Young People’s Attitudes to Religious Diversity

Churchgoing teenagers are the biggest backers of Muslim identity in Britain, according to preliminary research results from the Warwick Religions and Education Research Unit, and released on 26 July 2011 in connection with the two-day conference on ‘Religion in Education: Findings from the Religion and Society Programme’.

The survey, which is still ongoing, is directed by Professor Leslie Francis of the University of Warwick and forms part of a wider project on ‘Young People’s Attitudes to Religious Diversity’, funded by the Programme, and of which Professor Robert Jackson is the principal investigator. For the project website, see:

http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/wie/research/wreru/research/current/ahrc/

The views of 10,000 13- to 15-year-old pupils, 2,000 each from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and London, will eventually be canvassed, at state maintained, independent and faith-based schools. Responses from the first 3,000 were presented at the conference and reported in a University of Warwick press release at:

http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/newsandevents/pressreleases/new_survey_shows/

The extent of agreement with three key statements affecting Muslims was as follows:

Muslims should be allowed to wear the headscarf in schools:

  • no religion 60%
  • nominal (non-churchgoing) Christians 59%
  • practising Christians 79%

Muslims should be allowed to wear the burka in schools:

  • no religion 51%
  • nominal Christians 52%
  • practising Christians 63%

I am in favour of Muslim schools:

  • no religion 18%
  • nominal Christians 23%
  • practising Christians 29%

Francis commented: ‘This survey has really given voice to the views of young people from across Britain into their experience of living in a culture that increasingly reflects religious diversity. Young people from different religious backgrounds clearly show respect for each other. But the challenge facing schools today is to enable those young people who do not come from a religious background themselves to gain insight into how their peers from religious homes feel about things.’

An article in the print edition of the Daily Telegraph for 27 July covers the same survey, but from the perspective of the 1,500 female respondents only. The journalist notes that, whereas nearly all the female pupils who were practising Christians agreed that ‘we must respect all religions’, the proportion was three-quarters for those without faith.

Similarly, almost three-quarters of the female practising Christians said that they found learning about different religions interesting, compared with about half of the nominal Christians and the irreligious. 

The Religion and Society Programme is a joint initiative of the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council. It runs until the end of 2012, but many projects have now made significant enough progress to be reporting findings and other news. These are regularly featured on the Programme’s website at:

http://www.religionandsociety.org.uk/

BRIN was itself funded under the Programme during 2008-10, thus enabling this website to get off the ground.


British Religion in Numbers: All the material published on this website is subject to copyright. We explain further here.

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