Welfare Reform and Other News

Welfare reform (1)

Recent attacks by church leaders from several denominations on the Coalition Government’s welfare and benefits reform programme seem to be giving the British public pause for thought, according to a YouGov poll for today’s edition of The Sunday Times, for which 2,141 adults were interviewed online on 20-21 February 2014. Asked whether they agreed with the church leaders’ criticisms, which branded the reforms as a ‘disgrace’ and leaving some people at risk of ‘destitution’, opinion was evenly divided, 42% agreeing and 42% disagreeing. Most negative about the Government’s policy were Labour voters (71%) and Scots (57%), while those more inclined to reject the views of the church leaders included Conservative supporters (77%) and residents of southern England outside London (50%). For the full results, see p. 9 of the data tables at:


This is not the first intervention about the current Government’s welfare reform programme on the part of church leaders. For BRIN’s previous coverage of public reaction to such intervention, see:

http://www.brin.ac.uk/news/2013/sunday-times-religion-poll-2/ [17 March 2013]

http://www.brin.ac.uk/news/2012/lords-spiritual/ [27 January 2012]

Welfare reform (2)

Meanwhile, opinion about the welfare system shows some signs of division along religious lines, according to a ComRes poll conducted online among a sample of 2,027 adult Britons aged 18 and over on 6-8 December 2013. Results were released on 19 February 2014 to coincide with the publication of the latest report from the think-tank Theos, The Future of Welfare, comprising 12 essays introduced and edited by Nick Spencer. The data tables for the survey can be found at:


Some of the key findings to emerge from the research include:

  • Non-Christians are most confident that the welfare state will survive in something like its present nature and scale in 30 years, 45% against 31% for Christians and 28% for people of no faith, the plurality view among the latter groups being that it will survive but in a diminished form.
  • Christians (75%) take a harder line than non-Christians (63%) or those without religion (60%) in believing that the receipt of welfare benefits should be dependent on prior financial contributions through the tax system, just 19% of Christians disagreeing.
  • Christians (63%) are also much more likely to disagree with the suggestion that everyone should receive benefits, irrespective of whether they have been paying taxes, this being 10% more than the religiously unaffiliated and 26% more than for non-Christians (51% of whom actually agree with the proposition).
  • A plurality among people of no faith (49%) do not think that the relatively wealthy should be entitled to some welfare benefits even if they have been paying taxes, whereas both Christians (58%) and non-Christians (53%) deem such entitlement to be perfectly appropriate (albeit 37% of each say not).
  • Paradoxically, all faith groups (ranging from 64% of those without religion to 70% of Christians) agree that welfare benefits should be a safety net for only the poorest in society.

Of course, such results do not establish any causal effect for religion in shaping views on welfare, and differences are likely to be attributable in the main to underlying demographics, especially of age and social class/wealth. For example, those of no religion will be found disproportionately among younger age cohorts who are, overall, perhaps more economically challenged than their parents’ generation. This may well explain why many of them feel unsympathetic to the relatively wealthy drawing down welfare benefits.

Seven deadly sins

Asked to nominate the worst of the seven ‘deadly sins’ in a recent YouGov poll, a plurality of Britons (43%) replied greed. This sin easily surpassed wrath (18%), sloth (11%), envy (7%), gluttony (5%), lust (3%), and pride (3%). However, when it came to confessing their own one or two worst vices, gluttony and sloth topped the list, at 25% each, followed by pride (19%), wrath (15%), envy (12%), greed (9%), and lust (8%). So, while greed is considered to be the worst sin, it is the one which people are much less likely to own up to themselves. Detailed figures are supposedly available through the link embedded in the YouGov blog post of 20 February 2014, but the link is broken (BRIN has reported it to YouGov), so only the blog is currently available at:


Ethnicity and generational change

The first of the 2014 issues of Ethnic and Racial Studies (Vol. 37, No. 1) comprises nine articles on the theme of generational change (between first and second generations) among ethnic minorities in Britain. Several of these essays explore the religious dimension, drawing especially upon the British Election Study Ethnic Minority Survey (EMBES) in which a cross-section of 2,787 ethnic minority respondents was interviewed, face-to-face and by self-completion questionnaire, from 7 May to 31 August 2010. The contributions likely to be of most interest to BRIN readers are:

  • Lucinda Platt, ‘Is There Assimilation in Minority Groups’ National, Ethnic, and Religious Identity?’ (pp. 46-70). Platt’s principal finding is that there is generational decline on a range of measures of religiosity for all groups with the partial exception of Muslims. This confirms other evidence of a trend of generational assimilation towards majority and away from minority identity and, in a religious sense, could be said to constitute ‘secularization’. Notwithstanding, this is partially qualified by revelations that the second generation of Hindu immigrants prioritized their religious over their ethnic identity, and that perceptions of religious discrimination enhanced common cause among people of the same faith.
  • Raya Muttarak, ‘Generation, Ethnic, and Religious Diversity in Friendship Choice: Exploring Interethnic Close Ties in Britain’ (pp. 71-98). Muttarak uses pooled data from the 2007-08 and 2008-09 Citizenship Surveys, rather than EMBES. Interethnic friendship patterns are shown to vary significantly by ethnic group, religion, and generation. Ethnic groups sharing similar traits (such as region of origin, race, or religion) were more likely to nominate each other as close friends, although the effect weakened between the first and second generations. In particular, Indian Muslims had a substantially higher chance of having Pakistani close friends than fellow Indians of other religious persuasions. However, black Christians (Caribbean and African) had a higher likelihood of having white British close friends than did other blacks.
  • Siobhan McAndrew and David Voas, ‘Immigrant Generation, Religiosity, and Civic Engagement in Britain’ (pp. 99-119). Mainly using EMBES (other surveys are drawn upon), but analysing for an intermediate (1.5) as well as first and second generations, intergenerational secularization is found across ethnic minority groups, as measured by private religious practice (especially) and religious salience. At the same time, communal religious practice appeared robust to generational decline, apart from black Caribbeans. While immigrant religiosity failed to foster generalized social trust, it is revealed to promote greater civic integration and volunteering.
  • Sin Yi Cheung, ‘Ethno-Religious Minorities and Labour Market Integration: Generational Advancement or Decline?’ (pp. 140-60). EMBES is used to examine four labour market outcomes: economic activity, unemployment, access to salaried jobs, and self-employment. The second generation of immigrants showed little advancement in these outcomes relative to the first generation. Substantial ethno-religious ‘penalties’ persisted for all of the outcomes except self-employment, and there was a particularly strong ‘religious penalty’ among Muslim women.
  • Anthony Heath and Neli Demireva, ‘Has Multiculturalism Failed in Britain?’ (pp. 161-80). Analysis of EMBES, again incorporating a 1.5 generation, demonstrates that all ethno-religious groups have displayed major change across the generations in the direction of a British identity and a reduced social distance, which can co-exist with positive orientations toward their own ethnic culture (as reflected in in-group marriage and friendship). Only a small minority of respondents had taken a separatist position, rejecting a British identity and espousing ‘radical’ socio-political positions. No evidence was found that rates of intergenerational change had been slower among groups that had made successful claims for cultural recognition (such as Sikhs and Muslims). In contrast, lower levels of integration were associated with perceptions of individual or group discrimination.

For abstracts and access options for all these articles, go to:


BMRB turns 80

The British Market Research Bureau (BMRB) is celebrating its eightieth birthday year, laying claim to ‘the longest continuous heritage of any social research company in Britain’. It was established in 1933 as the research arm of advertising agency J. Walter Thompson but quickly shifted emphasis away from commercially oriented research, winning its first contract with the Government in 1939. In 1987 it joined the WPP Group which bought out TNS in 2009, resulting in the creation of TNS BMRB as one of the three constituent companies in the Kantar Group, WPP’s insight, information, and consulting division. TNS Omnibus is a separate company which powers TNS BMRB’s Public Opinion Monitor. Compared to, say, the Gallup Poll (now effectively defunct in Britain), BMRB has not been a major player in religion-related survey research. However, you will find around 30 entries in the BRIN source database where BMRB was responsible for the fieldwork, including the 1963 Political Change in Britain study for David Butler and Donald Stokes, which was the forerunner of the British Election Studies.


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Attitudes towards Britain’s Involvement in the Afghanistan Conflict by Religious Affiliation

by Ben Clements

As well as looking at behaviour and attitudes in relation to the 2010 general election (participation, method of voting, party voted for, etc.), the EMBES survey contains a wealth of attitudinal data relating to long-standing or more recent political issues in Britain. One of these is the involvement of British military forces in the conflict in Afghanistan, which has been on-going since late-2001.

It clearly represents one of major foreign policy issues of recent times, even though it was never as politically controversial, both here and on the international stage, as was the invasion of Iraq in 2003, which engendered divisions with and between the political parties and in wider society. This post reports attitudes towards Britain’s involvement in the Afghanistan war by religious affiliation. It can be read in conjunction with this previous research note on attitudes towards the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by religious affiliation, using data from the British Election Study 2009/10 internet panel survey, which sampled the wider British population.

As with my previous posts this week covering the EMBES (see here and here), the data reported below are based on questions answered as part of the self-completion section (involving 2,787 respondents overall). The EMBES carried seven questions relating to various aspects of Britain’s participation in the war in Afghanistan, one of which is not included here since it asked explicitly about current perceptions of how the war was going. One question asks about approval or disapproval of Britain’s role in the conflict (Table 1) and another about the longer-term prospects of defeating the Taliban (Table 2). The remaining four questions comprise a battery of related items (shown in Tables 3-6). These ask about positive and negative aspects of the conflict.

Table 1 also has two subsidiary tables: Table 1a, which provides responses by Christian denomination; and Table 1b, which gives responses by Muslin tradition. Question wording is provided under each table. To aid presentation of the data in tabular format, the original response options have been collapsed into broader categories (not applicable for Table 3).

Please note that percentages are based on weighted data and sum down each column (except for Table 1a, which sums across the rows). The final column in each table provides the unweighted number of cases. Table 2 provides weighted mean scores for a question using a scale ranging from 0 through to 10 (unweighted cases are reported in the bottom row). As before, the religious affiliation categories are: No religion, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Other. This represents a minor modification of the religious affiliation variable available in the EMBES dataset. The religious affiliation categories are based on two EMBES questions:

‘Do you regard yourself as belonging to any particular religion?’


‘Which one?’

Tables 1a and 1b are based on follow-up questions asking about the particular denomination or tradition belonged to if a respondent says that they are Christian or Muslim. Some interesting differences in opinion are noted below.

Tables 1, 1a and 1b
There are clear differences in levels of approval and disapproval of Britain’s involvement in Afghanistan by religious affiliation, as shown in Table 1. Muslims are least likely to approve (7.6 per cent), with Hindus and Sikhs showing the higher levels of support (26.5 per cent for both groups). Muslims show the highest level of disapproval (at 63.1 per cent) followed by those of no religion (at 51.9 per cent). Also, note that the categories vary somewhat in the proportions offering no opinion (from 8 per cent for those of no religion to nearly a fifth of Hindus).

Table 1a, showing responses by Christian denomination, shows the highest levels of approval are expressed by Anglicans, members of Pentecostal churches and those in the ‘other’ Christian category (in the 25-30 per cent range). The highest levels of disapproval reach around 60 per cent, expressed by Orthodox Christians and (Seventh Day) Adventists. Note that the Orthodox category consists of very few cases. Again, the proportions offering no opinion vary across the categories (from 5 per cent to over 18 per cent).

In Table 1b, showing responses by Muslim tradition, Sunni Muslims and those who do not belong to a particular tradition express the highest levels of disapproval (around 64-5 per cent) compared to 44 per cent for Shi’a Muslims and 50 per cent for those belonging to other traditions. The vast majority of Muslims in Afghanistan practice Sunni Islam. Note that the Shi’a and ‘other’ categories are both based on relatively small numbers of respondents. In the EMBES survey, 83.4 per cent of those who said they were Muslim reported belonging to the Sunni tradition in the follow-up question.





Table 2
The question on which the figures in Table 2 are based asked about longer-term assessment of whether the Taliban in Afghanistan can be defeated. Responses were provided using a 0 to 10 scale in the EMBES survey questionnaire, where a score of 0 represents the most pessimistic evaluation and a score of 10 would indicate the most optimistic evaluation. In the EMBES dataset, the scale ranges from 1 to 11; so in Table 2, a score of 1 represents the most pessimistic evaluation, and a score of 11 the most optimistic assessment. There are differences in the mean scores by religious affiliation category. Interestingly, those of no religion are most pessimistic of defeating the Taliban over the longer-term (mean score of 3.8), followed by Muslims (mean score of 4.1). Those most optimistic in relative terms are Hindus (at 5.5), followed by Christians (4.8). Sikhs and those in the ‘other’ category share a mean score of 4.6. Standard deviations are provided as well.


Tables 3-6
Tables 3 to 6 report attitudes towards a related series of questions, two of which asked about positive aspects of Britain’s participation in the war in Afghanistan (Tables 3 and 5), and two of which asked about negative implications of Britain’s involvement (Tables 4 and 6). The general picture is that, across categories, respondents are more likely to disagree with the positive aspects and more likely to agree with the negative implications. Again, however, there are clear differences in views by religious affiliation categories.

In Table 3, Muslims and those belonging to other traditions are least likely to agree that Britain will benefit in the long term from its involvement (at 9.4 per cent in both cases). For all other categories, nearly a fifth of respondents express agreement with this question. In Table 4, it is Christians and Sikhs who are most likely to agree that Britain’s involvement threatens their safety and that of their families. In Table 5, Hindus and Sikhs are most likely to concur that is a moral case for British involvement in Afghanistan, with Muslims least likely to express agreement with this statement (just 15.2 per cent). In Table 6, there were high levels of agreement with the statement about the war seriously damaging British interests around the globe. Majorities of Muslims, Sikhs and those of another religion agreed. Apart from members of some other religion, less than a fifth in each category disagreed. Across Tables 3-6 there is considerable variation in the proportions in each category refusing to answer or offering a ‘don’t know’ response (combined rather than shown separately). The highest proportions tend to be found amongst Muslims and Hindus (usually in the range of 20-25 per cent).





Finally, BRIN readers who are interested more generally in looking at public opinion in Britain and elsewhere towards the war in Afghanistan are directed towards the links for relevant data held by the following opinion poll organisations:

Angus Reid data


Ipsos MORI

YouGov data

Dr Ben Clements
Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Leicester

bc101 @ leicester.ac.uk

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The Ethnic Minority British Election Study (EMBES) – Part II

This second BRIN post reports reports various attitudes and behaviour for the May 2010 General Election by religious affiliation in a series of cross-tabulations, again using the EMBES survey.

Please note that for the tables using the religion categories, percentages sum down each column (except for Table 4a, which sums across the rows). The original religious affiliation variable on the EMBES dataset has been slightly modified. The ‘Other’ category used here combines one Jewish respondent, Buddhists (3 cases), and Other Religion (26 cases). The measures of attitudes and behaviour are the same as those looked at by ethnic group in my previous post.

To reiterate, Tables 1-5 report the weighted percentages and the unweighted number of cases. As before, the figures in this column should be kept in mind when using the percentages reported here as some categories may consist of only a small number of cases.

Table 6 reports the (weighted) mean scores for likeability ratings of the political parties. Respondents were asked to give a 0 to 10 scale by the EMBES questionnaire, where a score of 0 represents the lowest likeability, and a score of 10 would indicate the highest likeability. In the EMBES dataset, the scale ranges from 1 to 11 – so that a score of 1 represents the worst evaluation possible, and a score of 11 the highest.

Note that there are also two subsidiary tables based on follow-up questions to the religious affiliation item in the EMBES survey, which accompany Table 4. Table 4a shows vote choice in the 2010 general election by Christian tradition or denomination, while Table 4b reports vote choice in the 2010 general election by Muslim tradition.

Table 1

Table 2

Table 3

Table 4

Table 4a

Table 4b

Table 5

Table 6


That’s all for today from the EMBES, although I’ll be posting shortly on the ‘Other Religion – write in’ section of the main BES.

Dr Ben Clements
Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Leicester

bc101 @ leicester.ac.uk

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The Ethnic Minority British Election Study (EMBES)

This BRIN post reports various attitudes and behaviour for the May 2010 general election by ethnic group in a series of cross-tabulations, using the EMBES survey. It looks at:

1. Interest in the 2010 general election.
2. Whether voted or did not vote in the 2010 general election.
3. Method of voting in the 2010 general election.
4. Vote choice at the 2010 general election.
5. For comparison purposes, vote choice at the 2005 general election.
6. Likeability ratings of major and minor political parties.

The EMBES survey involved a post-election face-to-face survey (including a self-completion section) and a subsequent mail-back questionnaire. The data reported here is based on questions answered as part of the self-completion section. This involves 2,787 respondents in total. The geographical composition of the sample is as follows: England – 2,732 cases (98 per cent); Scotland – 39 cases (1.4 per cent); Wales – 16 cases (0.6 per cent).

In Tables 1-5 all percentages are weighted. The percentages in each table sum across the rows. The final column in Tables 1-5 gives the unweighted number of cases for each ethnic group category. The figures in this column should be kept in mind when using the percentages reported here as some ethnic group categories consist of a small or very small number of cases.

Table 6 reports the (weighted) mean scores for likeability ratings of the political parties. For the benefit of BRIN users, the categories have been reproduced as they appear on the EBMES dataset, i.e. no collapsing of categories has been undertaken. The single case coded as ‘refused’ on the ethnic group variable in the EMBES dataset has been excluded from all of the tables. Question wording and table-specific notes are provided at the bottom of each table. Note that respondents were asked to give a 0 to 10 scale by the EMBES questionnaire, where a score of 0 represents the lowest likeability, and a score of 10 would indicate the highest likeability. However, in the EMBES dataset, the scale ranges from 1 to 11 – so that a score of 1 represents the worst evaluation possible, and a score of 11 the most favourable assessment.


Table 2

Table 3

Table 4

Table 5

Table 6

BRIN users who are interested in further discussion of ethnicity and voting behaviour at previous British general elections may find the following references useful:

– Shamit Saggar and Anthony Heath, ‘Race: Towards a Multicultural Electorate?’ In: G. Evans and P. Norris eds (1999), Critical Elections: British Parties and Voters in Long-term Perspective. London: Sage.
– Shamit Saggar ed. (1998), Race and British Electoral Politics. London: Routledge.

I will post shortly about how the major political variables correlate with religious affiliation among the ethnic minority sample. If you need further detail on these analyses, contact me at the address below.

Dr Ben Clements
Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Leicester

bc101 @ leicester.ac.uk

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Ethnic Minority British Election Study 2009-2010 now online

The British Election Study (BES) constitutes the longest academic series of nationally representative probability sample surveys in Britain. In 1997, Anthony Heath and Shamit Saggar led an investigation into ethnic minority electoral behaviour and attitudes via a booster sample of 705 respondents. A survey of ethnic minorities in 2010 was also run, and this week was made available online at http://bes2009-10.org/

Anthony Heath, Professor of Sociology at the Universities of Oxford and Manchester, led the project alongside Steve Fisher (Oxford) and David Sanders (Essex). He says: “in some respects EMBES is the most comprehensive study of ethnic minorities in Britain since PSI’s Fourth National Survey in 1994”.

EMBES is primarily concerned with political party preference, vote choice in 2010, attitudes towards the main party leaders and so forth – but also includes questions on topics such as language fluency, perceptions of discrimination in different fields, cultural orientations, social relationships and social capital.

Some of the questions are replicated from those in the 1997 ethnic minority survey, others from the post-election main BES survey, and others still from the Canadian Ethnic Diversity Survey – allowing different comparisons to be made.

The EMBES comprises reasonably-large sample sizes covering important ethnic minority groups in Britain. 1 respondent refused to report their ethnicity; otherwise:
Mixed white and Black Caribbean – 70 respondents
Mixed white and Black African – 23
Mixed white and Asian – 5
Other mixed – 9
Asian or British Indian – 587
Asian or British Pakistani – 668
Asian or British Bangladeshi – 270
Other Asian/British – 16
Black or Black British Caribbean – 597
Black or Black British African – 524
Other Black British background – 6
Other ethnic group – 11
Total: 2787

A small number of religious items were included in the questionnaire:
Do you regard yourself as belonging to any particular religion?

If yes, which one? (Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, Other)

Which Christian denomination or tradition do you belong to? (Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Pentecostal, Orthodox, Other [write in], None in particular)

If Muslim, which Muslim tradition do you belong to? (Sunni [Hanafi; Deobandi; Barelvi], Shi’a (Twelvers; Severners; Ismailis; Boras), Sufism, Kharijites: Ibadism, Ahmadis, None of these, Other [write in])

How important is your religion to you?

In the past 12 months, how often did you participate in religious activities or attend religious services or meetings with other people, other than for events such as weddings and funerals?

In the past 12 months, how often did you do religious activities on your own? This may include prayer, meditation and other forms of worship taking place at home or in any other location.

The questionnaire is available here:

And the datasets are available in SPSS and Stata format here :

The documentation for the survey, however, is not available yet, so I will check how to weight the sample before reporting any further data. For additional information on EMBES, contact David Sanders at the University of Essex.

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