons think that most Muslims living in the country want to be distinct from the wider society, according to the latest release of data from the Spring 2016 wave of the Pew Global Attitudes Project. This is a similar number to 2011 (52%) albeit lower than in 2006 (64%) and 2005 (61%) when the question was about Muslims coming to, as opposed to already living in, Britain. It is also comparable with the 2016 statistics for Sweden (50%), France (52%), and The Netherlands (53%), five other European nations recording higher figures: Germany (61%), Italy (61%), Spain (68%), Hungary (76%), and Greece (78%). Of the 12 countries surveyed on this particular topic, only in three did those believing that most Muslims want to be distinct fail to reach a majority, and then not by that much: United States (43%), Poland (45%), and Australia (46%). Just under one-third (31%) of Britons in 2016 acknowledged that most Muslims did want to adopt British customs and way of life, a steady improvement over time since 2005 (19%). The remaining 15% of Britons expressed no clear view on the matter. Topline data are available through the link in the blog post at:

Diversity welcomed in Australia, U.S. despite uncertainty over Muslim integration

‘Muslim’ travel ban (1)

Notwithstanding its almost immediate suspension, following intervention by the US judiciary, President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration of 27 January 2017 continues to divide public opinion, both in his own country and abroad. The order banned for three months travel to the USA by citizens of seven Muslim majority nations, the admission of refugees from Syria, and the admission of any refugees for four months.

In Britain, according to an online YouGov poll of 1,705 adults for The Times on 30-31 January 2017, half the population thought Trump’s immigration policy to be a ‘bad idea’. Especially critical were Liberal Democrats (83%), ‘remainers’ in the 2016 European Union (EU) referendum (78%), Labourites (73%), and 18-24s (69%). Just under one-third (29%) deemed the policy a ‘good idea’, rising to 50% of ‘leavers’ in the EU referendum and 73% of UKIP voters. One-fifth of interviewees did not know what to think.

Not dissimilar results were obtained in another, separately reported, YouGov survey among a much larger sample of 6,926 Britons, also conducted on 30-31 January 2017. This enquired how respondents would feel if Prime Minister Theresa May adopted for the UK a similar policy of barring Syrian refugees, together with temporary bans on other refugees and immigrants from some Muslim countries. One-third (32%) said they would be appalled, 17% disappointed, 13% pleased, and 15% delighted, with 24% neutral or undecided.

Detailed tables for both investigations, whose fieldwork preceded the suspension of the executive order, can be found on the YouGov website at:

‘Muslim’ travel ban (2)

On 7 February 2017, Chatham House released the headline findings of a multinational poll carried out on its behalf by Kantar Public between 12 December 2016 and 11 January 2017, before President Trump’s inauguration and executive order. The fieldwork period coincided with several instances of Islamist terrorism, notably the attack on a Berlin Christmas market on 20 December which claimed the lives of twelve people. Online surveys were conducted with approximately 1,000 adults aged 18 and over in ten European nations.

Respondents were asked whether they agreed with the statement that ‘all further migration from mainly Muslim countries should be stopped’. Majorities in eight of the ten nations investigated agreed with the proposition, the two exceptions being the UK and Spain. In the UK, 47% agreed that migration from mainly Muslim countries should be halted, eight points less than the European average, while 23% disagreed and 30% were neutral. Agreement was highest in Poland (71%), Austria (65%), Hungary (64%), Belgium (64%), and France (61%). Across the continent, endorsement of migration controls peaked among the over-60s whereas under-30s and degree holders were less supportive. Chatham House’s press release about the poll can be found at:

‘Muslim’ travel ban (3)

A ComRes poll for The Independent and Sunday Mirror, undertaken online among 2,021 Britons on 8-10 February 2017, asked whether the UK should follow the US lead and introduce its own ‘travel ban’ on immigrants from Muslim majority countries. Overall agreement with the proposition had by then reduced to 29%, with relatively little variation by demographics, except for a peak of 75% endorsement from UKIP voters. The majority (55%) disagreed with a UK ban, Liberal Democrats (86%) and 18-24s (74%) being especially opposed. One in six (16%) was undecided about the desirability of a UK ban. Comparable results were obtained from an earlier question about whether President Trump had been right to try and halt temporarily immigration to the US from Muslim majority countries, 33% judging he had been, 52% that he had not, and 14% unsure. Detailed data tables are available at:

Muslims and President Trump’s state visit

The debate about President Trump’s attempted Muslim travel ban has become increasingly linked, in the minds of the British public, with his state visit to the UK during 2017, following the invitation extended to him by Prime Minister Theresa May. This has prompted Ipsos MORI, in its latest political monitor (undertaken by telephone interview among 1,044 adults on 10-14 February 2017), to ask whether ‘The Donald’ should do various things in the course of his visit. One of the possible activities suggested by the pollster was for him to visit a London mosque or Muslim community group. A plurality of respondents (47%) thought he should not do that but 44% believed he should, including small majorities of men, persons aged 35-54, the top (AB) social group, Liberal Democrats, and Greater Londoners. The remaining 10% were undecided. Full data tables can be accessed via the link in the news post at:

Islam and British values

A plurality (46%) of the public continues to think there is a fundamental clash between Islam and the values of British society, according to the latest YouGov@Cambridge tracker, for which 2,052 adults were interviewed online on 12-13 February 2017. Over-65s (63%), those who had voted to leave the European Union (EU) in the 2016 referendum (68%), and UKIP supporters (78%) were the groups most likely to hold this opinion. Just one-quarter said that Islam was generally compatible with British values, remain voters in the EU referendum being most optimistic (41%). The residual 29% failed to choose between the two options. Data tables can be found at:

This is the sixteenth occasion over the past two years YouGov@Cambridge has asked this question. All the data can be accessed via the links at:

General opinions of Islam and Muslims

‘Britons continue to hold quite mixed and sometimes contradictory views on Muslims and Islam’, according to an analysis by Nick Lowles of an online poll by YouGov for Hope Not Hate, for which 1,679 adults were interviewed on 16-19 December 2016. On the one hand, 50% of the public think Islam poses a serious threat to Western civilization, rising to 60% of Conservative and 75% of UKIP voters; only 22% of the nation disagree. Moreover, 67% believe that Muslim communities need to respond more strongly to the threat of Islamic extremism. On the other hand, 69% think it wrong to blame an entire religion for the actions of a few extremists, 52% concede that discrimination is a serious problem facing Muslims in Britain, and 40% criticize the media for being too negative towards Muslims. These questions formed part of a broader investigation into ‘the state of the nation’, in which attitudes to immigration and post-Brexit issues loomed large. However, space was also found for a question about trust in groups, revealing that 61% of Britons distrust religious leaders (against just 29% who trust them). Full data tables have yet to be released but the article by Lowles can be found on pp. 12-15 of the January-February 2017 edition of Hope Not Hate at:

Islamic State

A majority (61%) of the British public is either very worried (14%) or fairly worried (47%) that Islamic State (IS) may attempt a terrorist attack in Britain. This is a lower proportion than in France (76%) and Germany (74%), both of which were on the receiving end of deadly IS outrages in 2016. But it is lower than in Scandinavian countries, anxiety about an IS attack standing at 53% in Sweden, 51% in Denmark, 45% in Norway, and 44% in Finland. The results come from the latest six-nation Eurotrack study, undertaken online by YouGov between 19 and 24 January 2017, with 1,569 interviewees in Britain. The topline findings are available via the link in the blog post at:

Fake news

Fake news has received much media coverage recently, prompting Channel 4 to commission YouGov to run an online poll on the subject among 1,684 Britons on 29-30 January 2017. Respondents were given a list of six stories that had genuinely appeared in the media during recent times and asked whether they had previously seen or heard the particular story and if it was true or false.

One of the stories concerned an enforced name change for the Essex villages of High Easter and Good Easter, following complaints that they were offensive. This story emanated from the so-called Southend News Network which had reported in March 2016 that Essex County Council had resolved to require the villages to change their names from the beginning of 2017, in order to avoid falling foul of European Union guidance that the inclusion of a specifically religious term in a place name might offend people of other faiths or none. Despite being widely believed on the internet, this story was entirely fabricated, and Southend News Network is actually an avowedly spoof website.

Although just 2% of the YouGov sample had previously seen this particular story, as many as 22% thought that it was definitely or probably true, rising to 34% of under-25s and 31% of Snapchat users. A slight majority (51%) correctly recognized the story as fake news and 26% could not make up their minds whether it was true or not. Full data tables are available at:

Generation Z

Insights into the values and attitudes of young people aged 15-21 have been gained from a global citizenship survey undertaken by Populus on behalf of the Varkey Foundation, a not-for-profit organization committed to improving standards of education for underprivileged children throughout the world. Online interviews were conducted with randomly drawn samples of young adults in 20 nations between 19 September and 26 October 2016, including 1,031 in the UK. The other countries were: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Nigeria, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, and the United States.

Several questions probed the importance and influence of faith, revealing that, relative to the global mean, religion is accorded lower significance by young people in the UK. Just 4% in the UK agreed with a battery of four statements about the personal saliency of faith and only 3% concurred that a greater role for religion in society would make the greatest difference in uniting people. No more than one-quarter regarded their faith as contributing to their overall happiness. A majority (58%) endorsed the right to non-violent free speech even if it was offensive to a religion. Full data tables are not yet available, but a variety of research outputs can be downloaded from the sponsor’s website at:


The Church and LGB mental health

The Church’s typically negative stance to same-sex relationships has had a ‘hugely distressing impact’ on large numbers of lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) people, according to the latest report from the Oasis Foundation: Steve Chalke, Ian Sansbury, and Gareth Streeter, In the Name of Love: The Church, Exclusion, and LGB Mental Health Issues. This negativity is viewed by the authors as a significant contributory factor to the greater prevalence of poor mental health among LGB individuals than for heterosexuals. In support of their claim, brief reference is made to British Social Attitudes Survey and YouGov data concerning views about same-sex relationships among religious populations. It is also noted that: 74% of signatories on the website of the Coalition for Marriage, which opposed the legalization of same-sex marriage (SSM), are identifiable Christians; 54% of the MPs who voted against SSM self-identified as Christian; and 91% of negative comments in a sample of national media articles about SSM were made by Christians. The 16-page report can be found at:

Women and the Church

The Church of England still has ‘a significant way to travel before women have any degree of equality’, with a continuing ‘high disparity between the opportunity and prospects of male and female clergy’. This is according to WATCH (Women and the Church), which has just published A Report on the Developments in Women’s Ministry in 2016. Data are presented on the gender balance at various levels of ordained and lay ministry for 2015 and immediately preceding years. WATCH highlights the fact that, although the number of men and women being ordained is now roughly equal, a significantly higher and increasing proportion of men are ordained to stipendiary posts, with around half ordained females receiving no financial support from the Church for their ministry. Only 27% of women clergy are currently vicars or in more senior roles. The report is available through the link in the press release at:

Living ministry research

On 31 January 2017, the Church of England launched its ‘Living Ministry’ research project, exploring the factors which help clergy flourish in their ministry with a particular focus on wellbeing and outcomes (effectiveness). It will be a longitudinal panel study, tracking (by means of an online survey every two years over an initial ten-year period) the progress of four cohorts, those ordained as deacons in 2006, 2011, and 2015 and ordinands who started training in 2016. These cohorts comprise 1,600 individuals. The foundation survey runs until 7 March 2017. Qualitative research will also be undertaken. Further information is available at:

‘Living Ministry’ builds upon the ‘Experiences of Ministry’ project which surveyed a representative sample of Church of England clergy in 2011, 2013, and 2015. It was undertaken in collaboration with the Department of Management, King’s College London and is due to wind up in 2017. Further information is available at:

Anti-Semitic incidents

There was a ‘record’ number (1,309) of anti-Semitic incidents in the UK in 2016, 36% more than in 2015, according to the latest annual report of the Community Security Trust (CST). The incidents were spread relatively uniformly throughout 2016 with more than 100 each month between May and December. The CST is currently recording, on average, more than double the number of monthly incidents it did four years ago. Over three-quarters of the incidents took place in Greater London and Greater Manchester, areas with the country’s two largest Jewish communities. Abusive behaviour (mostly verbal) accounted for 77% of incidents, but there were also 107 violent assaults, 100 cases of threat, and 81 instances of damage and desecration to Jewish property. No single trigger event explained the rise in incidents, as had happened in 2009 and 2014; rather, the CST cited ‘the cumulative effect of a series of relatively lengthy events and factors’, including ‘high profile allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party’ and ‘a perceived climate of increased racism and xenophobia . . . following the EU referendum’. In addition to the 1,309 logged incidents, the CST received 791 notifications of potential incidents which, upon investigation, did not evidence anti-Semitic motivation, targeting, or content. On the basis of survey data, the CST believes there is a likely significant under-reporting of anti-Semitic incidents to both itself and the police. The 36-page Antisemitic Incidents Report, 2016 is available at:

In his ‘The View from the Data’ column in the Jewish Chronicle for 17 February 2017 (p. 37), Jonathan Boyd of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research cautioned against labelling the 2016 anti-Semitic incidents statistics as ‘the worst year on record’ (as the newspaper’s own headline had claimed). He identified several ‘interfering factors’ which inhibited use of the CST’s reporting back to 1983 as a true time series. For instance, the CST figures now include incidents reported to both the police and CST, whereas prior to 2011 they incorporated notifications to the CST alone. The column is at:

Jewish learning disabilities

The latest report from the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR), commissioned by Langdon, estimates that 7.4% of the UK Jewish population have some kind of learning disability, affecting 9.6% of Jewish males and 5.1% of females. The extent of learning disability varies greatly, from severe at one end of the spectrum (7% of cases) to light at the other (54%). Detailed figures for each region are contained in an appendix, differentiating by gender, age, and, where applicable, between mainstream and strictly orthodox Jews. The estimates are derived from multiple sources, both British and international, including JPR’s 2013 National Jewish Community Survey and the 2011 Scottish census of population (the corresponding census in England and Wales did not collect data about learning disabilities). Daniel Staetsky’s 27-page Learning Disabilities: Understanding Their Prevalence in the British Jewish Community is available at:


Census of population

Roger Hutchinson offers a vivid and readable census-based self-portrait of the British Isles in his The Butcher, The Baker, The Candlestick-Maker: The Story of Britain through its Census since 1801 (London: Little, Brown, 2017, 352pp., ISBN 9781408707012, £20, hardback). It traces the often contested development of the official decennial population census from 1801 to 2011 while simultaneously providing a wealth of human illustrative detail. There are some references – necessarily insubstantial in such a generalist work – to the religious dimension of the census. This was only realized in Britain itself (Ireland and the British Empire and Commonwealth followed a different path) through enumerations of religious accommodation and worship in 1851 and of religious profession in 2001 and 2011 (albeit religion questions were also proposed and hotly debated for several other years). The book’s webpage is at:

1851 religious census

Of mainly local interest is John Crummett’s Mothering Sunday, 30th March 1851: A Window into Church-Going in Northern Derbyshire (New Mills Local History Society, Occasional Publications, 95, New Mills: the Society, 2016, [4] + ii + 35pp., £2). The author explains the ecclesiastical background to the government religious census and reproduces the results for the Hayfield and Glossop sub-districts. He also highlights the criticisms of the census made by two local Anglican clergymen, John Rigg and Samuel Wasse, and provides biographical information about them in one of the appendices. The pamphlet can be ordered from the publisher at:

Youth social action

Research has sometimes found a positive correlation between social capital and religious faith. However, the latest National Youth Social Action Survey, 2016, written up by Julia Pye and Olivia Michelmore, reports that participation in meaningful social action during the preceding year is now actually higher among youngsters aged 10-20 without religion than for those with faith. The difference was not huge, 44% versus 41%, but was statistically significant compared with 2014, when the reverse applied. Places of worship were relatively unimportant locations for the involvement of youngsters in social action. The study was undertaken by Ipsos MORI, on behalf of the Office for Civil Society (part of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport) and Step Up to Serve, by means of 2,082 face-to-face interviews throughout the UK on 2-16 September 2016. The report is available at:


Secularization in the ‘long’ 1960s

In the ongoing debate about secularization, historians and sociologists are increasingly turning their attention to changes in the religious landscape during the ‘long’ 1960s, in Britain and elsewhere in the West. A heavily statistical spotlight on this period is now shone in Clive Field’s Secularization in the Long 1960s: Numerating Religion in Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017, xvii + 269pp., including 61 tables, ISBN: 978-0-19-879947-4, £65, hardback). In most cases, to permit sufficient contextualization, data are presented for the years 1955-80, with particular attention to the methodological and other challenges posed by each source type.

Following an introductory chapter, which reviews the historiography, introduces the sources, and defines the chronological and other parameters, evidence is provided for all major facets of religious belonging, behaving, and believing, as well as for institutional church measures. The work particularly engages with, and largely refutes, Callum Brown’s influential assertion that Britain experienced ‘revolutionary’ secularization in the 1960s, which was highly gendered in nature, and with 1963 the major tipping-point. Instead, a more nuanced picture emerges with some religious indicators in crisis, others continuing on an existing downward trajectory, and yet others remaining stable. Building on previous research by the author and other scholars, and rejecting recent proponents of counter-secularization, the long 1960s are ultimately located within a longstanding gradualist, and still ongoing, process of secularization in Britain. The book’s webpage is at:

Church of England and the people

One of the more controversial religious books of 2016, and (indeed) of recent years, was That Was the Church that Was, by journalist Andrew Brown and sociologist of religion Linda Woodhead, a lively and mainly damning account of developments in the Church of England between 1986 and 2016. The authors argued that, during these decades, the Church became progressively more inward-looking, more obsessed with ‘managerial voodoo’, evolving from a societal into a congregational church, disappearing from the centre of public life, and becoming alienated from (and unaccountable to) its host community. In presenting this thesis, Brown and Woodhead made relatively little use of numerical data. Their claims that the Church of England has ‘lost’ the English people since 1986 have now been examined through religious statistics in Clive Field, ‘Has the Church of England Lost the English People? Some Quantitative Tests’, Theology, Vol. 120, No. 2, March-April 2017, pp. 83-92. Both attachment and attitudinal indicators are reviewed, the former showing the decline of the Church has been long-term, the latter that division between Church and nation is not always clear-cut. Access options to the article are outlined at:

Homosexuality and the Church of England

‘Half of Anglicans believe there is nothing wrong with same-sex relationships’, NatCen Social Research proclaimed on the very day (15 February 2017) that the Church of England General Synod was due to debate a report reaffirming the traditional Christian view of marriage as between a man and a woman. The NatCen press release and associated data tables were based upon secondary analysis of various waves of British Social Attitudes Surveys. In 2014, 47% of professing Anglicans said they agreed with same-sex marriage with just 26% disagreeing. In 2015, 50% of Anglicans described same-sex relationships in general as not wrong at all (three times the number who had said so in 1983), while 27% regarded them as always or mostly wrong; these figures were not that much different than for the electorate as a whole (59% and 22%, respectively). Many of these Anglicans would have been very nominal in their allegiance, and attitudes would doubtless have been less liberal among churchgoers. Affiliates of non-Christian faiths were found to be least supportive of same-sex relationships and religious nones the most. The press release is at:

Meanwhile, one of YouGov’s app-based polls reported on 17 February 2017 that, among recent news stories, 39% of Britons had been interested to hear there were to be ‘no gay marriages in CofE churches’. However, the topic did not generate quite so much interest as North Korea (62%), Donald Trump (55%), and House of Commons Speaker John Bercow (44%). The poll is posted at:

Young nones

In a 17-page article in the online first edition of Journal of Youth Studies, Nicola Madge and Peter Hemming report on ‘Young British Religious “Nones”: Findings from the Youth on Religion Study’.  This project principally involved online interviews in 2010 with 10,376 13- to 18-year-olds attending secondary schools in three multi-faith locations (Hillingdon and Newham in London and Bradford in Yorkshire), of whom one-fifth self-described as non-religious. As with other investigations into ‘nones’, their lack of homogeneity was the most striking feature of the research. A wide range of religious identities was in evidence, with different levels of religiosity and considerable fluidity in belief and behaviour, over time and according to setting. In particular, being non-religious did not necessarily imply that religion played no part in these young lives. Science and then family were recorded as the two greatest influences in the formation of their religious views. The article is available on an open access basis at:

The authors have also contributed a summary of the research in a recent post on the Religion and the Public Sphere blog at:

Non-religious young people in Britain possess a range of different identities

Financing early Methodism

Ecclesiastical finance is a significantly neglected area of research, albeit a vital one since it is clearly essential to understand the means by which churches and other religious bodies sustained themselves in economic terms. Especially welcome, therefore, is Clive Murray Norris, The Financing of John Wesley’s Methodism, c. 1740-1800 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017, 336pp., ISBN 978-0-19-879641-1, £65, hardback). In ten chapters, resting upon an extensive range of archival and other primary sources (described on pp. 9-11), Morris demonstrates the often innovative ways in which the nascent Methodist movement financed itself at every level, from the local society to the connexion, and in every sphere of operation, including the preaching ministry, the acquisition of chapels, its publishing enterprise, its educational and welfare work, and its overseas missionary endeavours. There are also some references to comparative developments in the Church of England, Calvinistic Methodism, and Dissent. The book’s webpage is at:


SN 7787: Twenty-First Century Evangelicals, 2010-2016

This is not a new dataset as such but the fourth edition of a dataset originally deposited with UKDS in November 2015, adding data for the most recent surveys among this self-selecting panel of professed UK evangelicals. The latest study (the 24th in the series) was conducted by the Evangelical Alliance in September 2016 on the subject of religions, belief, and unbelief; it elicited 1,562 responses. A catalogue description for this resource, with links to a raft of documentation, is available at:

The Twenty-First Century Evangelicals project was the responsibility of Greg Smith between 2011 and 2016. He has recently retired from his post of research manager at the Evangelical Alliance and has indicated that ‘it is unlikely that any further materials will now be added’ to the dataset.

SN 8119: Wellcome Science Education Tracker, 2016

The Science Education Tracker (SET), building upon previous Wellcome Monitor Surveys, is designed to provide evidence on a range of key indicators for science engagement, education, and career aspirations among young people aged 14-18 in England. The 2016 sample comprised 4,081 students in school years 10-13 attending state-funded schools. Fieldwork was conducted, through online self-completion, by Kantar Public between 29 June and 31 August, on behalf of the Wellcome Trust and supported by the Royal Society, the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy, and the Department for Education. The questionnaire included three background variables on religion: religious affiliation (with no denominational differentiation within Christianity); attendance at religious services other than for rites of passage; and opinions about the origin and development of life on earth (creationism versus evolution). A catalogue description of the dataset is available at:

SN 8140: Crime Survey for England and Wales, 2015-2016

The Crime Survey for England and Wales (formerly the British Crime Survey) is a face-to-face victimization survey in which people resident in households in England and Wales are asked about their experiences of a range of crimes during the 12 months prior to interview as well as about their attitudes to different crime-related issues. The series began in 1982. The 2015-16 survey was conducted by TNS BMRB for the Home Office, Ministry of Justice, and Office for National Statistics and achieved 35,248 interviews with adults. In addition to investigating the incidence of religiously-motivated hate crime, respondents were asked to give their religious affiliation, which can obviously function as a background variable for analysing replies to any other part of the questionnaire. A catalogue description of the dataset is available at:

SN 8144: Scottish Surveys Core Questions, 2015

Scottish Surveys Core Questions combines into a single dataset the answers to identical questions asked of an aggregate 21,183 respondents in the annual Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (2014-15), the Scottish Health Survey (2015), and the Scottish Household Survey (2015), all undertaken on behalf of the Scottish Government. Religious affiliation is one of the 19 core questions. A catalogue description of the dataset is available at:


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


Posted in Attitudes towards Religion, Historical studies, Ministry studies, News from religious organisations, Religion and Ethnicity, Religion and Politics, Religion and Social Capital, Religion in public debate, Religious beliefs, Religious Census, religious festivals, Religious prejudice, Survey news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Counting Religion in Britain, January 2017

Counting Religion in Britain, No. 16, January 2017 features 22 new sources. It can be read in full below. Alternatively, you can download the PDF version: No 16 January 2017


Faith Research Centre

The major polling news of the month was the official launch by ComRes, in London on 24 January 2017, of its Faith Research Centre, directed by Katie Harrison and claimed to be ‘the UK’s first dedicated commercial capability with specific expertise in researching religion and belief’.  The Centre’s vision is ‘to help improve the quality of knowledge . . . by providing robust and impartial evidence of current religious identity, belief, practice, and behaviour’. It aims to do so by offering thought leadership programmes and research and consultancy services on faith issues, domestically and across Europe. Two major projects have already been announced: a series of National Faith Surveys, on a five-year rotational basis, in the UK and four other European countries; and Faith in the Workplace, a set of tools and services to help employers. The Centre’s webpage is at:


As a trailer for the launch of the Centre, ComRes conducted an online survey into the religious attitudes of 2,048 adult Britons on 4-5 January 2017, the data tables for which can be found at:

General Public Research – Religion of Britain January 2017

Respondents were initially asked to assess whether Britain was still a Christian country, a concept which has been to the fore in debates about ‘British values’ during recent years. A slight majority (55%) replied in the affirmative, a big reduction on the 80% found in 1968 and 71% in 1989 but broadly in line with other post-Millennium polling. The proportion judging Britain a Christian country varied widely with age, ranging from 31% of 18-24s to 74% of over-65s. It was also high among professing Christians (72%). Just over one-quarter (28%) considered Britain to be a country without any specific religious identity, and this was especially true of 18-24s (41%), religious nones (37%), and non-Christians (36%). The remaining 17% of the whole sample gave another answer or did not know what to think.

Interviewees were then presented with six pairs of statements and asked to select the one from each pair which best represented their own position. Four of the statements concerned understanding of religion(s), with pluralities saying that a good understanding of religion(s) was important for politicians and policy makers in the UK (47%); for tackling global terrorism (44%); and for understanding the world itself (47%). A further question asked about self-understanding of religion(s) in the UK, rated as good by 43% and not so by 41%. However, similar numbers were scathing in their own assessment of religion(s), which 45% regarded as generally a cause of wars and violence and 44% as doing more harm than good. Somewhat remarkably, nones were no more critical than the rest of society, the assenting figure being 45% for each statement.


One-third (32%) of Britons claim to believe in angels, and the same number feel they have a guardian angel watching over them, according to a poll commissioned by the Bible Society and conducted online by ICM Unlimited with 2,037 respondents on 17-18 August 2016. This was a similar proportion to 2010 (31% then believing in angels and 29% in guardian angels). In the 2016 survey, women (39%) were more likely to believe in angels than men (26%) and also to have seen or heard an angel (11% and 8%, respectively). Belief in angels otherwise peaked among over-75s and residents of the South-East (both 39%) and the lowest (DE) social group (41%). Data tables are unpublished but a few results were reported in a Bible Society press release of 13 December 2016 at:

Islamist terrorism

Islamist terrorism is the major external preoccupation of Britons for 2017, 62% of them telling YouGov in an app-based poll on 2 January that the threat posed by it was most on their mind as an expectation for the year. This was closely followed by the negative effects of the presidency of Donald Trump (59%). Economic disruption as a consequence of Brexit was in third place, at 48%. Just 21% were confident that 2017 would see significant progress in defeating Islamic State. Topline results only can be found at:

Banning the burka

International debate about the wearing in public of certain forms of ‘Islamic’ female dress has been raging for a decade or more now and legal bans have already been imposed in certain countries, albeit not (yet) in Britain. Here the appearance of burkinis on holiday beaches was a matter of contention last summer but attention has now reverted back to the wearing of burkas and niqabs. According to an online YouGov poll of 1,609 Britons on 15-16 December 2016, 50% of the adult population would like to see a law passed against the use of full body and face coverings, backing for such a measure being especially strong among over-65s (72%), UKIP supporters (74%), and those who voted for the UK to leave the European Union (EU) in the 2016 referendum (70%). The national figure in favour of a ban is lower than in Germany (69%, seven points more than five months ago) but higher than in the United States (25%), a majority (60%) in the latter country agreeing that people should be allowed to wear what they want, a position taken by just 38% of Britons (but by half of 18-24s, Labour and Liberal Democrat voters and 57% of ‘remainers’ in the EU referendum). The full data table is accessible via the link in the blog at:

‘Muslim’ travel ban

President Donald Trump’s executive order banning citizens of seven Muslim majority nations from entering the United States for 90 days has caused a storm of protest, both in his own country and around the world, including in the UK. Sky Data seems to have been the first organization to test British public opinion on the matter, on behalf of Sky News, among a sample of 1,091 Sky customers contacted via SMS on 30 January 2017. This was obviously a niche – and potentially unrepresentative – audience, even though results were weighted to the profile of the population as a whole. Asked whether they would support a similar ‘Muslim’ travel ban in the UK, 34% of respondents said that they would, rising to 40% of over-55s and 44% of residents in the Midlands and Wales. A plurality, 49%, was opposed to a Trump-style policy being adopted in the UK, with hostility greatest among the under-35s (71%) and Londoners (76%), while 18% expressed no clear view. There was also a plurality, again of 49%, in favour of cancelling the proposed state visit to the UK by President Trump later in the year, with 38% wanting it to go ahead and 12% undecided. The data tables can be found at:

Corruption of religious leaders

UK findings from Transparency International’s Global Corruption Barometer, 2015/16 have recently been released, based upon telephone interviews by Efficience3 with 1,004 adults between 15 December 2015 and 28 January 2016. One of the questions concerned the perceived corruption of national leaders and institutions, including religious leaders. Among UK respondents, 6% assessed all religious leaders corrupt, 8% most of them, 52% some of them, and 27% none of them, with 8% unable to say. The proportion (14%) claiming that most or all religious leaders were corrupt was lower than in many other European and central Asian countries, the regional average being 17% and the range from 2% in Estonia to 39% in Moldova. Within the UK, five groups were seen as being more corrupt than religious leaders, most or all of local government representatives (19%), business executives (21%), government officials (25%), members of the Prime Minister’s office (27%), and MPs (28%). However, religious leaders were seen as more corrupt than judges and magistrates (9%), police (11%), and tax officials (12%). Topline data are available by clicking on the download link at the bottom of the press release at:


Britons are a sceptical lot when it comes to believing the predictions of so-called ‘experts’, according to a YouGov poll of 1,943 adults on 7 January 2017. Weather forecasters (29%) and astronomers (27%) are deemed the most credible, some way ahead of economists (19%). Astrologers have one of the poorest ratings, their predictions trusted by no more than 6% of the population overall, albeit they hold special appeal to 18-24-year-olds (12%) and UKIP voters (10%). Pollsters scored just 1%. Results disaggregated by standard demographics are available at:

Psychic powers

Prompted by recent CIA revelations about scientific tests which apparently ‘proved’ that the Israeli psychic Uri Geller really did have special powers, YouGov asked the 4,645 respondents to an app-based poll on 20 January 2017 whether they believed that some people possess psychic powers. Just over one-quarter (27%) did so, women (36%), Scottish Nationalists (36%), and UKIP voters (40%) being especially convinced. A slim majority (51%) disavowed the existence of psychic powers, men (62%) and 18-24s (66%) being most sceptical. The remaining 22% were undecided. Data have been posted at:


The occurrence of Friday the 13th in the month occasioned at least a couple of polls about triskaidekaphobia and superstition more generally, neither sufficiently reported to enable their credentials to be established, although there was some print and online media coverage (from which this brief account has been compiled). One survey was conducted by the property website Zoopla among 2,839 homeowners, ascertaining that 43% acknowledged being superstitious and 46% having a lucky number (seven being the most popular); 30% also said they would be less likely to buy a property with thirteen in the address and 23% that they would be unwilling to exchange, complete, or even move into a home on Friday the 13th. The other study was undertaken by the hotel chain Travelodge, 74% of its 2,500 respondents reporting they had suffered bad luck on a previous Friday the 13th and 68% they would be making some kind of gesture on the day in order to bring them good luck; 50% expressed belief in the power of lucky numbers and 40% owned up to being superstitious. An associated survey of Travelodge’s 532 UK hotel managers revealed that room 13 was the one customers wished to avoid most, with room 101 and room 666 the second and third least requested; room 7 is the room most in demand.

Holocaust and genocide

More than a quarter (27%) of survivors of the Holocaust and later genocides who live in the UK have experienced discrimination or abuse in this country linked to their religion or ethnicity, according to a survey released by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT), marking Holocaust Memorial Day (27 January 2017). This is despite the fact that 72% of survivors said they felt very or fairly welcome when they arrived in the UK. The majority (52%) waited more than twenty years after their arrival before they began to talk about their experiences. Relatives of these survivors are even more likely (38%) to report being victims of faith- or race-based hatred in the UK. The poll was conducted online by YouGov among 208 survivors of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides and 173 of their family members. HMDT’s press release can be found at:


Faith-based charities

New Philanthropy Capital published the final report from its programme of research into faith-based charities on 29 November 2016: Rachel Wharton and Lucy de Las Casas, What a Difference a Faith Makes: Insights on Faith-Based Charities. It draws together the key findings from interim publications and blogs, including an analysis of the statistical importance of faith-based organizations to the charity sector in England and Wales, previously featured by British Religion in Numbers. One-fourth of charities registered with the Charity Commission were found to be faith-based of which two-thirds are Christian. An in-depth survey of 134 faith-based charities was also undertaken. The 33-page report further discusses the main themes which have emerged from the research and makes sundry recommendations. It is available at:

What a difference a faith makes

Evangelical opinions

The Evangelical Alliance (EA) has recently released headline findings from two surveys conducted among its online research panel of evangelical Christians. It should be noted that these were self-selecting (opportunity) samples and may not be representative of the evangelical constituency, still less of churchgoers as a whole.

The first survey was completed by 811 evangelicals between 28 November and 5 December 2016 and was press-released by the EA on 16 December. It concerned attitudes to Christmas, the key messages being that the overwhelming majority of evangelicals, 89% and 99% respectively, intended (a) to volunteer or give money to charitable causes at Christmas and (b) to sing carols or attend a Christmas service. Further information is available at:

The second survey was answered by 1,562 evangelicals and published on 23 December 2016 in the January/February 2017 edition of Idea magazine; dates of fieldwork were not given. The subject matter was belief and unbelief with particular reference to: sharing the gospel with people of other faiths; religious freedom in the UK; secularism; and religious illiteracy in the public square. On the last-named topic, 94% of evangelicals criticized the media and 88% politicians for their lack of understanding of religion. The article is available at:

Faith journeys

What Helps Disciples Grow? is the final report by Simon Foster on a 2014-15 research project for the Saint Peter’s Saltley Trust, a Christian educational charity covering the West Midlands. It is based upon responses to a paper questionnaire completed during services by 1,191 churchgoers in the region drawn from 30 places of worship of different denominations. To what extent this constituted a representative sample is unclear. Respondents were asked how they viewed their own calling, growth, and spirituality and what had helped or hindered their Christian journey over the years. Analysis of the data in partnership with Leslie Francis and David Lankshear suggested that there were four distinct paths of discipleship: group activity, individual experience, public engagement, and church worship. The report, tables (with breaks by gender and age), and questionnaire can be downloaded from:

What Helps Christian Disciples Grow?

Christians against Poverty

Debt-counselling charity Christians against Poverty (CAP) has highlighted the lasting impact of its work, based on the experiences of 214 of its clients surveyed at least twelve months after becoming debt free with CAP’s help, in The Freedom Report: The Importance of Debt Advice in Building Financial Capability and Resilience to Stay Free of Problem Debt. The vast majority of clients (93%) remained free of unmanageable debt, 85% felt in control of their finances, 74% no longer used credit, 62% had passed on to others skills learned through CAP, and 46% even had savings. The 34-page report is available at:

Surveying Sikhs

Jagbir Jhutti-Johal considers methodological issues raised in surveying the Sikh community, with reference to the UK Sikh Survey (2016), in her Religion and the Public Sphere blog at:

Research on the Sikh community in the UK is essential to better inform policy, but surveys must be improved

Aliyah statistics

In its latest report, written by Daniel Staetsky, the Institute for Jewish Policy Research asked Are Jews Leaving Europe? It focused on migration to Israel from six countries – Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, and the UK – which collectively account for 70% of Europe’s Jewish population. Since the Millennium, migration to Israel from the UK, Germany, and Sweden was found to be at a ‘business as usual’ volume whereas in the other three nations, notably in France and Italy, there has been a steep rise in very recent years, to reach historically unprecedented levels. Staetsky deployed statistical modelling in an attempt to identify potential factors which might be driving this pattern, with particular reference to France and the UK, albeit an explicit link to the extent of anti-Semitism could not be proved. Data sources are fully explained in an appendix (pp. 23-6). The report is available at:


British Social Attitudes Surveys

In his latest research note for British Religion in Numbers, Ben Clements presents trend data from British Social Attitudes Surveys to 2015 in respect of current religious affiliation, religion of upbringing, and attendance at religious services. See:

Religion and the British Social Attitudes 2015 Survey

Materiality and religion

Material culture has emerged in recent years as a significant theme in the study of religion, and a specialist journal (Material Religion) has been published since 2005. The three phases of materiality – production, classification, and circulation/use – are further illustrated in Materiality and the Study of Religion: The Stuff of the Sacred, edited by Tim Hutchings and Joanne McKenzie (London: Routledge, 2017, x + 245pp,, ISBN 978-1-4724-7783-5, £95.00, hardback). Its thirteen chapters, with introduction and afterword, offer fresh empirical research and theoretical insights, disproportionately drawn from Britain. Reflecting the nature of the subject, these contributions are of a mainly qualitative bent, the exception being Elisabeth Arweck, ‘Religion Materialised in the Everyday: Young People’s Attitudes towards Material Expressions of Religion’ (pp. 185-202). This draws upon data from the 2011-12 ‘Young People’s Attitudes to Religious Diversity’ project, demonstrating a considerable awareness by young people of the cultural factors at work shaping the everyday deployment, circulation, and reception of religious symbols, clothing, and dietary observances. The book’s webpage is at:

Psychology and religion

Vol. 29, No. 2, 2016 of Journal of Empirical Theology is a theme issue on psychology and religion, guest-edited by Emyr Williams and Mandy Robbins. Two of the six articles are of particular British religious statistical interest, although their findings are not entirely conclusive. The more substantial, in terms of its evidence base, is Andrew Village, ‘Biblical Conservatism and Psychological Type’ (pp. 137-59), a correlation explored through responses given by 3,243 self-selecting readers of the Church Times in 2013, 1,269 of them clergy and 1,974 laity. Meanwhile, in ‘The Relationship between Paranormal Belief and the HEXACO Domains of Personality’ (pp. 212-38), Emyr Williams and Ben Roberts illustrate the effects of introducing honesty/humility as an additional (sixth) measure of personality when appraising belief in the paranormal among a preponderantly female sample of 137 undergraduate students in Wales. Access options to these articles are outlined at:

Church of England liturgies

The words used in Anglican worship have become more accessible over time but there is still scope for making them more so, argues Geoff Bayliss (Rector of Cowley, Oxford), who has appraised the readability of Church of England liturgies by testing them statistically against three standard readability formulae, covering ministry of the word, ministry of the Eucharist, and occasional offices. His summative evaluation is that currently 43% of adults living in England would find 50% of the Church’s liturgical texts difficult to read. Only 34% of these texts fall into the National Literacy Strategy’s Entry Level or Level 1 groupings while 64% are categorized as Level 2, characterized by longer sentences, unfamiliar vocabulary, and a high occurrence of polysyllabic words. Nor is it the case that linguistic complexity is the function of older liturgies such as the Book of Common Prayer; modern versions also exhibit readability problems. Although Bayliss concedes that use of a small core of challenging words may be hard to avoid, he feels many others could be couched in forms which would enhance their readability. The full results of the research are presented in his doctoral thesis, ‘Assessing the Accessibility of the Liturgical Texts of the Church of England: Using Readability Formulae’ (University of Wales DMin, 2016, 314pp.), which can be downloaded from:

An introduction to his findings can be found in his article ‘Speaking More in the Language of the People’ in the Church Times, 23/30 December 2016, p. 16, which is available at:


Rather belatedly, we should note the publication of a special theme issue of Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies (Vol. 42, No. 2, 2016, pp. 177-340) devoted to the EURISLAM Project, funded between 2009 and 2012 by the European Commission under the Seventh Framework Programme. EURISLAM was undertaken by a consortium of six European universities, coordinated by the University of Amsterdam, and with the University of Bristol as the British member. The research took place in Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Switzerland, and The Netherlands, utilizing a combination of media content analysis, telephone interviews, and interviews with representatives of Muslim organizations. In each of the six countries, telephone interviews were conducted with onomastically recruited samples of Muslims of Moroccan, Turkish, former Yugoslavian, and Pakistani descent (798 of them in Britain) and also with a cross-section of the national majority population (387 persons in Britain). The questionnaire explored cultural interactions between Muslim immigrants and receiving societies. The theme issue, The Socio-Cultural Integration of Muslims in Western Europe: Comparative Perspectives, contains nine articles, and is available on a subscriber or pay-per view basis at:

There is also much more information about EURISLAM, including further bibliographic references, many results, and a link to the dataset, on the project website at:

Yearbook of International Religious Demography

The latest global attempt to number religious adherents is Yearbook of International Religious Demography, 2016, edited by Brian Grim, Todd Johnson, Vegard Skrbekk, and Gina Zurlo (Leiden: Brill, 2016, xxiv + 231pp., ISBN 978-9-0043-2173-1, €85, paperback). It draws upon a wide range of sources (described in part 3, pp. 167-78), many of them archived in Brill’s World Religion Database, albeit the 2011 census is the principal source of UK data. Country-by-country totals for each major faith group are tabulated in an appendix (pp. 197-225), with extensive statistical analyses in part 1 (pp. 1-93). From this we learn that, in absolute terms, the UK has the third largest population of Sikhs in the world, the fourth of Jains, the fifth of Zoroastrians, the sixth of Jews and agnostics, and the ninth of non-religionists. Part 2 of the volume comprises seven case studies and methodological essays, none specifically relating to the UK. The book’s webpage is at:


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


Posted in Attitudes towards Religion, church attendance, Measuring religion, News from religious organisations, Religion and Politics, Religion and Social Capital, Religion in public debate, Religious beliefs, religious festivals, Religious prejudice, Survey news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Religion and the British Social Attitudes 2015 Survey

The British Social Attitudes (BSA) 2015 survey dataset was released recently and this post provides a brief analysis of long-running data on religion available from the BSA surveys. It focuses on religious affiliation, religion of upbringing and religious attendance.

Firstly, Figure 1 reports the time-series data on affiliation for the period 1983-2015. Noteworthy features include the long-term decline in the proportion identifying as Church of England (40% in 1983, 19% in 2015), increased identification with non-Christian faiths over recent decades (3% in 1983, 8% in 2015), broad stability in levels of Catholic identification (10% in 1983, 9% in 2015), and the steady upwards climb of the proportion with no affiliation (32% in 1983, 49% in 2015). The proportion of other Christians has increased over time, from 15% in 1983 to 17% in 2015. However, the composition of this group has shifted. The proportion identifying as non-denominational Christians has risen over time, with a decreasing share professing a denominational affiliation – in particular, with the Nonconformist churches.


Figure 1: Religious affiliation in Britain, 1983-2015


Source: Author’s analysis of BSA surveys.


Secondly, Figure 2 shows the levels of religious attendance over time. For clarity of presentation, attendance has been divided up into three categories: attends once a month or more often (or frequent attendance); attends less often (infrequent attendance); does not attend. In contrast to the shifting patterns of affiliation across recent decades, attendance shows a picture of somewhat less marked change. The proportion reporting that they never attend religious services (beyond going for the traditional rites of passage) has risen from 56% in 1983 to 65% in 2015. There has been some decline levels of frequent and infrequent attending: attending once a month or more fell from 21% in 1983 to 18% in 2015 (with weekly-attending falling from 13% to 10%); the respective figures for those attending less often are 23% and 17%.


Figure 2: Religious Attendance in Britain, 1983-2015


Source: Author’s analysis of BSA surveys.


Third, Table 1 provides a summary of the three long-running indicators of religion carried in the annual BSA surveys – affiliation, religion of upbringing and attendance. The data on religion of upbringing show that the proportion saying they were raised within the Church of England has fallen from over half (55%) in 1991 (when the question was first asked) to around three-in-ten in 2015. The proportion saying they were raised within a Catholic household is the same in each survey. The proportion raised in some other Christian context has increased (from 22% to 28%). The internal composition of this category has shifted markedly over time. In 1983, the 22% was comprised of 19% who had a particular denominational affiliation and 3% who did not. In 2015, the 28% was made up of 10% with a denomination and 18% with no denominational affiliation. The proportion whose religion of upbringing was a non-Christian faith was 3% in 1983 and 9% in 2015. There has been a marked increase in the proportion saying they were not raised within any religion: from 6% in 1983 to 20% in 2015.


Table 1: Summary of religious indicators, 1983 and 2015

Affiliation 1983 (%) 2015 (%)
Church of England 40 17
Roman Catholic 10 9
Other Christian 17 17
Other religion 2 8
No religious affiliation 31 49
Religion of upbringing 1991 (%) 2015 (%)
Church of England 55 29
Roman Catholic 14 14
Other Christian 22 28
Other religion 3 9
No religion 6 20
Attendance 1983 (%) (2015)
Once a month or more often 21 18
Less often than once a month 22 17
Never attends 56 65

Source: Author’s analysis of the BSA 1983 and 2015 surveys.

Percentages have been rounded and may not sum to 100.


Fourthly, and looking at the religious data in the BSA 2015 survey more detail, Table 2 shows the levels of non-affiliation, not having been raised within a religion and non-attendance at religious services for sex and age group.


Table 2: Indicators of secularity by demographic group

No religious affiliation (%) No religious upbringing(%) Does not attend religious services (%)
Sex Men 55 21 69
  Women 43 19 62
Age group 18-24 63 37 68
  25-34 58 31 66
  35-44 54 24 65
  45-54 51 18 65
  55-64 45 12 68
  65-74 34 7 61
  75+ 24 5 59

Source: Author’s analysis of the BSA 2015 survey.


Having no affiliation is somewhat more common amongst men than women, as is not attending religious services. Across the age groups, there is considerable variation in two of the three indicators of secularity. Younger age groups are much more likely to report that they did not have a religious upbringing and do not have currently have a religious affiliation.  There is much less variation across age groups in terms of the proportion not attending church or some other place of worship. Whereas amongst 18-24 year olds, 63% have no affiliation (compared to 24% of over 75s) and 37% were not raised within a religious faith (compared to just 5% of over 75%s), a majority in both groups said that they do not attend religious services (aged 18-24: 68%; aged 75 and over: 59%).





Posted in church attendance, Measuring religion, News from religious organisations, Survey news, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Counting Religion in Britain, November 2016

Counting Religion in Britain, No. 14, November 2016 features 29 new sources. It can be read in full below. Alternatively, you can download the PDF version: no-14-november-2016


Freedom of speech

The case involving Ashers Bakery in Belfast, found guilty of discrimination for declining on religious grounds to bake a cake promoting same-sex marriage, rumbles on and now seems destined for the UK Supreme Court. The ongoing row has prompted the Coalition for Marriage to commission ComRes to rerun a poll which it originally undertook for the Christian Institute in March 2015. On this second occasion 2,000 Britons were interviewed online on 4-6 November 2016 and asked whether business people should be taken to court for refusing to supply goods or services in eight sets of circumstances. On the scenario identical to the Ashers case, 65% of respondents said that the refusal of a Christian bakery to produce a cake supporting same-sex marriage should not be grounds for taking to court, only 16% disagreeing (and no more than 23% of religious nones). Even lower endorsement of court action was registered for the other seven scenarios which included the refusal of: a Muslim printer to print cartoons of the Prophet; an atheist web designer to create a website promoting creationism; a Muslim film company to make a pornographic film; a Christian bakery to make a cake celebrating Satanism; and a Roman Catholic printing company to print advertisements calling for the legalization of abortion. Full data tables are available at:

Faith schools

Government has proposed allowing new and existing faith schools to select up to 100% of their places according to religious criteria, thereby ending the 50% cap which has operated for the last nine years. However, a Populus poll commissioned by the Accord Coalition and British Humanist Association, for which 2,054 adults were interviewed online on 14-16 October 2016, has found that 72% of Britons agree that state-funded schools should not be allowed, in their admissions policies, to select or discriminate against prospective pupils on religious grounds. Just 15% of the public disagree with the ComRes statement, with 13% undecided. This strong majority against the application of religious criteria in school admissions varies little across demographic sub-groups, including among religious groups. Full data tables are at:

Theresa May’s faith

More than one-quarter (27%) of British adults say they have been alarmed by Prime Minister Theresa May’s recent admission that her faith in God gives her confidence she is doing the right thing, according to one of YouGov’s app-based polls on 30 November 2016. One in five (18%) were reassured by her comment while 49% claimed it had no effect on how they felt about May’s actions. Asked, in a supplementary question, whether they lived their own life according to some kind of defined philosophy or system of beliefs, 29% replied in the affirmative but a clear majority (64%) stated they took life as it comes in terms of making a series of practical choices. Topline results only are available at:

Protestant ethic and future of religion

Reminded that economic data show the world’s most prosperous nations are mostly Protestant, 25% of respondents to one of YouGov’s app-based surveys on 3 November 2016 thought there was a direct tie between the economic prosperity of these countries and their Protestantism. However, the majority, 58%, detected no obvious links between the two factors, while 18% were unsure or gave other answers. Asked additionally which faith would be dominant in the world 500 years from now, 24% suggested Islam against 14% for Christianity. But 33% felt that no single faith would be dominant and 17% anticipated that religion would have all but disappeared. Topline results are at:

US presidential election

Donald Trump may have won the US presidential election, but he commands limited appeal among British voters, according to an online YouGov poll on 3-4 October 2016. Of the 1,690 adults interviewed, only 11% overall preferred the Republican Trump to his Democrat rival, Hillary Clinton (65%), the remaining 23% being undecided. Among the principal religious groups (cell sizes for the others were too small to be viable), Clinton’s share rose to 70% with religious nones, Anglicans and Catholics being marginally more likely than average to favour Trump, albeit he attracted the support of just 13% and 16%, respectively. The question was asked as part of a more general survey of attitudes to globalization (including immigration and multiculturalism), and the full British data tables, with breaks by religion, can be found via the Great Britain link at:

Anti-Semitism in relation to Israel

Next year (2017) marks the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, whereby the British government committed to using its best endeavours to establish in Palestine a national home for Jewish people, but without detriment to the rights of existing non-Jewish communities in the area. Interviewed online by Populus on 14-16 October 2016, on behalf of the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM), a plurality (43%) of 2,054 Britons still agrees that, in principle, this was the right position for the government to have taken at that time, but 18% disagree and 39% are neutral or undecided. Much water has flowed under the bridge during the intervening century, not least the establishment of the state of Israel, whose actions in the Middle East have divided British public opinion, especially since the 1980s. A majority (57%) is clear that criticism of Israel does not in itself constitute anti-Semitism, 11% saying the contrary, although a plurality (48%) admits that hating Israel and questioning its right to exist is anti-Semitic, 20% dissenting. Islamic State (ISIS) is equally viewed as a threat to the security of Israel (by 81% of Britons) and to that of the UK (93%). Full data tables are at:

A summary of the findings of the poll, including comparisons with last year’s survey, can be found in BICOM’s press release at:

New BICOM poll finds even stronger opposition to boycotts of Israel

Islam and British values

YouGov@Cambridge, the partnership between pollster YouGov and the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge, has added two further data points to its tracker on the compatibility between Islam and British values. Since the start of 2015, cross-sections of Britons have been asked whether they believe Islam is generally compatible with the values of British society or they perceive there is a fundamental clash between the two. Topline results are tabulated below, from which it will be seen that half the population judges there is a fundamental clash between Islam and British values, with a peak of 59% in June and October 2015, with no more than one-fifth to one-quarter deeming the two compatible. In the latest survey (on 9-10 October 2016 among 1,694 adults), demographic sub-groups most inclined to perceive a clash were UKIP supporters (81%), people who voted for the UK to leave the European Union in this year’s referendum (72%), and over-65s (64%). Both topline and disaggregated data can be accessed by following the ‘Tracker: Islam and British Values’ and ‘Latest Documents’ links at:

% across


Clash Neither

Don’t know



52 12




52 12




55 10




58 9




59 9




56 10




53 12




58 9




59 10




50 13




51 11




56 12




51 10




49 14




52 12


Halloween (1)

US-style Halloween celebrations are on the verge of displacing the UK’s traditional Bonfire (Guy Fawkes) Night activities as the principal autumnal festival, according to BMG Research’s online poll of 1,546 UK adults on 19-24 October 2016. The proportion of respondents indicating that they would be celebrating Halloween (31 October) or Bonfire Night (5 November) in some way was tied at 49% each, with both commemorations especially appealing to under-25s (82% of whom said they were planning to observe Halloween and 75% Bonfire Night). Both days have religious origins (Halloween as All Hallows’ Eve, in remembrance of the souls of the dead, and Bonfire Night marking a failed plot by Roman Catholic conspirators in 1605 to blow up the Houses of Parliament) but have now become thoroughly secularized. Full data tables are at:

Halloween (2)

Intentions (definite or probable) to celebrate Halloween were returned at a much lower 21% in another online poll conducted at the same time, by YouGov among 1,631 Britons on 23-24 October 2016, albeit this was still the highest figure of the seven European countries surveyed. The apparent discrepancy with the BMG Research study is perhaps explained by the fact that the latter offered a list of particular Halloween activities (including watching horror films) from which to choose, whereas YouGov used a more binary-style question about celebrating Halloween. YouGov’s topline figures for all seven nations are at:

Halloween (3)

The results of a second, app-based (and potentially not fully representative) poll were posted by YouGov on 1 November 2016. Interviewees were not asked whether they planned to celebrate Halloween themselves but whether they approved of seven specific Halloween activities. Just 17% approved of none of them, with approval being highest for making pumpkin lanterns (72%), apple bobbing (66%), and Christian observance of All Hallows’ Eve (51%). Responding to a separate question, 53% said that the tradition of souling (the Christian origin of trick-or-treating) should be preserved, 26% disagreeing, and 20% uncertain or giving other answers. Topline figures only are available at:


Cryogenics have been in the news recently, with the revelation that the body of a 14-year-old girl who had died of cancer has been cryogenically frozen in the hope that she can be ‘woken up’ and cured at some point in the future. In a YouGov poll of 4,389 Britons on 18 November 2016, 22% of adults thought there might be some chance, however small, the girl could indeed be brought back to life, UKIP voters and the under-40s being particularly confident. Nevertheless, a majority (57%) judged this impossible, rising to 65% of Conservatives and over-60s, with a further 21% undecided. Three-quarters of the public indicated they did not wish to be cryogenically frozen after death themselves, just 7% expressing the wish to be so, the biggest proportion (13%) being among those aged 25-39. Full results will be found at:


Passing on faith

Secularization, especially in a Christian context, is often attributed to diminished religious socialization of children. Traditionally, there were three principal agencies for achieving this: Church, school, and home. Church provision (notably through Sunday schools) has largely collapsed. The school is no longer a major player since the curriculum emphasis has shifted dramatically from Christian instruction to multi-faith religious and moral education. The importance of the home has also diminished because many parents have become secularized and more child-centred approaches have persuaded them of the importance of children being left to make up their own minds in matters of religious belief.

Some confirmation of weakened parental commitment to the transmission of faith to their children is now provided in a survey by ComRes for Theos, for which 1,013 British parents with children aged 18 and under were interviewed online on 24-29 August 2016. Only 38% of the sample claimed to be definite believers in God and 17% to attend a religious service once a month or more, with 40% professing no religion at all. Asked whether it is an important part of being a parent actively to pass on beliefs in God or a higher power to children, just 30% agreed while 60% judged it was for children to come to their own opinion independently of their parents. Three-fifths were indifferent whether their children held the same beliefs about God as they did and no more than two-fifths had even had a conversation with their children on the subject. One-third suggested that technology and social media would have more of an impact on their children’s beliefs than their own input. Not unexpectedly, believers in God, regular attenders at religious services, and non-Christians exhibited higher than average levels of commitment to passing on their faith.

The survey is summarized in the foreword (by Nick Spencer) to a new Theos report by Olwyn Mark exploring generic issues of Passing on Faith at:

Full data tables are available from ComRes at:

University students

The Student Christian Movement (SCM) has voiced concerns about the spiritual support available for higher education students, following receipt of a 26-page report which it commissioned from David Lankshear of St Mary’s Centre on Students in Higher Education and Christian Churches. This was based on statistical analysis of the responses received from 118 churches (disproportionately United Reformed) to an online survey about their contact with higher education students which was run by SCM during the first half of 2016. The majority of churches (54%) had no higher education students in their congregations and 81% had nobody whose role it was to work with students. Many local church leaders felt that going to university had a negative (29%) or mixed (52%) impact on faith, a message picked up in a major news story about the survey in the Methodist Recorder (11 November 2016, pp. 1-2). The report, which its author views as little more than a pilot study, can be viewed at:

Church of England statistics for mission

The Church of England’s Statistics for Mission, 2015 is an impressive 51-page digest of and commentary on data derived from the latest set of parochial returns, with a full description of methodology and a copy of the schedule. The report exhibits continuing decline of the Church across a broad range of performance indicators, subsuming attendance, membership, and rites of passage, the rate of decrease since 2005 varying between 9% (average adult weekly attendance) and 39% (funerals conducted at crematoria and cemeteries). Membership and attendance levels have fallen over a long period, and from a relatively low baseline, but the diminishing take-up of rites of passage has been a more recent phenomenon, with funerals only significantly impacted since the 1980s. Of course, the net picture masks areas of growth in individual dioceses and parishes, giving hope to some within the Church. Commenting on the statistics, William Nye, the Church’s Secretary General, bullishly said: ‘The Church of England is setting out on a journey of Renewal and Reform, aiming to reverse our numerical decline in attendance so that we become a growing church in every region and for every generation.’ On present evidence, there are few grounds for thinking this will ever be achieved. Statistics for Mission, 2015 is available at:

Conservative evangelical Anglican churches

Despite the gloomy outlook for the Church of England as a whole, average weekly attendance at more than 300 churches linked to the conservative evangelical Reform movement is said to have been growing at the rate of 3% to 4% during the past five years. Congregations at these churches are also typically larger and younger than the norm: their average attendance is 99 compared to 40 in the Church of England generally, with 18% of worshippers over 70 years of age against 30% in the wider Church. The story is reported by Christian Today at:

Fresh Expressions

The Church of England would doubtless find it difficult to acknowledge publicly that churchmanship might impact levels of attendance, but it continues to salute Fresh Expressions of Church (fxC) as an engine of growth. Four new reports on fxC have recently been published by the Church Army’s Research Unit, two of them of a quantitative nature. The more substantial (234 pages) of the pair is by George Lings, The Day of Small Things: An Analysis of Fresh Expressions of Church in 21 Dioceses of the Church of England. This is based on interviews with the leaders (equally likely to be male or female) of 1,109 fxCs started between 1992 and 2014, three-quarters of them in the past ten years. These fxCs are attended by 50,600 worshippers, equivalent to 10% of the average weekly attendance of the dioceses concerned (albeit the average congregation – 50 – is smaller than for a typical parish church). Their religious origins are examined in a second (81-page) report by Claire Dalpra and John Vivian, Who’s There? The Church Backgrounds of Attenders in Anglican Fresh Expressions of Church. This examined a hand-picked sample of 66 fxCs and a control group of 24 parish churches, utilizing a sixfold classification of previous churchgoing by the 1,997 attenders at fxCs and 953 at parish churches. The research revealed that 38% of the former were not existing churchgoers when they began attending fxC (albeit this is a lower proportion than estimated by fxC leaders), and that fxCs had a more even age and gender distribution than parish churches. The reports can be downloaded from:

Major Parish Churches

Sustaining Major Parish Churches: Exploring the Challenges and Opportunities has been prepared by Purcell on behalf of a partnership comprising Historic England (which funded the research), the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Church of England’s Church Buildings Council, the Greater Churches Network, and Doncaster Minster. It collates and analyses a range of statistical and other data relating to the condition, resourcing, and use of the Church of England’s self-designated ‘Major Parish Churches’, based upon a dataset of 300 such churches, an online survey of a sub-set of them, and a series of case studies. The three-part report can be downloaded from:

Jewish schools

A new study by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, on behalf of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, charts dramatic growth since the 1950s, by respectively 400% and 500%, in the number of Jewish schools and Jewish pupils in the UK. This expansion occurred despite a decline in the Jewish population for much of the period, rather being driven by increased uptake of Jewish schooling among Jews. Whereas only one in five Jewish children attended Jewish schools in the 1970s, today the proportion is 63% (and 100% in strictly Orthodox Jewish families), with 30,900 Jewish children enrolled at 139 Jewish schools in the 2014/15 academic year. The majority (57%) of the pupils attends the 97 strictly Orthodox schools (55 primary, 42 secondary), the remainder the 42 mainstream Jewish schools (33 primary, 9 secondary). These, and many other, fascinating facts and figures are in the 45-page report by Daniel Staetsky and Jonathan Boyd on The Rise and Rise of Jewish Schools in the United Kingdom: Numbers, Trends, and Policy Issues, which can be downloaded from:

Judaism in the workplace

According to sundry reports in the Jewish and secular press, a survey of 190 Jews conducted in October 2016 as part of the Chief Rabbi’s ShabbatUK initiative found that 41% of respondents considered their faith had been an issue in the workplace during the course of their career. Moreover, 32% felt uncomfortable about asking their employer to leave work early on Fridays in order to observe the Jewish Sabbath, 27% were reluctant to discuss their faith openly in the workplace (although 72% had done so), and 17% avoided wearing a Jewish religious symbol or item of clothing when at work.

UK Sikh Survey

The UK Sikh Survey, 2016 (authored by Dabinderjit Singh, Randeep Singh, and Jas Singh) has been developed by the Sikh Network, which is responsible for co-ordinating dialogue with the Government with regard to the goals set out in the Sikh Manifesto, 2015-2020. Described as ‘the largest and most comprehensive ever survey of UK Sikhs’, its 4,559 respondents were recruited between May and August 2016 through a combination of self-selection and targeting of hard-to-reach groups. Although the sample is said to exhibit a good regional, gender, and age mix, the methodology adopted may mean it is not fully representative of the Sikh community in terms of either demographics or activism. Notwithstanding, the findings in this overview report (more detailed analyses are promised) provide a fascinating insight into the experiences and attitudes of UK Sikhs, to set alongside the annual British Sikh Report (which commenced in 2013 and is already inviting responses to its own 2017 questionnaire). In particular, The UK Sikh Survey, 2016 demonstrated strong support for the Government to do more to help achieve Sikh political agendas. Almost unanimously, Sikhs would welcome a separate Sikh ethnic tick box in the 2021 census; a statutory code of practice for the 5Ks (Sikh articles of faith) and the Sikh turban, in order to prevent discrimination against Sikhs in the workplace and in public; and an independent public enquiry into the UK Government’s actions in relation to the ‘Sikh Genocide’ in India in 1984. The UK Sikh Survey, 2016 is available at:


Religious affiliation in Scotland

Two new sources of religious affiliation statistics for Scotland have become available, from the Scottish Government’s Scottish Surveys Core Questions (SSCQ), 2015 (a unified dataset formed from the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey, the Scottish Health Survey, and the Scottish Household Survey) and from Glasgow City Council’s Glasgow Household Survey, 2016. Topline results are shown below, together with the Glasgow figures from SSCQ.

An Excel worksheet disaggregating the SSCQ national data by various spatial units and demographic characteristics can be found in Table 4.3 via the link at:

For Glasgow in 2016, only headline results are currently available, on p. 73 of the Ipsos MORI report on the Glasgow Household Survey at:

% down

Scotland 2015

Glasgow 2015

Glasgow 2016

No religion




Church of Scotland




Roman Catholic




Other Christian








Other non-Christian




N =





Ageing and religion

Ahead of its annual ‘Future of Ageing’ conference, the International Longevity Centre (ILC)–UK unveiled some new analysis from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) dataset for 2004-14. In its press release, ILC–UK advised ‘outreach programmes by religious groups looking to grow their congregations might best be focused on over 60s who have recently started hitting the gym or campaigning with their local political party (of any affiliation)’. This followed the discovery from ELSA that over-60s who join a gym are 4% more likely also to join a religious group, and that those who join a political party are 8% more likely also to join a religious group. It was also found that belonging to a religious group had a small but positive impact on the sense of worth and happiness of older people. Panel members were more likely to join a religious group as they grew older, albeit, in a nod to secularization, fewer belonged to a religious group compared with previous cohorts of the same age (for example, since 2002 6% fewer in their early 60s and 7% less in their late 60s). The press release, which includes an embedded slide show, is available at:

A Level students

The upward trend in students taking the Advanced Level examination in Religious Studies (RS) is now well established, but relatively little is known about their profile since the reform of A Levels in 2000. Two articles in the current issue (Vol. 37, No. 3, 2016) of Journal of Beliefs and Values shed light on the matter. They both derive from questionnaires completed by students towards the beginning and end of the first year of their study of A Level RS at the same schools.

Leslie Francis, Jeff Astley, and Stephen Parker answer the research questions ‘Who Studies Religion at Advanced Level: Why and to What Effect?’ (pp. 334-46). They use the questionnaires completed by 462 students towards the end of the first year and investigate their demography, motivation, experience, and attitudes. ‘Key findings demonstrated that 78% of students opted for the subject because they enjoyed their earlier experiences of religious studies in school, that 80% of students have become more tolerant of religious diversity, and that only 7% of students feel that studying religion at A level has undermined their personal religious faith while three times that number feel that it has affirmed their religious faith.’

The following article derives from both sets of questionnaires, the first completed by 652 students. Written by Andrew Village and Leslie Francis, it concerns ‘The Development of the Francis Moral Values Scales: A Study among 16- to 18-Year-Old Students Taking Religious Studies at A Level in the UK’ (pp. 347-56). Initially, considerable variation was found in the proportion of students regarding specific moral issues and behaviours as wrong. However, factor analysis applied to their responses to the Likert items permitted the isolation of constructs to form three short scales (for anti-social behaviour, sex and relationships, and substance use) which are recommended as a parsimonious way of assessing general moral values among adolescents.

Access options to these articles are outlined at:

Religious discrimination and higher education

The limited evidence base for religious discrimination experienced by UK university students is summarized on pp. 23-6, 46-8, and 84-7 of Changing the Culture: Report of the Universities UK Taskforce Examining Violence against Women, Harassment and Hate Crime Affecting University Students (London: Universities UK, 2016). Despite several approaches by Universities UK, the Federation of Student Islamic Societies did not contribute to the work of the taskforce, although Tell MAMA did participate on behalf of Muslims. The report is available at:

Multiplying churches

Back in 1974-75, David Wasdell of the Urban Church Project modelled Church of England statistics of parochial population and participation to argue for multiplying lay-led congregational units as a way of stimulating church growth, in preference to increasing clergy numbers or combining parishes. His advice was ignored by, and unpalatable to, the ecclesiastical authorities, and his work for the Church was terminated. Now George Lings has applied Wasdell’s methods to the Church’s 2011 statistics and similarly (albeit wordily) replicated ‘A Case for Multiplying the Type and Number of Churches’, Rural Theology, Vol. 14, No. 2, November 2016, pp. 112-33. In the process, he provides a rationale for Fresh Expressions of Church (fxC), which are typically small and often lay-led. Access options to the article are outlined at:


Given the time of year, and the relative dearth of academic literature on the subject, it seems appropriate to mention a new book by Christopher Deacy, Christmas as Religion: Rethinking Santa, the Secular, and the Sacred (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016, xiii + 223pp., ISBN 978-0-19-875456-5, £30.00, hardback). Its significance lies not so much in its quantitative strength (indeed, one struggles to find a single statistic in the entire volume) as its avowed refutation of the secularization thesis by a characterization of Christmas as ‘one of the most unexpected and fecund manifestations of religion in the world today’ (p. 201); ‘it is its very secularity that makes Christmas such a compelling, and transcendent, religious holiday’ (p. vii). The work’s methodological approach is heavily influenced by implicit religion, viewing the secular as a repository of the religious, and the evidential basis disproportionately derives from film and radio (the author’s particular field of expertise). No real attempt is made to address the issue of how, beyond interpretation and assertion, such claims can be measured empirically, including through content analysis, corpus linguistics, or sample surveys. As for the secularization thesis, Deacy ‘mostly ignores a hugely complex debate’, as David Martin has pointed out in his review in Church Times, 25 November 2016, p. xvii. The webpage for Christmas as Religion is at:


SN 6614: Understanding Society (Wave 6)

The dataset for Wave 6 of Understanding Society (United Kingdom Household Longitudinal Study) has just been released. Fieldwork was undertaken by TNS BMRB (in Great Britain) and Millward Brown (in Northern Ireland), and face-to-face interviews were achieved with 42,021 adults aged 16 and over between 8 January 2014 and 11 May 2016, representing a response rate of 65% of panel members. Funded by the ESRC and a consortium of government departments, Understanding Society is a highly complex dataset built from several strands, including the rump of the former British Household Panel Survey and a new Immigrant and Ethnic Minority Boost. The religious content of Wave 6 seems to have been limited to questions on religious affiliation, using a belonging form of wording (seemingly asked only of new entrants to the panel), and on membership of and participation in religious groups or organizations. A full catalogue description, with links to supporting documentation, can be found at:

SN 8070: Taking Part, 2015-16

Taking Part: The National Survey of Culture, Leisure, and Sport is undertaken by TNS BMRB on behalf of the Department for Culture, Media, and Sport and three of its non-departmental public bodies. For the year 11 cross-section (there is also a longitudinal component), face-to-face interviews were conducted with 10,171 adults aged 16 and over in England between April 2015 and March 2016. The demographic questions included two on religion (‘what is your religion?’ and ‘Are you currently practising your religion?’) which can be used as variables to analyse answers to the topics covered in the main questionnaire. Besides participation in cultural, leisure, and sporting activities, these extended to subjective wellbeing, socialization, volunteering, charitable giving, and community cohesion. A full catalogue description, with links to supporting documentation, can be found at:

SN 8081: Community Life Survey, 2015-16

This is the fourth annual wave of the Community Life Survey, initiated by the Cabinet Office in 2012-13 to carry forward some of the questions in the discontinued Citizenship Survey. Fieldwork for this wave took place between 1 July 2015 and 30 April 2016, face-to-face interviews being completed by TNS BMRB with 3,027 adults aged 16 and over in England (being a response rate of 61%). Besides demographics, the interview schedule explored identity and social networks, community, civic engagement, volunteering, social action, and subjective wellbeing. More specifically, respondents were asked about their religion and whether they practised it, the proportion of their friends drawn from the same religious group, their participation in and volunteering for religious groups, and their charitable giving to religious causes. A full catalogue description of the dataset, with links to supporting documentation, can be found at:


Please note: Counting Religion in Britain is © Clive D. Field, 2016


Posted in church attendance, News from religious organisations, Official data, Religion and Politics, Religion and Social Capital, Religion in public debate, Religious beliefs, religious festivals, Religious prejudice, Rites of Passage, Survey news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Counting Religion in Britain, October 2016


Counting Religion in Britain, No. 13, October 2016 features 29 new sources. It can be read in full below. Alternatively, you can download the PDF version: no-13-october-2016


Desert island Bibles

The well-known figures featured on Desert Island Discs, the long-running BBC Radio programme, are asked to select eight pieces of music to take with them on a desert island but are additionally offered as accompaniments copies of the Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare. Asked hypothetically, in the event of being stranded on a desert island, whether they would want to be given a copy of the Bible, only 31% of respondents to a recent poll by ComRes said that they would, falling to 18% in the youngest cohort (aged 18-24) and 10% for those with no religion. Unsurprisingly, the proportion was greatest for professing Christians (49%) but otherwise never reached more than 39% in any demographic sub-group (this for the over-65s and residents of North-West England). The majority (56%) declined to accept the Bible, rising to 83% of religious nones, while 13% were unsure what they would do. The poll was commissioned by the Church and Media Network and conducted online on 7-9 October 2016 among a sample of 2,042 adult Britons. Full data tables are available at:

In former days (the programme was first broadcast in 1942), the guests on Desert Island Discs were not automatically offered the Bible and Shakespeare but had to nominate three books to take with them on a desert island. When Gallup invited a sample of Britons to select their titles in 1954, the Bible easily topped the poll, with 36% of the vote, Shakespeare being pushed into third place (5%) after the works of Dickens (7%).

Catholic Church power

Almost half of Britons think the Catholic Church is among the most powerful institutions in the world, according to a YouGov app-based survey on 18 October 2016. Presented with a list of 11 organizations and asked to select the three they judged most powerful, 57% put the United States Central Intelligence Agency in first position, but the Catholic Church came second (on 49%), beating the United Nations into third place (40%). Islamic State (ISIS) was ranked tenth. Topline results are available at:


Prompted by a recent report that young Catholic priests are not interested in becoming exorcists, an app-based survey by YouGov on 21 October 2016 asked Britons whether they believed people or places can be affected by evil spirits and, if so, whether an exorcist could help. One-third (34%) of all respondents said they believed in evil spirits, with 25% thinking exorcism efficacious and 9% not. The majority (58%) expressed belief in neither, while 7% gave other answers. Topline results are available at:


One-half of Britons claim to have experienced paranormal activity in their home, according to a recent pre-Halloween survey commissioned by insurance broker Towergate. One-third say they have been frightened by the supernatural in their own home at night, and one-fifth admit to having called someone (generally a parent or partner) in the middle of the night to seek comfort or support in such circumstances. One person in six reports that they have seen a ghostly figure at home and one in eight that they have moved out of a former home because they were afraid it was haunted. Fear of the supernatural is an even greater deterrent to buying properties in certain locations, with 65% unwilling to purchase near an undertaker’s premises, 62% near a graveyard, and 60% near a sinister-looking church. Many would expect a substantial discount on the asking-price to be offered to tempt them to buy allegedly haunted accommodation, although 45% insist no reduction would be sufficient to overcome their anxieties. As yet, no details of the research (including about methodology) have appeared on Towergate’s website, and the preceding account has been compiled from coverage in the online edition of the Daily Express at:

Gay cake row

A Christian family bakery (Ashers) in Northern Ireland has recently lost its appeal against a conviction that found it guilty of discrimination for refusing to bake a cake supporting same-sex marriage on the grounds that it would have been at odds with the family’s religious beliefs. On the eve of the appeal court’s judgment, on 24 October 2016, YouGov asked 5,490 Britons online whether it had been acceptable for the bakery to have refused the order. A plurality (46%) judged the defendants to have behaved acceptably, including 61% of Conservative and 65% of UKIP voters, and 58% of over-60s. Two-fifths deemed the bakery’s action unacceptable, with 18-24s especially condemnatory (60%). The remaining 14% of the sample were undecided. Full results can be found at:

Churches and the LGB community

Britons are somewhat divided about whether most Christian churches in the UK are welcoming to the lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) community, according to a YouGov poll commissioned by Jayne Ozanne (a campaigner on LGB issues), for which 1,669 adults were interviewed online on 11-12 October 2016. A plurality (37%) was unsure what to say. One-third considered most churches were not welcoming to LGBs, the proportion reaching two-fifths among Labour and Liberal Democrat voters, Roman Catholics, and religious nones. Three in ten electors judged the churches were welcoming to LGBs, the most optimistic sub-groups being Conservative supporters (38%), over-65s (40%), Christians as a whole (45%), and Anglicans (47%). Respondents were also asked a somewhat ambiguous lead-in question about whether the Church of England does or does not exist for everyone who wants to go to church, 47% thinking the former and 17% the latter. Full data tables are available at:

Satisfaction with party leaders

BMG Research’s latest political party leader approval ratings were unusually disaggregated by religious affiliation. Summary results from the online interviews with 2,026 UK adults between 19 and 23 September 2016 are tabulated below, for all voters, professing Christians, and religious nones (too few non-Christians were included in the sample to be viable). The strongest finding to emerge is that a majority of Christians are satisfied with Theresa May’s performance as Prime Minister (54%) and dissatisfied with Jeremy Corbyn’s as Leader of the Opposition (57%). Religious nones, by contrast, exhibit a markedly below average approval rating for May and a slightly above average one for Corbyn. An age effect may partly explain these divergences, Christians having a relatively elderly and nones a younger profile. Religious differences were less pronounced in the case of Nigel Farage (whose performance very few could assess, in any case) and Nicola Sturgeon (although there was a nine-point dissatisfaction gap between Christians and nones). Data tables can be found at:

% across

Satisfied Dissatisfied

Don’t know

Theresa May as Prime Minister
All voters








No religion




Jeremy Corbyn as Leader of the Opposition
All voters








No religion




Nigel Farage as interim UKIP leader
All voters








No religion




Nicola Sturgeon as Scottish National Party leader
All voters








No religion




London attractions

A slight majority (58%) of Londoners claim to have visited St Paul’s Cathedral, placing it ninth in a list of 20 leading attractions in the capital, while 48% say they have been to Westminster Abbey (in sixteenth position). However, young Londoners (aged 18-24) are significantly less likely than the over-65s to have visited either of these two religious landmarks, 38% less in the case of the cathedral and 37% less for the abbey. The survey was conducted online by YouGov and is reported at:



A press briefing by Christian Legacy (a partnership of various Christian charities) in the run-up to Christian Legacy Week (17-23 October 2016) provided a miscellany of information about the state of the Christian legacy market in the UK. It revealed that Christian women are more likely to have included a charitable gift in their will than Christian men, 65% versus 35%. Christians overall are likely to spread their gifts across almost twice as many charities as non-Christians. Of all charitable legacies made in the past three years, 16% have been given to Christian charities or places of worship, with legacies accounting for 3% of the income of these charities. The briefing has yet to appear on the Christian Legacy website, but some previous ‘latest statistics’ can be found at:

Christian Resources Exhibitions

The Christian Resources Exhibition held at Maidstone on 12-13 October 2016 seems set to be the last. Earlier this year, Bible Society – which acquired Christian Resources Exhibitions (CRE) in 2007 – announced that it was putting the enterprise up for sale. However, it has now admitted that no buyer has been found. CRE was founded by Christian businessman Gospatric Home in 1985 and incorporated as a private limited company in 1990. It has comprised an annual event (latterly known as CRE International) held in the South-East (most recently in London) in the late spring together with one or two smaller exhibitions each year at changing other venues. CRE was officially ranked as the country’s 47th largest consumer exhibition in 2007. Visitor numbers for the 1990s were published in UK Christian Handbook, Religious Trends, No. 2, 2000/01, p. 5.8, with around 10,000 attending CRE International, a figure still reached as late as 2011-12. However, there appears to have been some decline since, with 8,000 returned for the four-day event in 2015 and no figure seemingly published for 2016. CRE’s last reported annual turnover was £700,000 in 2005, since when the company has been dormant.

Baptist Assembly

The Baptist Assembly is the yearly gathering of delegates from the English and Welsh regional associations which constitute Baptists Together (Baptist Union of Great Britain).  It combines the transaction of the formal business of the Union (including its annual general meeting) with elements of a Christian conference. The future of the Assembly has been under review for some time, in the light of falling numbers and financial pressures, and different styles and formats have been trialled in recent years. To facilitate longer-term planning, an online survey was conducted after the one-day Assembly at Oxford in May 2016, and this was completed by a self-selecting sample of 1,000 Baptists, of whom 74% had attended Assembly at some point in the past and 53% were ministers. A preliminary report on the results of the survey, focusing especially on preferences for the length, timing, and financing of future Assemblies, has been published at:

Catholic Directory

The Universe Media Group has announced its intention to relaunch the print edition of the Catholic Directory of England and Wales in November 2017, four years after its discontinuation, since when an online only edition has been made available. According to the latest editor’s newsletter (No. 4, 2016), this 2018 edition of the Catholic Directory will be comprehensively overhauled in terms of design and content, with several new sections introduced. However, no explicit mention is made of any plans to bring back the former statistical section, which was the sole national public domain source of current data about the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales.

Convent schools

The significant historical contribution of convent schools to the education of Catholic and other pupils in England and Wales is celebrated in Tales out of School: Recollections of Ex-Convent Girls, edited by Anthony Spencer, Pat Pinsent, and Emma Shackle (Taunton: Russell-Spencer, 2016, [4] + v + 243p., ISBN 978-1-905270-74-3, paperback, £12.00 + £1.74 p&p, available from Russell-Spencer, Stone House, Hele, Taunton, Somerset, TA4 1AJ). The core of the book consists of the reminiscences of 40 women who attended convent schools between the 1930s and 1970s, submitted in response to Spencer’s appeal in The Tablet in 2012. Summative evaluation of the material and convent schools generally is provided by the editors, each of whom has written an essay from a particular perspective. Spencer’s chapter (pp. 197-215) is sociologically-focused and statistically informed by the research of the Newman Demographic Survey (NDS), which he directed. The volume as a whole is an initiative of the Pastoral Research Centre Trust, successor body to the NDS.


Hate crimes

Home Office Statistical Bulletin 11/16, by Hannah Corcoran and Kevin Smith, reports on Hate Crime, England and Wales, 2015/16, as recorded by the police. There were 62,518 offences in which one or more hate crime strands were deemed to be a motivating factor, of which 4,400 (7%) were categorized as religious hate crimes, 34% more than in 2014/15 (almost double the 19% average rise for all forms of hate crime), although the increase may partly reflect improved notification and documentation of incidents. A good deal of the data and analysis combines, unhelpfully from our perspective, racially and religiously motivated offences, including in Annex A which examines the trends in hate crime before and after the referendum on 23 June 2016 on the UK’s membership of the European Union. The report and associated data tables can be accessed at:

Religion of prisoners

A snapshot of the prison population of England and Wales as at 30 September 2016 has revealed that 48.6% of prisoners professed to be Christian, 20.5% non-Christian, and 30.8% to have no religion. The number of Christians was 2.0% down on the figure for 30 September 2015 while religious nones increased by 0.8% during the year. There was also a 2.3% rise in Muslim prisoners over the twelve months; they now account for 15.1% of all prisoners. The overwhelming majority (95.3%) of prisoners without religion is male, although there are actually proportionately fewer nones among men (30.7%) than women (32.5%). Full details can be found in table 1.5 of the spreadsheet ‘Prison Population, 30 September 2016’ at:


Antisemitism in the UK is the tenth report of the 2016-17 session of the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee. It considers alternative definitions of anti-Semitism (pp. 8-15) and reviews the evidence base for its prevalence in the UK – among the general public (pp. 16-26), on university campuses (pp. 33-7), and in political discourse and parties (pp. 38-49, with special reference to the Labour Party) – as well as the response of Government and the justice system (pp. 27-32). An annex (pp. 58-61) presents details of police-recorded anti-Semitic crimes. The statistical evidence is neatly summarized in a ‘key facts’ section (pp. 3-4), which incorporates links to the original sources. Most of these have already featured on the British Religion in Numbers website, but mention should be made of one which has not, a survey in May 2016 of 2,026 Labour Party members who joined after the 2015 General Election, carried out on behalf of the ESRC Party Members Project. The Committee concludes, inter alia, that, although the UK remains one of the least anti-Semitic countries in Europe, recent trends in incidents and attitudes show it to be moving ‘in the wrong direction’ (p. 51). Its report is available at:

Results concerning anti-Semitism and the Labour Party from the ESRC Party Members Project will be found in its submission to the Labour Party’s own enquiry chaired by the now Baroness Chakrabarti at:


Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion

Volume 27 (2016) of Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion is sub-divided into a miscellany of five articles and a special section of seven contributions on prayer guest-edited by Kevin Ladd. Each section contains one article of United Kingdom quantitative interest. The miscellany includes Leslie Francis, Patrick Laycock, and Gemma Penny, ‘Distinguishing between Spirituality and Religion: Accessing the Worldview Correlates of 13- to 15-Year-Old Students in England and Wales’ (pp. 43-67), based on 2,728 respondents to the Young People’s Values Survey, and employing discriminant function analysis to isolate the specific combinations of attitudes and values which distinguished young people who described themselves as religious but not spiritual from those who saw themselves as spiritual but not religious. Among the papers in the prayer section is Leslie Francis and Gemma Penny, ‘Prayer, Personality, and Purpose in Life: An Empirical Enquiry among Adolescents in the UK’ (pp. 192-209), drawing upon questionnaires completed by 10,792 participants in the Young People’s Attitudes to Religious Diversity project (see, also, next item), and demonstrating that prayer frequency adds additional prediction of enhanced levels of purpose in life after taking all other variables into account. The volume’s webpage can be found at:

Religious diversity

The 16 chapters in Young People’s Attitudes to Religious Diversity, edited by Elisabeth Arweck (London: Routledge, 2017, xi + 303 pp., ISBN 978-1-4724-4430-1, £95.00, hardback) substantially report the findings of the AHRC/ESRC-funded project of the same name which was undertaken at the University of Warwick’s Religions and Education Research Unit in 2009-12. The research involved both qualitative and quantitative strands, each represented by six contributions in the book, the qualitative essays written by Arweck or Julia Ipgrave and the quantitative ones by Leslie Francis and Gemma Penny together with another co-author in five instances. For the quantitative strand, questionnaires were completed in 2011-12 by 11,725 13- to 15-year-old students attending state-maintained schools with and without a religious character in five geographical areas (London, England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland). The results for each area are analysed in a separate chapter, positioned as a response to a research question suggested by previous scholarly research and debate in that particular area. The final section of the volume is given over to three international case studies, from Canada, the United States, and Germany. The book’s webpage is at:


Clive Field was recently invited to speak about ‘Measuring Secularization in Britain’ as one of the series of Sunday evening talks on ‘Religion and Conflict’ at Somerville College Chapel, Oxford. His presentation slides have been made available at:



If, as is often claimed, no religion is the fastest-growing religion in the western world, then the study of non-religion can equally be observed to be the fastest-growing area in religious scholarship. One of the latest monographs in the field is Phil Zuckerman, Luke Galen, and Frank Pasquale, The Nonreligious: Understanding Secular People and Societies (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016, v + 327 pp., ISBN 978-0-19-992494-1, £16.99, paperback). The volume provides a guide to the English-language social scientific literature about non-religion, as listed in its substantial bibliography (pp. 261-309). Although the focus of the book is international, the arrangement is largely thematic, so there is no systematic discussion of the situation, nor collation of the statistical evidence, for particular countries. There are some scattered references to the United Kingdom, the most substantive of which is on pp. 75-6. The title’s webpage is at:

Ministry and history

The extent, nature, and practical implications of the engagement of Christian ministers with both general and religious history are explored by John Tomlinson in ‘Ministry and History: A Survey of Over 300 Religious Practitioners’, Theology and Ministry, Vol. 4, 2016, pp. 2.1-15. Data derive from a postal questionnaire completed in 2013-15 by 49% of 610 ordained clergy and ministers in five denominations working in parts of the East and West Midlands. The article is available on an open access basis at:

Anglican identities

Abby Day has edited an interesting interdisciplinary collection of 14 chapters on global Anglicanism: Contemporary Issues in the Worldwide Anglican Communion: Powers and Pieties (Farnham: Ashgate, 2016, xviii + 270 pp., ISBN 978-1-4724-4413-4, £65.00, hardback). Although there is a fair amount of specifically Britain-related content, the volume’s approach is overwhelmingly qualitative. Indeed, it is highly revealing (and not a little unusual) that its editor has prevailed upon the authors of the only substantial quantitative research article to write up their findings in a narrative rather than numerical form. This essay is by Leslie Francis and Gemma Penny, ‘Belonging without Practising: Exploring the Religious, Social, and Personal Significance of Anglican Identities among Adolescent Males’ (pp. 55-71). The chapter profiles the worldviews (across 10 themes) of two groups of 13- to 15-year-old students from secondary schools in England and Wales, 1,800 religiously unaffiliated and 1,488 professing Anglicans (further sub-divided by frequency of churchgoing into four sub-groups). The book’s webpage is at:

Methodism and social inclusion

Despite its avowed preferential option for the poor, there is no evidence that the Methodist Church in Britain is targeting its resources towards the most deprived communities, according to new research by Michael Hirst. He has analysed cross-sectional and longitudinal data for the distribution of Methodist personnel (ministers, members, and connexional lay appointees), churches, and schools against a widely accepted 38-item index of neighbourhood deprivation for both Lower Layer Super Output Areas and Middle Layer Super Output Areas in England. He found that the immediate surroundings of most Methodist churches typify areas in the middle of the deprivation spectrum while few Methodist schools serve areas of significant deprivation. Moreover, ministers and lay appointees live predominantly in the least deprived neighbourhoods and increasingly so. Hirst’s ‘Poverty, Place, and Presence: Positioning Methodism in England, 2001 to 2011’ is published in the open access journal Theology and Ministry, Vol. 4, 2016, pp. 4.1-25 at:

British and Australian Quakers

A comparison of the beliefs and practices of British and Australian Quakers is offered by Peter Williams and Jennifer Hampton in ‘Results from the First National Survey of Quaker Belief and Practice in Australia and Comparison with the 2013 British Survey’, Quaker Studies, Vol. 21, No. 1, June 2016, pp. 95-119. The 2014 Australian study replicated 42 questions from the 2013 British enquiry (whose results were reported by Hampton in Quaker Studies, Vol. 19, 2014-15, pp. 7-136). Answers to half of these questions were remarkably similar in both surveys, but Australian respondents were found to be more likely than their British peers to describe prayer and their activities in meetings for worship as meditation; to describe the Quaker business method as finding a consensus; to believe Quakers can be helped by hearing about the religious experiences of other groups; and to be involved with other social or religious organizations or issues. Access options to the article are outlined at:

Catholic churchgoing

Ben Clements illuminates ‘Weekly Churchgoing amongst Roman Catholics in Britain: Long-Term Trends and Contemporary Analysis’ for the online first edition of Journal of Beliefs and Values. In the first half of the paper, four recurrent sources (British Election Studies, British Social Attitudes Surveys, European Values Studies, and European Social Surveys) are used to document a clear over-time decline in self-reported weekly church attendance by Catholic adults. In the second half, an online survey of British Catholics by YouGov in 2010 is analysed to isolate the socio-demographic correlates of regular churchgoing, weekly attenders being shown to be disproportionately older, of higher socio-economic status, and to have children in the household. Somewhat contrary to generic expectation, however, the effects of gender and ethnicity were not found to be significant. The investigation did not extend to an examination of trends in actual Mass-going by Catholics, which has been recorded by the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales for more than half a century and also in the ecumenical English Church Censuses between 1979 and 2005. Access options to the article are outlined at:


A cross-national study, undertaken in 15 European countries (including the United Kingdom) belonging to the Dublin System (which coordinates asylum policy in Europe), has revealed a marked anti-Muslim bias (and a corresponding pro-Christian bias) in attitudes to hypothetical asylum seekers. Data were collected by Respondi from internet panels in February-March 2016, a total of 18,030 adults being questioned online, among them 1,201 in the United Kingdom. Using a seven-point scale, where 1 denoted sending the applicant back to their country of origin and 7 granting permission to stay, each respondent was asked to rate the profiles of five pairs of asylum seekers according to nine different attributes, one of which was their religion (Christian, Muslim, or agnostic). Results are reported in an 11-page article and 121 pages of supplementary materials (mainly figures and regression tables) published in the First Release edition of Science on 22 September 2016: Kirk Bansak, Jens Hainmueller, and Dominik Hangartner, ‘How Economic, Humanitarian, and Religious Concerns Shape European Attitudes toward Asylum Seekers’. Access options to the article are outlined at:

Yearbook of Muslims in Europe

Yearbook of Muslims in Europe, Volume 7 (Leiden: Brill, 2016, xx + 620 pp., ISSN 1877-1432, €179.00, hardback) has been compiled by a team of five editors led by Oliver Scharbrodt. It comprises an introductory essay by Jonathan Laurence (pp. 1-10) and 44 country overviews, including one on the United Kingdom by Asma Mustafa (pp. 607-20). Commencing with this volume, statistical and demographic data have been relegated to an appendix for each chapter, which, in the case of the United Kingdom (pp. 616-17), is mainly drawn from the 2011 population census. The text of each country report otherwise focuses on developments affecting Islam and Muslims during 2014. The British Religion in Numbers source database records 53 relevant surveys for 2014, including those relating to the ‘Trojan Horse’ affair in Birmingham schools and the rise of Islamic State, but none of these is mentioned by Mustafa whose contribution runs to only half the length allotted to Belgium. The volume’s webpage is at:

Muslim labour market penalty

In the latest paper in his series based on UK Labour Force data for 2002-13, Nabil Khattab uses descriptive and multivariate analysis to illuminate ‘The Ethno-Religious Wage Gap within the British Salariat Class: How Severe is the Penalty?’ Although he discovered substantial differences in gross hourly pay between different ethno-religious groups, he contends that they cannot be attributed to pure ethnic or religious discrimination. Nor did he find evidence for an overarching ‘Muslim penalty’, as suggested by some other scholars, notwithstanding two Muslim groups (Muslim-Bangladeshi and Muslim-Pakistani) experienced greater disadvantage than many of the ten other ethno-religious groups included in the study. The article was published in the August 2016 issue of Sociology (Vol. 50, No. 4, pp. 813-24), and the full text is freely available at:

Halal meat

Animals slaughtered for Muslim consumption must meet specific requirements laid down in the Koran and the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed. In particular, animals must be alive at the point of ritual cut, with many Muslims traditionally believing pre-stunning prior to slaughter to be non-reversible and contrary to Halal principles. To assess current views, Awal Fuseini, Steve Wotton, Phil Hadley, and Toby Knowles surveyed 66 Islamic scholars and a non-random and disproportionately male sample of 314 consumers of Halal meat in the UK between October 2015 and March 2016. The study was funded by the Halal Food Foundation. The majority of both scholars (95%) and consumers (53%) agreed that, if an animal is stunned and then slaughtered by a Muslim and the method of stunning does not result in death, cause physical injury, or obstruct bleed-out, then the meat could be considered Halal-compliant. ‘The Perception and Acceptability of Pre-Slaughter and Post-Slaughter Stunning for Halal Production: The Views of UK Islamic Scholars and Halal Consumers’ is published in Meat Science, Vol. 123, January 2017, pp. 143-50. Access options to the article are outlined at:


Please note: Counting Religion in Britain is © Clive D. Field, 2016


Posted in church attendance, Historical studies, Measuring religion, Ministry studies, News from religious organisations, Official data, Religion and Politics, Religion and Social Capital, Religion in public debate, Religious beliefs, Religious prejudice, Survey news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment