Roman Catholics’ Attitudes Towards Homosexuality

There has been some media coverage of the deliberations of the Roman Catholic Church at its Extraordinary Synod on the Family held in Rome earlier this month, including in a recent BRIN post. The issue of the Catholic Church’s position on homosexuality and its treatment of gays and lesbians, and the related divisions between liberal and conservative elements, were prominent features of the Synod. Given this wider context and the Catholic Church’s opposition to recent reforms in the area of same-sex equality in Britain, this post reviews some of the historical and more recent survey-based evidence on attitudes towards homosexuality amongst Catholics in Britain. Data are analysed from surveys specifically conducted to elicit the views of Catholics in Britain (or England and Wales), and the social and religious profiles of attitudes on this topic are examined.

Before turning to the denominationally-specific surveys, opinion polls and social surveys shed light on the attitudes of Catholics on towards homosexuality. For example, an opinion poll undertaken by Gallup in 1963-64 (based on a sample of adults aged 16 and over in several regions of England) asked a question about what society should do with homosexuals. It found that 30.0% of Catholics though that homosexuals should be punished by law, 28.0% thought they should be condemned but not punished, 31.0% said they should be tolerated, and 12.0 % did not know. Those Catholics who attended services regularly were slightly less likely to say that homosexuals should be tolerated (25.0%).

General social surveys also enable us to track attitudes over time on this issue. Table 1 presents data from the long-running British Social Attitudes (BSA) surveys, based on a question asking to what extent sexual relations between two adults of the same sex are wrong. Data are presented from first and most recent BSA surveys, which cover a period of three decades. In 1983, it can be seen that only a small minority of Catholics think that sexual relations between gays and lesbians are rarely or not at all wrong (at 17.0%), and the a clear majority think they are always wrong or mostly wrong (68.0%). Over three decades there is a significant shift in attitudes. In 2013, around two-thirds of Catholics think sexual relations between same-sex individuals are rarely wrong or not at all wrong (65.0%), and just a tenth combined think that such relations are always wrong, mostly wrong or sometimes wrong.

Table 1: Attitudes towards sexual relations between gays and lesbians, Catholics in Britain (1983 and 2013)

1983 (%)

2013 (%)

Always wrong or mostly wrong

68.0

2.0

Sometimes wrong

6.0

8.0

Rarely wrong or not wrong at all

17.0

65.0

Depends /varies or don’t know

9.0

7.0

Unweighted base

168

102

Source: BSA surveys. Weighted data.

Of course, as a minority religious group in the British population, Catholics have comprised around a tenth of the samples in the BSA series and other social surveys and opinion polls – as detailed in recent research – so it is also valuable to analyse evidence from surveys specifically targeting Catholics. Such surveys have not been frequent, however, and the first one used here is the 1978 Roman Catholic Opinion Survey, which sampled adult Catholics (aged 16 and over) in England and Wales. The survey asked the following question about homosexuality:

The Church can never, in practice, approve the homosexual act.

The full distribution of responses is shown in Table 2 for the following characteristics: sex, age group, age completed education, social grade, attendance at religious services and belief in God. There are marked differences across age groups: older age groups have more socially-conservative views; levels of agreement are highest amongst those aged 55-64 or 65 and older. Differences in view are less pronounced on the basis of socio-economic background (social grade or age finished education) or sex. Regularity of attendance at services clearly differentiates Catholics’ attitudes on this issue, with those attending church most often expressing higher levels of agreement with the question. Those never attending church services were about twice as likely to disagree as those attending on a weekly basis. Belief in God is associated with more socially-conservative views; those who do not believe in God or who had no clear opinion were more likely to disagree (amounting to a majority of former group).

Table 2: Attitudes towards homosexuality, Catholics in England and Wales (1978)

Agree

(%)

Neither (%)

Disagree (%)

Don’t know (%)

Sex
Male

57.8

14.0

17.7

10.6

Female

53.9

16.9

16.4

12.8

Age group
15-24

47.8

14.6

22.2

16.4

25-34

49.1

17.7

21.7

11.6

35-44

58.7

16.0

17.6

7.7

45-54

52.2

17.5

15.7

14.6

55-64

64.6

12.4

10.2

12.7

65+

74.0

12.7

5.1

8.1

Age completed education
14 or under

62.8

13.7

10.1

13.4

15 years

58.1

15.3

16.9

9.7

16 years

48.5

17.0

22.8

11.7

17-19 years

53.3

18.9

16.9

10.9

20 or over

48.6

21.1

22.0

8.2

Social grade
AB

58.5

13.4

19.5

8.6

C1

53.0

14.7

20.1

12.2

C2

60.2

15.3

12.9

11.7

DE

54.9

16.9

15.6

12.6

Attendance
Once a week / every Sunday

66.7

9.9

11.8

11.6

Most Sundays / once a month

51.2

21.1

15.5

12.2

At least once a year / special occasions

52.1

18.1

19.9

9.9

Rarely or never

45.3

18.4

22.9

13.4

Belief in God
Certainly or probably true

57.5

16.0

15.3

11.3

Certainly or probably false

21.6

8.5

52.2

17.7

Don’t know

36.8

14.1

26.1

23.0

Source: Roman Catholic Opinion Survey, February-March 1978 (England and Wales). Weighted data.

For a more recent portrait of the attitudes of Catholics towards homosexuality, we can use a survey conducted by YouGov in the run-up to the papal visit to Britain by the (then) Pope, Benedict XVI, in September 2010. The survey was conducted online and the sample comprised 1,636 adult Catholics in Britain aged 18 and over. The survey asked the following question:

Which of these comes closest to your views about consenting adults having homosexual relations?

The full set response options was as follows:

Good for them: we should celebrate loving relationships, whether gay or straight.

I’m in favour of equal rights, but in general I think straight relationships are better than gay relationships.

I don’t like homosexuality, but accept that what consenting adults do in private is their business, not mine.

Homosexual acts are morally wrong.

Don’t know.

The distribution of responses is given in Table 3 (with the response options abridged for the column headings), for the following factors: sex, age group, age completed education, social grade and attendance (no measures of religious belief are available). Generally, only small proportions in each group think that homosexual acts are morally wrong (highest amongst men, those aged 65-74 and 75 and older, those who completed education aged 15 or under, and those who attend religious services once a week or more). Women, those in the younger age groups, and those who left education aged 17 and upwards and those who attend religious services less than weekly (or not at all) are more likely to offer a positive endorsement of same-sex couples. The table does not report the proportions who responded don’t know, but these were very small across the groups.

Table 3: Attitudes towards homosexuality, Catholics in Britain (2010)

Celebrate

loving

relationships

(%)

Straight

relationships

better

than

gay

relationships (%)

Don’t

like

homosexuality

 (%)

Morally

wrong

(%)

Sex
Men

30.4

17.6

35.2

16.0

Women

48.5

19.7

22.1

7.8

Age group
18-24

45.7

18.1

26.6

9.6

25-34

59.2

17.1

19.1

3.5

35-44

51.6

16.7

24.8

6.3

45-54

43.2

18.2

28.8

7.6

55-64

29.8

25.9

31.0

12.0

65-74

17.1

17.1

37.6

24.4

75+

6.4

14.9

34.0

44.7

Age completed education
15 or under

18.5

26.5

29.1

22.5

16

28.2

20.9

39.9

9.5

17-18

41.7

14.1

32.2

10.4

19

45.3

18.8

25.0

10.9

20

49.5

19.6

20.2

9.2

Still in education

45.7

15.5

26.7

11.2

Social grade
AB

43.3

18.7

24.8

11.8

C1

44.4

15.2

27.7

11.4

C2

31.5

25.3

34.0

7.2

DE

43.0

16.0

25.6

14.2

Attendance
Once a  week or more

27.6

16.6

32.7

21.3

Once a month or more

46.9

21.9

21.9

8.2

Less often

46.7

21.6

24.0

6.3

Never or practically never

46.9

17.1

28.2

6.4

Source: YouGov survey of adults Catholic in Britain, August-September 2010. Weighted data.

Note: Don’t know responses not shown.

Finally, to investigate variation in Catholics’ attitudes towards the recent debate over same-sex marriage, evidence is used derived from a survey of adult Catholics (n=1,062) in Britain undertaken in June 2013. The survey was commissioned by Professor Linda Woodhead (Lancaster University) in connection with the Westminster Faith Debates. It was conducted online by YouGov. Broader analyses of findings from this survey can be found here and here. The survey asked the following question:

And do you think same-sex marriage is right or wrong?

The full distribution of responses to this question is shown in Table 4, which again provides a breakdown in opinion by sex, age group, education (measured as highest qualification obtained), social grade, attendance and belief in God (or a higher power). Some of the broad lives of division evident in Catholics’ general views on homosexuality are also apparent on the more specific issues over the legalisation of marriage between same-sex individuals. Men are more likely than women to think it is wrong. The age gap in disapproval is also considerable here. Pluralities or majorities of the 18-24, 25-34 and 35-44 age groups think same-sex marriage is right. Those aged 45-54 are more likely to be opposed while increasingly large majorities are against in the higher age groups.

In terms of socio-economic background, variation in attitudes is more pronounced on the basis of educational attainment that it is based on social grade.  Those in the DE group are less likely to approve of same-sex marriage (indeed, a majority thinks it is wrong) compared to those in the AB, C1 and C2 categories. In terms of qualifications, approval is highest amongst those with degree-level qualifications (and those with A-levels), and lowest amongst those with no formal qualifications, and those whose highest qualifications are GCSEs or others.

There are also clear differences in views based on the indicators of religious behaving and believing. Those who attend services most frequently (once a week or more) show little support for same-sex marriage, with a clear majority against. Amongst those who attend once a month or more, a plurality is against same-sex marriage. For those attending less often or not at all, pluralities are in favour of same-sex marriage.

Table 4: Attitudes towards same-sex marriage, Catholics in Britain (2013)

 

Right (%)

Wrong (%)

Don’t know (%)

Sex
Men

31.5

52.6

16.9

Women

36.8

42.3

21.0

Age group
18-24

46.0

33.3

20.6

25-34

56.0

23.1

20.8

35-44

42.2

34.7

23.1

45-54

35.3

44.9

19.8

55-64

24.3

58.9

16.8

65-74

11.4

74.3

14.3

75+

8.3

86.1

5.6

Education
No qualifications

21.2

60.6

18.2

GCSE

28.4

48.9

22.7

A-Level

38.1

44.6

17.3

Degree

43.2

34.5

22.4

Other

27.7

58.0

14.3

Social grade
AB

34.3

47.4

18.3

C1

37.1

41.2

21.6

C2

37.8

45.5

16.7

DE

29.1

52.0

18.8

Attendance

 

 

 

Once a week or more

15.2

67.5

17.3

Once a month or more

35.8

45.9

18.3

Less often

42.6

37.7

19.8

Never

46.8

33.6

19.7

Belief in God
Definitely or probably a God or higher power

30.4

52.8

16.8

Probably or definitely not a God or higher power

51.0

29.4

19.6

Don’t know

44.1

24.6

31.4

Source: YouGov survey of adult Catholics in Britain, June 2013. Weighted data.

Summary

While social surveys provide important data about over time change in the attitudes of Catholics in Britain towards homosexuality and other social-moral issues, important evidence is also available from occasional denomination-specific surveys, some of which have been utilised here. Although they have asked different questions on the issue at different points in time, there are some broad commonalities in terms of which groups within the Catholic community have tended to have more socially-conservative views on homosexuality and gay rights. Socially, men, older people and those with lower levels of education have been those groups in the Catholic community more likely to disapprove of same-sex relations. In terms of faith, those who are more orthodox in their behaving and believing are more likely to hold socially-conservative views of homosexuality. The same patterns can be found in the most recent survey data pertaining to Catholics’ views on the same-sex marriage debate. Recent research conducted by the Pew Research Centre on the attitudes of Catholics in the United States has also demonstrated clear differences in view – towards homosexuality in general and on the issue of same-sex marriage – on the basis of age and church attendance.

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Halloween and Other News

 

Halloween

Halloween is almost upon us again! It is next Friday (31 October 2014). Strictly speaking, it is All Hallows’ Eve in the Christian calendar, but since the Millennium it has been transformed in the UK into a seasonal festival in the American mould, surpassed only by Christmas and Easter in its value in the commercial calendar. In 2001 it was estimated that only £12 million of Halloween-themed products were sold in this country, whereas today the value of the Halloween market is said to range from £230 million (according to Mintel) to £443 million (Webloyalty/Conlumino), with Planet Retail’s forecast being £330 million. The fact that Halloween this year falls on a Friday and during school half-term breaks is thought likely to increase its observance still further. Since average spend per consumer on Halloween remains relatively low, there is felt to be quite a lot of potential for ongoing growth.

Such is the commercial importance of Halloween, especially to the supermarkets, that it now drives a fair amount of market research, much of which remains locked up behind paywalls. However, the Webloyalty/Conlumino report was put into the public domain on 24 October 2014 and can be briefly summarized here. Of the total Halloween spending of £421 million in 2013, 33% was on costumes, 31% on food, 21% on decorations, and 15% on entertainment and stationery. Two-thirds of consumers questioned in September 2014 anticipated celebrating Halloween in some shape or form the following month (the most common activities expected to be giving out sweets to trick or treaters and carving a pumpkin), and 57% thought they would buy something for Halloween, with £11 the likely amount of money to be parted with. Despite this apparent enthusiasm, 63% agreed that Halloween is not a real festival but a commercial opportunity, 56% claimed to be indifferent towards it, and 50% said they would not open the door to trick or treaters. Asked whether Halloween is bad because it focuses on the occult, 23% agreed, 36% disagreed, and 41% were neutral. The Webloyalty/Conlumino report is at:

http://www.webloyalty.co.uk/images/uk-halloween-research-webloyalty-2014.pdf

Meanwhile, 42% of 2,067 Britons have told Populus, in an online poll for Hubbub (the charity behind Pumpkin Rescue – no, we jest not) carried out on 10-12 October 2014, they have at some time bought a pumpkin to carve or decorate for Halloween. Those professing no religion were slightly more likely to have done so (45%) than Christians (42%) or non-Christians (36%). After hollowing out and carving the pumpkin, most respondents throw the insides away, but one-third claimed to have cooked with them. Data tables are at:

http://www.populus.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Hubbub-Pumpkin-Research-Full-Tables.pdf

Contemporary beliefs

Doubtless also prompted by the imminence of Halloween, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! London attraction released the headline results of a survey into UK beliefs on 28 October 2014, which were initially picked up by The Times and Daily Star. The study was commissioned by Ripley’s from 72 Point and conducted online by the latter’s polling partner, OnePoll, between 7 and 10 October 2014. The sample comprised 500 children aged 8-12 and 1,500 adults aged 18 and over. Full data tables are not available, nor (one suspects) are they ever likely to be, but there are two press releases which can be read at:

http://www.ripleyslondon.com/believe-aliens-god/

and

http://www.72point.com/coverage/brits-aliens/

As with other media-focused polls investigating the supernatural, it is not always easy to reconcile the findings with those from other sample surveys into religious and cognate beliefs. This is especially so in relation to belief in God, which fluctuates markedly in surveys and is heavily dependent upon question-wording, and particularly upon the way in which ‘God’ is defined. For the record, this is the Ripley’s league table showing how comparatively badly God fares when pitted against other extra-terrestrial beings:

Belief in (%)

Adults

Children

Ghosts

55

64

Aliens

51

64

UFOs

42

50

Angels

27

27

God

25

33

YouGov@Cambridge polling

New YouGov polling on defence and foreign policy issues has been released in connection with this year’s YouGov@Cambridge Forum, which was held on 23 October 2014. Here we focus on the Islamist-related aspects, concerning attitudes to a range of actions which could be taken against Islamic State (IS) in Iraq (fieldwork on 13-14 October 2014) and Syria (14-15 October 2014) and the Islamist group Boko Haram in Nigeria (25-26 September 2014). Samples of approximately 2,000 adults were interviewed online for each survey. Topline results are summarized below, but detailed data tables can be accessed at:

http://cambridge.yougov.com/archive/

Support for

Against IS in Iraq

Against IS in Syria

Against Boko Haram in Nigeria

RAF air strikes

60

60

38

Unmanned aerial drone strikes

61

62

46

Royal Navy missile strikes

58

58

37

Supplying heavy weapons to local forces

45

NA

24

Supplying small arms to local forces

47

NA

29

Sending in regular UK troops

30

NA

19

Sending humanitarian supplies via charities

67

NA

63

RAF dropping humanitarian supplies

79

NA

71

Sending UK military advisers

63

NA

62

Sending UK special forces to rescue hostages

68

65

55

Cooperating with Iranian government

NA

52

NA

Cooperating with Russian government

NA

49

NA

Cooperating with Syrian government

NA

37

NA

Perception and reality

‘The British public are often very wrong about the basic make-up of their population and the scale of key social issues’, Ipsos MORI has concluded from its analysis (published on 29 October 2014) of a multinational survey of knowledge about nine topics, two of them religion-related. The two pertinent questions asked were ‘Out of every 100 people how many do you think are Muslim?’ and ‘Out of every 100 people how many do you think are Christian?’ Average guesses were computed from the answers given and compared with the true national proportions. Fieldwork was conducted online between 12 and 26 August 2014 among a sample of 1,000 Britons aged 16-64 via Ipsos Global @dvisor.

As in most of the other 13 nations surveyed, Britons massively overestimated the proportion of Muslims in the population, the average guess being 21%, which was almost four times the actual number of Muslims recorded in the 2011 census. They likewise underestimated the presence of professing Christians, suggesting they only represented 39% of the population whereas the census recorded 59%. These ‘perils of perception’, as Ipsos MORI describes them, doubtless contribute to the growth of Islamophobia and to the sense that Christian tradition and culture are being undermined. Results for Britain and major Western European and North American countries are shown below. They have been abstracted from a press release and slide show which can be found at:

https://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/3466/Perceptions-are-not-reality-Things-the-world-gets-wrong.aspx

%

Overestimate of Muslims

Underestimate of Christians

Belgium

+23

-18

France

+23

-14

Germany

+13

0

Great Britain

+16

-20

Italy

+16

-14

Spain

+14

-15

United States

+14

-22

Canada

+18

-21

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Anglican Clergy Poll and Other News

 

Anglican clergy poll

As anticipated in our post of 12 October 2014, the complete results of the YouGov survey of Anglican clergy were published on 23 October. The poll was designed by Professor Linda Woodhead and commissioned on behalf of Lancaster University, Westminster Faith Debates, and other partners in connection with the current series of debates on the Future of the Church of England. Respondents comprised 1,509 clergy aged 70 and under from the Anglican Churches in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland who answered 30 questions online between 14 August and 8 September 2014. They had been selected on a random basis (every third name) from Crockford’s Clerical Directory, and questionnaires sent to the 5,000 of the resulting sample of 6,000 for whom email addresses were available. The response rate thus appears to be around 30%.  Full tables (with breaks by gender, age, year of ordination, country, and ministerial role) are available at:

http://cdn.yougov.com/cumulus_uploads/document/5f5s31fk47/Results-for-Anglican-Clergy-Survey-08092014.pdf

Additionally, a press release has been issued in which Woodhead makes the following points:

  • Anglican clergy are united by a strong faith in a personal God and commitment to the parish system, 83% in each case
  • They are marked out from lay Anglicans and the rest of the population by their left-wing, ‘old Labour’, views, including attachment to a generous welfare system
  • They tend towards morally conservative positions on abortion, same-sex marriage, and – especially – assisted dying
  • Attitudes are often sharply split between the third of clergy who are evangelical and the rest, the former tending to dissent from the official Church line that Anglicans should learn to ‘disagree well’

An abbreviated version of the press release can be found at:

http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/news/articles/2014/cofe-clergy-concerned-with-protecting-the-welfare-budget/

Some of the questions were specific to the clergy, but others replicated those put to a sample of adult Britons by YouGov on behalf of Westminster Faith Debates in June 2013. This permits comparisons between the clergy, the general population, and the Anglican section thereof, as follows:

% down

Clergy

Britons

Anglicans

Since 1945 British society has become

better

38

27

25

worse

34

51

60

Britain has benefited from immigration in

some ways

96

60

52

no ways

2

32

41

Welfare budget should be

reduced

17

46

52

maintained

31

24

23

increased

44

15

13

Abortion time limit of 24 weeks should be

increased

5

6

5

kept

32

40

39

reduced

43

29

33

Same-sex marriage is

right

39

46

38

wrong

51

37

47

Legal prohibition on assisted suicide should be

kept

70

14

14

changed

22

76

77

Other surveys of Anglican clergy have been carried out in the past, but have mostly had a different focus, on religious beliefs, aspects of ministry, or psychological type. Comparisons with the current YouGov study are therefore difficult. However, we may note that clerical support for disestablishment appears to have diminished somewhat over the years. Whereas Gallup found it running at 30% of full-time clergy in December 1984 and 35% in August 1996, it had fallen to 14% 30 years later, 81% wishing to retain all or some of the trappings of establishment.

Heritage at risk

The latest debate in the Future of the Church of England series was devoted to heritage, and it was fitting that, on the very same day the debate took place (23 October 2014), English Heritage published the 2014 Heritage at Risk Register. This is the first since the register began in 1998 to include a fairly comprehensive inventory of places of worship judged to be at risk. In the past year the organization has visited all those considered to be in poor or very bad condition on the basis of local reports. As a result, it is now known that, of the 14,775 listed places of worship in England, 887 or 6.0% are at risk, accounting for 15.4% of all 5,753 sites on the at risk register. The greatest number (805) are Anglican. The regional breakdown of at risk places of worship is shown below. To search the register, and for more information about it, go to:

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/about/news/heritage-at-risk-2014/

 

Places of worship at risk

As % of all sites at risk

South-West

163

9.6

South-East

116

20.9

London

73

11.3

East

115

25.8

East Midlands

105

26.1

West Midlands

76

17.4

North-West

115

24.0

Yorkshire

98

12.6

North-East

26

9.1

ENGLAND

887

15.4

In a complementary move, ChurchCare, the Church of England’s national agency for supporting its places of worship, has been working, with the financial assistance of English Heritage, to develop the Church Heritage Record, a publicly accessible database of church buildings integrated with a Geographic Information System. This will have an educational and engagement mission alongside its primary role in church planning. When launched in Spring 2015, it will contain over 16,000 entries on church buildings in England, covering a wide variety of topics from architectural history and archaeology to worship and the surrounding natural environment.

Number problems

The current issue (Vol. 16, No. 2, 2014) of DISKUS: The Journal of the British Association for the Study of Religions is a theme issue devoted to ‘The Problem with Numbers in the Study of Religions’. Guest edited and introduced by Bettina Schmidt, it contains seven substantive research articles offering case studies of Australia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Norway, and the British Isles (the latter including a further essay by Martin Stringer on superdiversity with reference to religion in Handsworth, Bitmingham in the 2011 census, as well as a qualitative study by Simeon Wallis of English adolescents who identify with no religion). There is an insightful afterword by BRIN’s co-director, Professor David Voas (pp. 116-24), which both offers a commentary on the individual papers and, drawing on his own research, illuminates the ‘serious problems of validity and reliability in measuring religion’ while simultaneously advancing a compelling case for quantification. The issue is freely available online at:

http://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/DISKUS/index.php/DISKUS/issue/view/8

From the British perspective, perhaps the single most important contribution is by Kevin Brice on ‘Counting the Converts: Investigating Change of Religion in Scotland and Estimating Change in Religion in England and Wales Using Data from Scotland’s Census,  2001’ (pp. 45-69). Factoring in ethnicity, this cross-references the questions on religion of upbringing and current religion asked in Scotland in 2001 (but not in 2011, when only current religion was investigated) in order to quantify life-cycle change in religion, albeit not differentiating between Christian denominations. The overall extent of religious change was 13.5% in Scotland in 2001 (ranging from 2.2% for Pakistanis to 21.1% for Black Caribbeans), with 85.7% of all changes involving a move to no religion, and with leaving Christianity for no religion a very dominant trend for almost all ethnic groups. Notwithstanding, there were also subsidiary trends, including a not insignificant movement from none to Christian. This is a valuable piece of historical analysis, with the detail embedded in 11 tables, but its subsequent application to produce estimates for religious change in England and Wales in 2011 inevitably raises some doubts, with Brice himself conceding that some of the estimates are ‘far from robust’. As Voas suggests in his afterword, perhaps greater recourse to the potential of sample surveys for measuring religious change would have been revealing.

Church growth

Further to the release of its substantive findings at the beginning of 2014, the Church Growth Research Programme of the Church of England has been conducting some follow-on work. Particular mention should be made of a new report from Fiona Tweedie entitled Stronger as One? Amalgamations and Church Attendance. She finds that in urban areas benefice structure does not have any statistically significant effect on the likelihood of growth or decline in attendance, and that in other areas the relationship between the two variables is complex, but with no evidence to suggest that the more churches are amalgamated, the greater the chances of numerical decrease. Moreover, attendance patterns in parishes with a team ministry do not differ substantially from those without. In letters to the Church of England Newspaper (17 October 2014) and Church Times (24 October 2014), her conclusions have been challenged by David Goodhew and Bob Jackson, who point to ‘problematic data’, ‘technical statistical issues’, and failure to distinguish between different sizes of church as the source of their misgivings. The 45-page Stronger as One? report can be read at:

http://www.churchgrowthresearch.org.uk/UserFiles/File/Reports/Stronger_as_One1.pdf

A further conference in connection with the Church Growth Research Programme has now been scheduled for 4 December 2014, at the Cutlers Hall, Sheffield, with BRIN’s David Voas as one of the keynote speakers. Entitled ‘From Evidence to Action’, conference details can be found at:

http://www.churchgrowthresearch.org.uk/news/23

Islamic State

The so-called Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria was the fifth most noticed news story of last week, mentioned by just 7% of 2,038 Britons interviewed online by Populus on 22 and 23 October 2014. It had been in second position the previous week and in the top spot (currently occupied by the Ebola outbreak) for several weeks before that. In third place last week was the (Islamist-related) shooting in Ottawa, noted by 9%.

In another newly-released Populus poll for We Believe in Israel and the Jewish Leadership Council, and principally concerned with British attitudes toward Israel, 77% entertained a very cold and unfavourable view of IS (the bottom of a 10-point scale), with a further 11% regarding them unfavourably (points 1-4). Nevertheless, 5% held IS in a favourable light (points 6-10), rising to 14% among the 18-24s. The word most often used to describe Israel was Jewish (40%), 63% endorsing Israel’s right to exist as a majority Jewish state, albeit more than two-thirds of these qualified their support with the proviso that Israel should agree to the existence of a separate Palestinian state. Fieldwork was conducted online between 10 and 12 October 2014, among a sample of 2,067. Data tables are at:

http://www.populus.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/OmIsrael_BPC.pdf

The latest Ipsos MORI Political Monitor asked a half-sample of 501 adults, interviewed by telephone on 11-14 October 2014, what role the British military should play against IS. In reply, 59% backed their deployment abroad to fight IS, 17% giving as their reason the direct threat to British interests and 42% the threat to other people’s rights and freedom. Opposition to the intervention of Britain’s armed forces against IS stood at 34%. The question was somewhat ambiguous because intervention could have been interpreted to mean RAF bombing of IS, the engagement of British troops in Iraq to train Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting IS, or the commitment of British ground troops in direct combat with IS, the first two of which are already happening. Data tables are at:

https://www.ipsos-mori.com/Assets/Docs/Polls/Oct2014_PolMon_Tables_Web_foreignpolicy.pdf

In its most recent poll for The Sunday Times, undertaken on 23-24 October 2014 on the basis of 2,069 online interviews, YouGov found that 76% of the population supported the removal of British citizenship from those who possess dual nationality or are naturalized Britons and who have been fighting with IS, with only 10% opposed. Two-thirds (with 19% against) also wanted to see Parliament change the law so that British citizenship could be removed from people born in Britain and who have no other nationality but have been fighting with IS. Responding to the Islamist gun attack on the Canadian Parliament, 77% thought there was a risk of a similar attack occurring in this country. Data tables are at:

http://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/tg001pwhwn/YG-Archive-Pol-Sunday-Times-results-241014.pdf

Media coverage

Thanks and congratulations are due to regular BRIN contributor Ben Clements for his two recent posts on religion data in the British Election Study 2015 panel. These seem to have excited some media interest, with coverage thus far in The Catholic Herald, 24 October 2014, p. 6 (also quoting BRIN co-director David Voas); The Tablet, 25 October 2014, p. 29; and The Times, 25 October 2014, main section, p. 92.

 

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Catholic Family and Other News

 

Catholic family

The Roman Catholic Church’s fortnight-long Extraordinary Synod on the Family ends in Rome today. It has attracted surprisingly little attention in the general (non-Catholic) British media, although its outcomes are now being reported as a victory for conservative forces in the Church, particularly on gay issues. So far as is known, the Synod has not been informed by any scientific test to determine how far British Catholics, professing or practising, are in tune with the Church’s official teaching on family matters. The Church’s own consultation questionnaire, in the autumn of 2013, was something of a public relations disaster, being poorly designed and imperfectly administered; in any case, the findings of this survey in England and Wales and in Scotland have been kept secret. No non-Catholic agency has stepped in to take the pulse of Catholic opinion in the run-up to the Synod, so the latest data which we have of a representative nature are those collected by YouGov for Westminster Faith Debates in June 2013, which revealed a big gap between the hierarchy and people in the pews. The tables from this poll are still available online at:

http://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/k0rbt8onjb/YG-Archive-050613-FaithMatters-UniversityofLancaster.pdf

That said, we probably should mention (just about) a global enquiry which has been run by the Catholic weekly The Tablet between 3 and 14 October 2014, via an 18-item open access online questionnaire. This was answered by an entirely self-selecting (and therefore probably quite unrepresentative) sample of more than 4,300 individuals, 57% of them from the United States (where the poll was highlighted on conservative blogs). According to The Tablet, one-quarter of respondents lived in the United Kingdom or Ireland, but their answers are not in the public domain, albeit there is a published tabulation of the views of 84 divorced and remarried British or Irish Catholics, which can be found at:

http://www.thetablet.co.uk/texts-speeches-homilies/4/470/what-you-are-hoping-for-from-the-synod-for-the-family-our-survey-results-in-full-

Islamism (1)

Polling interest in the so-called Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria appears to be waning. This is the first weekend in more than two months that The Sunday Times has not included a module of questions about IS in its weekly poll conducted on its behalf by YouGov. Although IS remained the second most noted news story of last week, it attracted just 11% of the vote, compared with 50% for the Ebola outbreak, according to a Populus survey on 15 and 16 October 2014 among an online sample of 2,039 adults. The only other recent poll to note was undertaken online by ComRes for the Sunday Mirror and Independent on Sunday, also on 15 and 16 October 2014, with 2,000 respondents. Asked whether the US and UK governments were right to refuse to pay ransoms to terrorist groups such as IS, 60% agreed, 13% disagreed, and 27% did not know what to think. Data tables are available at:

http://www.comres.co.uk/polls/IoS_SM_Political_Poll_Additional_Questions_19th_October_2014.pdf

Islamism (2)

The Times of 2 October 2014 (p. 13) contained a report on recent research by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR), at King’s College London. It was based on a study of 471 male and 54 female jihadists who had travelled to Syria and Iraq, overwhelmingly to join Islamic State (IS) or the al-Qaeda affiliated Nusra Front. Biographical details were gleaned from interviews and social media. Comparative data on 378 German jihadists were obtained from that country’s intelligence service. Key findings from the newspaper coverage of the British research are quoted below, but no further information is currently available on the ICSR website.

‘The UK jihadists tend to be better educated, more affluent and have more social mobility compared to their counterparts in Europe. The typical British fighter was aged 18-24 and had received a sixth-form education, though some had degrees. Before going to the Middle East a majority had an involvement in activist groups focused on global Muslim issues, such as the Palestinian conflict, and many were involved in street-preaching groups. British jihadists tend to have South Asian backgrounds, reflecting the dominant ethnicities within British Islam, while men of North African extraction are the most numerous among mainland European fighters. Some British jihadists had criminal convictions, mostly for drugs or petty crime.’

Religious and ethnic hatred

Asked to select the greatest threat to the world from a list of five current dangers, 39% of Britons put religious and ethnic hatred in first place, with a further 22% placing it second, and still larger numbers of those on the political right. This is according to the results of a question asked in the most recent Pew Global Attitudes survey and released on 16 October 2014. Fieldwork was conducted in 44 countries between March and June 2014, including in Britain where 1,000 adults aged 18 and over were interviewed by telephone from 17 March to 9 April. The report and topline results from the question on world dangers can be read at:

http://www.pewglobal.org/files/2014/10/Pew-Research-Center-Dangers-Report-FINAL-October-16-2014.pdf

The proportion of Britons citing religious and ethnic hatred as the world’s biggest danger in Spring 2014 was actually higher than in all other countries studied apart from Lebanon (58%) and the Palestinian Territories (40%), and it was considerably larger than the European average of 15% and the United States figure of 24%. However, it was somewhat diminished from the levels in Britain in Summer 2002 (43%) and Spring 2007 (45%), which were presumably influenced by the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in, respectively, New York in 2001 (9/11) and London in 2005 (7/7). The growing gap between the rich and the poor was perceived as the greatest global risk for 25% in Britain in 2014, pollution and other environmental problems for 16%, the spread of nuclear weapons for 14%, and AIDS and other infectious diseases for 4%.

Hate crimes: England and Wales

Hate Crimes, England and Wales, 2013/14, by Byron Creese and Deborah Lader, was published as Home Office Statistical Bulletin 02/14 on 16 October 2014. The police recorded 44,480 hate crimes in the year, of which 2,273 (5%) were categorized as religiously motivated, somewhat more than disability hate crimes (1,985) and transgender hate crimes (555) but less than sexual orientation hate crimes (4,622) and race hate crimes (37,484). All five strands demonstrated an increase between 2012/13 and 2013/14, which was partly a function of better reporting and partly of a genuine rise, especially, in the case of race and religion hate crimes (the latter up by 45%, from 1,573), growth following the murder of Lee Rigby in May 2013. Public order offences and criminal damage or arson were the commonest forms of religion hate crimes. The bulletin is at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/364198/hosb0214.pdf

Religion and equality: Scotland

The Scottish Government published on 14 October 2014 an Analysis of Equality Results from the 2011 Census of Scotland. Chapter 3 (pp. 66-98) is devoted to religion and contains 31 charts, 2 figures, and 2 tables, together with brief commentaries thereon. Breaks are given for religion by age, gender, marital status, cohabitation, ethnicity, national identity, country of birth, age of arrival in UK, length of residence in UK, urban/rural classification, English/Scottish language skills, language used at home, dependent children, and health. The report is available at:

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0046/00460679.pdf

Atheism

Matt Sheard applies prosopographical techniques to autobiographical and oral history sources to produce a partially quantitative profile of non-elite British atheists between 1890 and 1980. He demonstrates that the process of atheization was principally a phenomenon of childhood and adolescence and often associated with weak religious backgrounds. Sheard’s ‘Ninety-Eight Atheists: Atheism among the Non-Elite in Twentieth Century Britain’ was published on 13 October 2014 in the open access journal Secularism and Nonreligion as Vol. 3, Article 6, and is available online at:

http://www.secularismandnonreligion.org/article/view/snr.ar/

Church decline

Ruth Gledhill has covered on Christian Today the recent analysis by Ben Clements on BRIN of religious affiliation data from the first wave of the British Election Study (BES) 2015 panel. She concentrates particularly on the ‘massive decline’ in affiliation over the fifty-year history of BES. She also interviews BRIN co-director David Voas about the prospects for the Churches. He sees immigration as the principal engine of any church growth which is occurring and the failure to recruit the children of churchgoers as the main reason for church declension. Nevertheless, he does not predict the virtual extinction of the Church of England, thinking that the seemingly relentless decline will bottom out at some point. Gledhill’s article is at:

http://www.christiantoday.com/article/exclusive.new.figures.reveal.massive.decline.in.religious.affiliation/41799.htm

London knowledge

YouGov polled 1,966 Britons online on 16-17 October 2014 about their attitudes to the restitution of the Elgin Marbles to Greece, prefacing the survey with a series of true or false statements to test the public’s knowledge of London. Whereas 78% correctly identified Sir Christopher Wren as the architect of St Paul’s Cathedral, fewer (53%) denied that Westminster Abbey is the main Roman Catholic Church in London, 19% thinking that it is. In fact, the Abbey, although of Catholic origin before the Reformation, is now a Royal Peculiar in the Church of England, and Westminster Cathedral is the principal Catholic place of worship in the capital. Data tables are at:

http://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/8y47s60k62/InternalResults_141017_London_Elgin_Marbles_Website.pdf

 

Posted in News from religious organisations, Official data, Religion and Politics, Religion in the Press, Religious Census, Survey news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The British Election Study 2015: Religious affiliation and attitudes

This second post, based on analysis of the British Election Study (BES) 2015, looks at selected attitudes of religious groups in Britain. Two waves of panel data (conducted in, respectively, February-March 2014 and April-June 2014) have so far been made available from the BES 2015 for wider analysis. The datasets and accompanying documentation can be found here. As with the first post, this post analyses data from wave 1 of the BES 2015 panel study. The analysis is based on a core sample size of 20,881 and the data are weighted accordingly. This post looks at party support and social attitudes. The party support questions concern how respondents’ voted in the 2005 and 2010 general elections and their current vote intention. The social attitude questions concern equal opportunities for different groups.

 

Party support

First, we can look at the pattern of voting for religious groups at the two most recent general elections, in 2005 and 2010. Data on which party a respondent voted for – Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat or some other party – are provided in Table 1. The top half of Table 1 shows reported voting behaviour in the 2005 election and the bottom half shows reported voting at the 2010 election. A parsimonious set of religious affiliation categories is used. Befitting, their historical linkages with the party, Anglicans were more likely to support the Conservatives at both recent elections, although the gap over Labour is more pronounced at the 2010 contest. For Catholics, historically seen as a key electoral constituency for the Labour Party, support for Labour was more pronounced at the 2005 contest, while their support for the two largest parties was much closer at the 2010 election. Other Christians, which includes those belonging to the Nonconformist churches and those identifying as Church of Scotland / Presbyterian, show a more balanced picture of Lab-Con party support at both elections, although with voting for Labour more common than supporting the Conservatives.

Those belonging to other religious traditions – another electoral constituency which has traditionally shown a greater propensity to vote for the Labour Party – show higher levels of support for Labour compared to the Conservatives, which was more apparent in 2005. Those with no religion show interesting variation at the two contests. In 2005, they were much more likely to have voted for Labour, but in 2010 the vote shares for Labour and the Conservatives are almost identical. At both elections, those with no religious affiliation register higher levels of support for the Lib Dems compared to all of the religious groups, which may reflect the more youthful demographic profile of the non-religious. The higher level of support for minor parties amongst other Christians partly reflects voting for the Scottish National Party amongst those identifying as Church of Scotland / Presbyterian.

 

Table 1: Voting in the 2005 and 2010 elections by religious affiliation

Anglican (%)

Catholic (%)

Other Christian (%)

Other religion (%)

No religion (%)

2005
Con

42.8

28.7

31.2

29.0

26.2

Lab

36.4

48.1

38.0

47.0

41.1

Lib Dem

16.7

15.7

16.4

17.1

23.5

Other party

4.2

7.5

14.4

7.0

9.2

2010
Con

47.7

34.4

33.0

29.0

29.9

Lab

26.2

39.1

33.7

38.9

29.8

Lib Dem

21.9

19.3

19.2

24.1

32.0

Other party

4.3

7.2

14.1

8.0

8.2

Source: BES 2015 Panel Study – Wave 1.

 

Are the patterns evident above reflected in the current vote intentions of the religious and non-religious? The following question was used in the BES 2015 to gauge current voting preferences: ‘And if there were a UK General Election tomorrow, which party would you vote for?’ Data are reported in Table 2, using the same sets of categories for party choice and religious affiliation. Anglicans are still more likely to report that they would vote for the Conservatives if a general election were to be held, although a fifth report they would vote for another party, which reflects some level of support for UKIP. Catholics show a strong propensity to support Labour again compared to the Conservatives. Those in the other Christian category show a slightly higher level of support for Labour. Those who belong to other religious traditions show strong support for Labour, at a slightly higher level that that registered amongst Catholics. Around half would vote for Labour and a quarter would support the Conservative Party. Amongst those with no religion, support is clearly higher for Labour, with about two-fifths declaring they would vote for them compared to just over a quarter who would support the Conservative Party. Across all groups, support for the Lib Dems is very low compared to the reported voting patterns at the 2005 and 2010 general elections – highest at about a tenth for those with no affiliation.

 

Table 2: Current vote intention by religious affiliation

Anglican (%)

Catholic (%)

Other Christian (%)

Other religion (%)

No religion (%)

Con

39.3

29.5

31.1

25.0

26.7

Lab

32.1

45.3

35.6

49.6

39.7

Lib Dem

7.5

5.1

8.1

7.1

10.5

Other party

21.1

20.2

25.2

18.3

23.2

Source: BES 2015 Panel Study – Wave 1.

 

Table 3 provides another look at current voting patterns based on affiliation, providing data for a more detailed set of religious traditions. Given recent party-political and electoral developments, it also provides separate vote share data for UKIP (whereas, in Tables 1 and 2, they were included as part of the other party category).

Given that some of these religious groups – both Christian and non-Christian – are very small in terms of the numbers belonging to them, the unweighted bases for the weighted data are also presented. Extra care should obviously be taken with the party vote share figures for those religious traditions with relatively few or very few cases in the sample (United Reformed Church, Free Presbyterian, Brethren, Sikhism, Buddhism, Hinduism).

The more detailed breakdown shows party support amongst some of the other Christian traditions and amongst different non-Christian faiths. Looking first at the Nonconformist churches, we can see that Methodists show somewhat higher support for the Conservatives than for Labour, while Baptists are more likely to favour the Labour Party, as are those who belong to the United Reformed Church. Those who identify as Church of Scotland / Presbyterian show greater support for Labour than for the Conservatives but a significant minority would vote for the SNP (captured in the other party category).

Amongst non-Christian religions, those belonging to Islam show very high support for Labour – at nearly three-quarters, this is highest across all of the groups in Table 3. Jews are more likely to support the Conservatives than Labour – a finding from other recent survey-based research – while adherents of all other faiths – in particular, Sikhism and Buddhism – show markedly higher levels of support for Labour. There is also a considerably higher propensity to vote Labour within the other category. Looking at intention to vote for UKIP, this is more prevalent amongst Anglicans than it is amongst Catholics

 

Table 3: Current vote intention by religious affiliation (full set of categories)

 

Con

Lab

Lib Dem

UKIP

Other

party

Unweighted base

Anglican (%)

39.3

32.1

7.5

18.3

2.9

4,884

Roman Catholic (%)

29.5

45.3

5.1

12.9

7.3

1,535

Presbyterian/Church of Scotland (%)

24.5

34.9

5.3

7.7

27.7

1,032

Methodist (%)

40.5

34.8

10.5

10.0

4.1

423

Baptist (%)

32.3

36.7

9.7

15.9

5.3

255

United Reformed Church (%)

27.2

35.8

12.3

7.5

16.3

73

Free Presbyterian (%)

21.7

47.8

4.3

17.4

8.7

25

Brethren (%)

15.4

53.8

0.0

30.8

0.0

11

Judaism (%)

46.3

29.9

5.4

11.6

6.2

134

Hinduism (%)

30.9

57.7

3.1

6.2

2.1

65

Islam (%)

14.9

73.0

7.3

0.8

3.6

153

Sikhism (%)

15.4

63.5

5.8

5.9

7.8

34

Buddhism (%)

24.7

38.4

6.8

13.5

17.6

73

Other (%)

23.7

42.9

8.4

11.3

13.7

572

None (%)

26.7

39.6

10.5

12.4

10.8

7,357

Source: BES 2015 Panel Study – Wave 1.

Note: Percentages sum across the rows.

 

Social issues

As well as shedding some light on the association between religious belonging and party support, the BES 2015 panel study asked questions on equal opportunities for ethnic minorities, women and gays and lesbians. The latter two issues are particularly relevant for religious groups given the various reforms made in relation to same-sex equality under recent governments – most recently, the legalisation of same-sex marriage – and also given debates over the role and status of women within, for example, the Anglicans Church, centring on the issue of women bishops. The questions asked were worded as follows:

 

Please say whether you think these things have gone too far or have not gone far enough in Britain.

Attempts to give equal opportunities to ethnic minorities.

Attempts to give equal opportunities to women.

Attempts to give equal opportunities to gays and lesbians.

 

It is worth noting that earlier BES studies asked equivalent questions (equal opportunities for women – asked on the BES surveys from 1974 to 1997, except in 1983; equal opportunities for gays and lesbians and ethnic minorities – asked on the BES surveys from 1987-1997). The pattern of responses for contemporary views based on affiliation is shown in Table 4. What is clear is that all groups are more likely to think that equal opportunities have not gone too far (or not nearly too far) for women compared to the other groups, with around a third or higher adopting this view across all categories of affiliation. In relation to equal opportunities for ethnic minorities, the view that they have not gone far enough is less prevalent across all groups; it is highest for those belonging to other religions, followed by those with no religion. Over two-fifths of Catholics and other Christians, and nearly half of Anglicans, think that equal opportunities have gone too far for ethnic minorities in Britain.

In relation to gays and lesbians, around three-tenths of those with no affiliation think that equal opportunities have not gone far enough (or nearly far enough), with such views less common amongst those with a religious identity. Views that equal opportunities for gays and lesbians have gone too far – perhaps with the recent debate and legalisation of same-sex marriage salient in the minds of some respondents – are higher amongst all religious adherents: for example, such views are twice as likely amongst other Christians as they are amongst those with no religion.

 

Table 4: Attitudes towards equal opportunities by religious affiliation

Anglican (%)

Catholic (%)

Other Christian (%)

Other religion (%)

No religion (%)

Ethnic minorities
Not gone nearly far enough or not gone far enough

10.3

15.1

13.9

26.4

19.5

About right

35.8

36.1

36.9

33.1

37.3

Gone too far or gone much too far

47.4

41.8

43.1

28.4

35.1

Don’t know

6.4

6.9

6.2

12.1

8.2

Women
Not gone nearly far enough or not gone far enough

34.8

36.6

36.0

34.2

37.9

About right

49.2

44.7

43.7

40.1

45.1

Gone too far or gone much too far

12.2

14.4

16.3

15.5

11.2

Don’t know

3.7

4.3

4.0

10.2

5.7

Gays and lesbians
Not gone nearly far enough or not gone far enough

16.0

20.3

14.1

19.6

30.2

About right

42.4

40.5

39.3

32.9

43.0

Gone too far or gone much too far

35.3

32.2

39.9

32.3

19.6

Don’t know

6.2

7.0

6.6

15.2

7.2

Source: BES 2015 Panel Study – Wave 1.

 

Summary

The BES 2015 data, as with previous studies in this series, allow for analysis of the political and social opinions of religious groups across different issues. The past (2005 and 2010 elections) and present (current voting intention) patterns of electoral support provide some recent evidence, at first sight, for the traditional associations between religious groups and particular parties. That is, Anglicans still tend to favour the Conservatives over Labour; Catholics show higher levels of support for Labour; and non-Christian religious minorities also are much more likely to favour Labour, with support highest amongst Muslims. Reflecting the clear decline in the party’s public standing since entering into coalition government, levels of support for the Lib Dems have fallen to very low levels across all groups compared their (higher) reported vote share at recent general elections.

In relation to social attitudes, there is greater variation in the views of the religious and non-religious in relation to equal opportunities for ethnic minorities and gays and lesbians, but considerably more agreement in relation to equal opportunities for women, an issue which for the Church of England has been particularly divisive, most recently in relation to the debate over women bishops.

 

Reference

Fieldhouse, E., J. Green., G. Evans., H. Schmitt, and C. van der Eijk (2014) British Election Study Internet Panel Wave 1.

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

The British Election Study 2015: Religious affiliation

This post analyses the contemporary social make-up of religious belonging in Britain using data released as part of the latest British Election Study (BES), focusing on the 2015 general election. Two waves of panel data (conducted in, respectively, February-March 2014 and April-June 2014) have so far been made available for wider analysis. They can be found here. This post uses wave 1 from the BES 2015 panel study to look at the social bases of religious affiliation in Britain, looking at how religious is distributed across various socio-demographic factors (sex, age, country and region). The analysis is based on the core sample (n=20,881) from wave 1 of the BES 2015 Panel Study, and the data are weighted accordingly. Although the data released so far have not contained measures of other aspects of religion, such as attendance, given the BES’s longevity (it started in the early-1960s) and the extensive range of questions on political and social issues, the current data – and future releases as part of the 2015 study – clearly represent an important resource for scholars of religion in Britain.

It is useful to look at the overall distribution for religious affiliation, which is given in Table 1. The question wording was as follows: ‘Do you regard yourself as belonging to any particular religion?’ The most common response is that of not belonging to any religion, at 44.7%. Next, those who identify as Church of England or Anglican constitute 31.1%, followed by 9.1% who identify as Catholic. Very small proportions say they belong to other Christian traditions or denominations, such as one of the Nonconformist churches or as Church of Scotland/Presbyterian. Similarly, very small proportions report that they identify with a non-Christian faith, including Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism and Buddhism, or some other religion.

 

Table 1: Religious affiliation

 

%

Church of England/Anglican/Episcopal

31.1

Roman Catholic

9.1

Presbyterian/Church of Scotland

3.1

Methodist

2.5

Baptist

1.3

United Reformed Church

0.5

Free Presbyterian

0.1

Brethren

0.1

Judaism

0.8

Hinduism

0.6

Islam

1.6

Sikhism

0.3

Buddhism

0.4

Other

3.7

None

44.7

Source: BES 2015 Panel Study – Wave 1.

 

Table 2 provides a summary of the data reported already but based on five categories – combining (i) those in the various Christian groups (apart from Anglicans and Catholics) and (ii) those belonging to non-Christian faiths or who responded ‘other’. It also shows the earlier data on religious affiliation from other BES surveys, covering the period from 1963 to 2015. For this period, covering over fifty years, the major features are: the decline in levels of Anglican affiliation, the steady proportions who identify as Roman Catholic, the decline in the proportions belonging to other Christian traditions, the increase in those affiliated to minority non-Christian faiths and the growth in what are often termed the ‘religious nones’. Of course, religious belonging can be affected by the question wording asked and response options available on any particular survey, and the BES questions on affiliation have not been consistently-worded over time.

 

Table 2: Religious affiliation, 1963-2015

1963 (%)

(Feb.) 1974 (%)

1987 (%)

2001 (%)

2015 (%)

Anglican

64.5

41.5

41.4

32.5

31.1

Roman Catholic

8.6

9.0

9.8

10.8

9.1

Other Christian

23.1

12.9

14.7

6.9

7.6

Other religion

0.6

2.7

2.4

7.7

7.5

None

3.2

33.8

31.8

42.1

44.7

Source: BES cross-section surveys; BES 2015 Panel Study – Wave 1.

 

It is a common finding from sociological work on religion that women are more likely to have a religious identity and to be more involved or engaged with their faith. This is apparent, in relation to belonging, for the data presented in Table 3, which shows the religious composition of men and women. While similar proportions of men and women fall within the other Christian and other religion categories (and women are slightly more likely to be Catholic), a clear difference is in the proportions who report they are Anglican – 27.7% for men and 34.3% for women. Accordingly, men are more likely to declare that they do not belong to a religion, a nearly half (48.6%) compared to just over two-fifths of women (40.0%)

 

Table 3: Religious affiliation by sex

Male (%)

Female (%)

Anglican

27.7

34.3

Roman Catholic

8.5

9.7

Other Christian

7.6

7.5

Other religion

7.5

7.5

None

48.6

41.0

Source: BES 2015 Panel Study – Wave 1.

 

Next, how does religious belonging vary by age? Table 4 presents the religious composition of seven different age groups (ranging from those aged 18-24 to those aged 75 and older). Several aspects of the data are worthy of note. First, identification as an Anglican increases steadily across age groups, lowest at just 14.2% for those aged 18-24 years and highest at half of those aged 75+ (at 52.1%). There is also a greater tendency to identify with other Christian traditions amongst the older age groups – highest at 11.6% and 10.4%, respectively, for the 65-74 and 75+ groups. Belonging to a non-Christian faith is more likely amongst younger age groups – particularly those between 18-34 years of age. The pattern in the data for having no religious affiliation is the reverse of that seen for Anglicans: that is, there is a steady decrease in the proportion with no religion as we move up the age range. Well over half of those aged 44 and under report having no affiliation, which falls to lower than three-tenths amongst those aged 65 and older.

 

Table 4: Religious affiliation by age group

18-24 (%)

25-34 (%)

35-44 (%)

45-54 (%)

55-64 (%)

65-74 (%)

75+

(%)

Anglican

14.2

19.4

23.6

32.8

39.4

46.4

52.1

Roman Catholic

8.5

8.7

9.4

9.6

9.8

8.6

7.4

Other Christian

4.0

5.6

5.3

6.7

9.4

11.6

10.4

Other religion

11.0

10.9

8.8

6.3

5.1

5.1

5.2

None

61.4

55.3

52.9

44.7

28.3

28.3

4.9

Source: BES 2015 Panel Study – Wave 1.

 

Another way at looking at the association between religious affiliation and age is to look at the mean (average) age within each religious group, data on which are presented in Table 5. It is clear that the average age of religious affiliates is highest for Anglicans (53.7 years) and other Christians (52.4 years). It is lowest for those with no religion (43.3 years) and those who belong to non-Christian faiths (42.2 years). The average age of Catholics is 47.6 years, in between the other groups.

 

Table 5: Mean age by religious group

Mean age

Anglican

53.7

Roman Catholic

47.6

Other Christian

52.4

Other religion

42.2

None

43.3

Source: BES 2015 Panel Study – Wave 1.

 

The differing religious complexion of the different nations of Britain is still apparent in the data shown in Table 6. Anglicans are much more prevalent in England and Wales than in Scotland, where the other Christian category is much more common (many of whom would identify as Church of Scotland/Presbyterian). Identifying as Roman Catholic is more prevalent in Scotland and England than in Wales. Those in England and Wales are also somewhat more likely to belong to a non-Christian religion. Levels of non-affiliation are clearly higher in Wales and Scotland.

 

Table 6: Religious affiliation by country

England

(%)

Wales

(%)

Scotland

(%)

Anglican

34.0

27.7

4.5

Roman Catholic

9.1

5.9

11.5

Other Christian

5.4

8.1

28.6

Other religion

7.8

6.5

4.7

None

43.7

51.8

50.6

Source: BES 2015 Panel Study – Wave 1.

 

Finally, Table 7 provides a breakdown of religious affiliation in the different (Government Office) regions of England. Again, historical patterns of migration and settlement by religious communities are apparent. Higher proportions of Catholics are found in the North West, North East and in London. London is also distinct from other regions in having the lowest proportion of Anglicans (24.7%), the highest proportion belonging to other religions (21.4%, followed by the West Midlands at 8.1%) and the lowest proportion with no affiliation (35.3%).

 

Table 7: Religious affiliation by English region

Anglican

Catholic

Other Christian

Other religion

No religion

North East (%)

35.1

11.9

6.1

2.9

44.0

North West (%)

33.6

14.7

5.4

5.4

41.0

Yorkshire and the Humber (%)

37.5

6.5

6.4

5.8

43.8

East Midlands (%)

35.2

5.7

5.4

5.6

48.1

West Midlands (%)

35.2

6.7

5.4

8.1

44.6

East of England (%)

34.4

7.9

5.1

6.0

46.5

London (%)

24.7

13.8

4.8

21.4

35.3

South East (%)

35.3

7.1

5.4

5.0

47.2

South West (%)

39.7

5.4

5.3

4.1

45.5

Source: BES 2015 Panel Study – Wave 1.

Note: Percentages sum across the rows.

 

 

Summary

These new data on religious affiliation from the BES 2015 shed some light on the social basis of religious affiliation in contemporary British society. There are clear differences in levels of religious affiliation (and non-affiliation) based on sex, age, and region. Demographically, women and those in older age groups are more likely to be Anglican, while men and younger people are more likely to report having no religion. Younger people are also more likely to identify with a non-Christian religion. Religious belonging also varies by nation and region, reflecting historical patterns of migration, settlement and denominational fault-lines. Non-religion is somewhat higher in Scotland and Wales while, within England, London is particularly distinctive in terms of its religious complexion.

 

NB: A second note, to accompany this one, will look at the social and political attitudes of religious groups using the same data from the BES 2015.

 

Reference

Fieldhouse, E., J. Green., G. Evans., H. Schmitt, and C. van der Eijk (2014) British Election Study Internet Panel Wave 1.

Posted in Measuring religion, Research note, Survey news | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Clergy Voices and Other News

 

Clergy voices

A majority (54%) of Anglican clergy thinks the Church of England should retain its current established status, seemingly without modification, according to the first results from a YouGov survey commissioned by Professor Linda Woodhead of Lancaster University and Westminster Faith Debates for the new series of debates on ‘The Future of the Church of England’, which commenced in Oxford last week.

Respondents comprised 1,509 clergy under the age of 70 from the Anglican Churches in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland who answered 29 questions online between 14 August and 8 September 2014. They had been selected on a random basis (every third name) from Crockford’s Clerical Directory, and questionnaires sent to the 5,000 of the resulting sample of 6,000 for whom email addresses were available. The response rate thus appears to be around 30%. The full findings will not be published until 23 October, the day of the second debate, but data tables for three questions (with breaks by gender, age, church, and ministerial role) are already available at:

http://cdn.yougov.com/cumulus_uploads/document/qouw89178p/Results-for-LancasterUni-WestministerFaith-08092014.pdf

Only 14% of clergy backed the total disestablishment of the Church, with a further 27% favouring some loosening of Church-State ties. Nevertheless, 81% supported the preservation of the principle of an Established Church with some or all of its present privileges. There was also overwhelming acceptance (by 83%) of the importance of maintaining the (creaking) parish system, against 12% saying it was unimportant. Views were more divided about future options for housing the clergy, 49% wanting the Church to continue to provide accommodation, with 18% electing for a higher stipend so that incumbents could arrange their own housing, and 24% wishing both options to be on the table to enable freedom of choice.

An article about the survey appears in the current issue of the Church Times (10 October 2014, p. 4). This contains the toplines for one further question, about the constituency which the Church of England should prioritize. Two-thirds of the clergy replied England as a whole, 18% said Anglicans who do not go to church regularly, 5% regular churchgoers, 7% some other group, with 4% undecided. The article can be read online at:

http://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2014/10-october/news/uk/survey-finds-c-of-e-clergy-wedded-to-the-parish-system

Islamic State

Here is a round-up of the latest online polling on the subject of Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria. Topline results only are given; for breaks by demographics, follow the links to data tables.

Britain: 7-8 October 2014

Nine in ten adults rated air strikes against IS in Iraq and Syria as a very important (62%) or fairly important (28%) international news story, according to this YouGov poll. The proportion saying the same about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa was similar (88%). Data tables are at:

http://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/ouohbc27zh/InternalResults_141008_news_stories_Ebola_W.pdf

Britain, 8-9 October

The Ebola outbreak (37%) displaced IS (28%) as the most noticed news story of last week, according to Populus interviews with 2,055 persons.

Britain, 9-10 October 2014

The latest YouGov survey for The Sunday Times, for which 2,167 were interviewed, revealed marginally increased majorities in favour of the RAF bombing IS in Iraq (59%) and Syria (54%). However, 60% doubted whether the combination of Western air strikes and Iraqi and Kurdish forces would be sufficient to defeat IS and considered that other ground troops would be needed, even though only 32% approved of the commitment of British and US troops in Iraq (with 47% disapproving). Two-thirds remained opposed to paying ransoms to free British hostages held by IS, with only 9% in favour, but 27% supported the negotiation of other deals with IS (such as prisoner-hostage swaps), with 49% opposed. Three people in ten did not consider that the British media should report the holding and murder of hostages by IS. Data tables are at:

http://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/dra8m44o22/YG-Archive-Pol-Sunday-Times-results-101014.pdf

London: 24-26 September 2014

A YouGov poll of 1,086 London residents, undertaken for the Evening Standard and published on 8 October, revealed overwhelming opposition (by 74%) to the readmission to the country of British nationals found to have been fighting with extremist groups in Iraq or Syria, such as IS. Just 13% were in favour of letting them back in. Support for Britain and the USA sending in ground troops to Iraq to combat IS was, at 36%, higher than in some national polls, and only 7% behind the disapproval score. Data tables are at:

http://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/wb3z4vzce8/EveningStandard_141002_ISIS_Website.pdf

Human rights

Four-fifths (79%) of the British public think that the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion should be protected as a human right, according to a YouGov poll released on 8 October 2014 for which 2,155 adults were interviewed online on 6-7 October. Most of the other nine potential human rights enquired about also scored around the four-fifths mark, the extremes being the right not to be put into slavery and forced labour (92%) and the right not to be unlawfully arrested or detained without good reason and the right to marry and establish a family (70% each). Freedom of thought, conscience and religion was especially prized by Scots (88%), Labour and Liberal Democrat voters (86%), and the over-60s (84%). Data tables are at:

http://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/qlmo7myu52/InternalResults_141007_human_rights_W.pdf

Methodists and drink

The latest issue of the Methodist Recorder (10 October 2014, p. 3) reports that University of Exeter doctoral student Jon Curtis has just launched a survey to determine the beliefs and practices regarding alcohol of current or former Methodists aged 18 and over living in England, Wales or Scotland. It forms part of the Coup D’Tea project on the history and future of alcohol in the Methodist Church in Britain. Curtis claims (although this could be disputed) that this is the first study of Methodist attitudes to drink for over 40 years. The questionnaire is intended for an entirely self-selecting sample, so, although it will doubtless generate some interesting illustrative material, it is unlikely to yield statistically representative data. It can be completed online at:

http://coupdtea.tumblr.com/

Abstinence is stereotypically associated with Methodism, yet, as Clive Field showed some years ago, its extent has often been exaggerated, especially among the Methodist laity: ‘“The Devil in Solution”: How Temperate were the Methodists?’, Epworth Review, Vol. 27, No. 3, July 2000, pp. 78-93. On the basis of a fairly systematic trawl of the available statistical evidence, he estimated that total abstinence among Methodists peaked around 1910, when it was practised by approximately 95% of ministers and 50% of members. By 1990 the proportion had sunk to one-fifth in both groups, and it has almost certainly declined further since. Just how far is hard to determine since, although sample surveys of the nation’s drinking habits are not uncommon, it is rare for them to control for religion and, even if they do, it is even rarer for them to identify Methodists. As the latest triennial statistics of mission confirm, Methodism has become such a minority denomination that it no longer shows up accurately in national surveys. Methodists tend to be bundled into an undifferentiated Christian category or classified as other Christians (apart from Anglicans and Catholics).

By way of example of the sort of analysis which is possible, we may cite one question from the 2011 British Social Attitudes Survey: ‘How often do you drink 4 or more alcoholic drinks on the same day?’ Results (weighted) are tabulated below:

Anglican

Roman Catholic

Other Christian   Non-Christian No religion
Never

49.9%

46.5%

46.8%

68.4%

34.3%

Once a month or less often

32.1%

29.7%

28.6%

20.0%

31.6%

Several  times a month

10.2%

20.2%

18.1%

8.2%

23.8%

Several  times a week

5.6%

3.0%

5.2%

1.7%

9.4%

Daily

2.2%

0.6%

1.3%

1.6%

0.9%

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Current Voting Intentions and Other News

 

Current voting intentions

We are almost through the party political conference season for another year, and the 2015 general election campaign seems already to have started, so it is perhaps an appropriate time to review the state of the ‘religious vote’ in the country. Fortunately, help is at hand in the form of another of Lord Ashcroft’s large-scale polls, this time conducted online among 8,053 voters between 12 and 17 September 2014. Voting intentions for the four main parties by religious affiliation are summarized in the table below, from which it will be seen that by far the most significant trend to emerge is the predisposition to support the Labour Party of non-Christians in general and Muslims in particular. This will almost certainly have been shaped by the younger age profile of non-Christians (49.3% of whom were aged 18-34 compared with 28.0% of the whole sample) but may also reflect past gratitude to the former Labour government for its legislative support of religious diversity and equality (although that administration’s foreign policy in Iraq and Afghanistan had a countervailing influence in the Muslim community).

%   across

Con

Lab

LibDem

UKIP

All

22.4

27.3

5.5

14.5

Christian

28.2

25.3

5.0

16.6

Non-Christian

16.6

40.8

5.7

8.0

Muslim

5.4

62.9

5.4

3.0

No religion

16.2

27.7

6.2

13.1

Prefer not to say

7.6

31.4

6.5

6.5

In terms of religious affiliation, 37.9% of adults in this survey professed no religion, five points more than in equivalent polls conducted between January and June 2011 (32.8%). The number of Christians reduced by more than three points during the same three-year interval (from 56.6% to 53.2%). So, on this particular measure of religiosity at least, Britain seems to be secularizing at quite a rapid pace. For more information, see pp. 136-7 of the data tables at:

http://lordashcroftpolls.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Project-Blueprint-5-Full-data-tables-Sept-14.pdf

Islamic State

A round-up of recent polling on the Islamic State (IS) crisis in Iraq and Syria follows, arranged by date of fieldwork (which preceded the announcement of the murder by IS of a second British hostage, Alan Henning). Unless otherwise stated, surveys were conducted among online samples of Britons aged 18 and over. Topline results only are cited, but breaks by demographics are available by following the links.

26-28 September 2014

In a ComRes telephone poll for The Independent among a sample of 1,007, a majority (56%) of the public disagreed with the suggestion that ‘the situation in Iraq and Syria is none of our business and we should stay out of it’, against 38% who agreed. However, somewhat fewer (48%) thought that taking part in military action against IS would make Britain safer in the longer term, with 42% dissenting. David Cameron as current prime minister was more trusted than prospective prime minister Ed Miliband to make the right decisions on how to combat IS (45% versus 28%), albeit the plurality (49%) still distrusted Cameron. Data tables are at:

http://www.comres.co.uk/polls/Independent_Political_Poll_1st_October_2014_1237.pdf

26-28 September 2014

In another ComRes poll, this time conducted for ITV News among 2,024 individuals, 56% approved of British air strikes against IS in Iraq (twice the number disapproving) and 48% in Syria, but far fewer (29%) endorsed the engagement of British ground troops, with 51% opposed. The reasons given by those supporting air strikes were: the threat posed by IS to Britain (77%), the need to take action in the face of atrocities in the world (67%), and the beheading of British and American hostages (66%). Drivers for opposing air strikes included: the prospects of the conflict becoming longer and messier (77%), the lack of clear objectives (47%), the fact that it was none of Britain’s business (43%), the expense of involvement (41%), and Britain’s poor previous record of military action in Iraq (39%). Data tables are at:

http://www.comres.co.uk/polls/ITV_News_Index_29th_September_2014.pdf

1-2 October 2014

IS was the most noticed news story of last week for 26% of the public, according to a Populus poll of 2,014. The death of Alice Gross came second, with 17%, and the Conservative Party conference third, with 11%.

2-3 October 2014

The regular YouGov poll for The Sunday Times, which interviewed 2,130, revealed approval for RAF participation in air strikes against IS to be unchanged from the previous week, at 58% in the case of operations in Iraq and 52% in Syria, although opposition was up by 3% in both cases. People were evenly split, at 42% each, in thinking that air strikes in Iraq would be effective or ineffective in combating IS, but the majority (51%) remained hostile to the commitment of ground troops in Iraq, with only 28% in favour. Data tables are at:

http://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/8xpy43vlqr/YG-Archive-Pol-Sunday-Times-results-031014.pdf

Faith schools

The House of Commons Library has recently issued a short briefing note on faith schools in England (reference SN/SP/6972). It includes, at pp. 9-12, a useful digest of relevant statistics, including the number of such schools disaggregated by faith community and educational status, the number of pupils, and performance in GCSE examinations. The note is available at:

http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/research/briefing-papers/SN06972/faith-schools-faqs

Religion of armed services personnel

The United Kingdom’s armed service personnel remain overwhelmingly Christian in their religious allegiance, but the proportion is slowly declining, according to the Ministry of Defence’s Statistical Series 2 – Personnel Bulletin 2.01, which was published on 25 September 2014. Back in 2009, 87% of personnel professed to be Christian but the figure fell to 80% in 2014. There was a corresponding rise in the number claiming to have no religion, from 12% to 18%, rising to 25% in the case of the Royal Navy (with the Royal Air Force on 21% and the Army on 15%). The proportion of non-Christians continues to be very low (2% across all three services combined), and much less than in the population at large. There is more detail in Table 2.01.09 at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/357724/tri_service_personnel_bulletin_2_01_2014.pdf

Church in Wales statistics

The Church in Wales Membership and Finances, 2013 was one of the papers presented to the meeting of the Church’s Governing Body on 17-18 September 2014. In terms of membership, the report suggests, ‘there are no positive indicators: every field shows decline compared with the previous year, and in some cases that decline is significant’. Most serious was the 18% fall in confirmations between 2012 and 2013, with marriages down 13%, Easter communicants by 10% (on top of an 8% fall from 2011 to 2012), and average attendance by the under-18s by 9%. Average adult attendances reduced by 4% on Sundays and 5% on weekdays. Parochial income and expenditure likewise decreased, by 7% and 4% respectively, albeit a modest operating surplus of £491,000 was achieved. Weekly direct giving per attender grew by 4% in the year, above the rate of inflation, to stand at £9.11; indeed, the overall growth in such giving since 1990 has exceeded the retail prices index by 18% (113% versus 95%). The report is at:

http://www.churchinwales.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/11-MembershipAndFinance.pdf

Jewish identity

The Institute for Jewish Policy Research published on 18 September 2014 a supplementary report on the results of its 2011 National Jewish Student Survey: David Graham, Strengthening Jewish Identity: What Works? An Analysis of Jewish Students in the UK. The underlying dataset includes 36 different measures of Jewish identity for almost 1,000 Jewish students. Through factor analysis they were collapsed into six broad indicators of identity: cognitive religiosity; socio-religious behaviour; cultural religiosity; ethnocentricity; student community engagement; and Jewish values. Although Jewish educational programmes were found to have some positive and independent impact on Jewish identity, overall the effect was six times weaker than that of a Jewish upbringing. The impact of Jewish education was strongest in terms of socio-religious behaviour, including practices such as synagogue attendance and Sabbath observance. The most important educational initiatives, from the perspective of impact on Jewish identity, were revealed to be those involving a seminary experience or gap year in Israel. The report, which also contains reflections on the findings by Jonathan Boyd, is available at:

http://www.jpr.org.uk/documents/JPR.Strengthening_Jewish_Identity.What_works.Sept_2014.pdf

Historic Methodist spirituality

British Methodism holds the record for publishing the longest annual national series of membership returns, starting in 1766. Underpinning them, especially in the earliest days, were the detailed registers of members for the rounds or circuits into which the country was divided. Some of these have survived and provide the basis for an analysis of Methodist membership by gender, marital status, and occupational background. These were systematically examined many years ago by Clive Field, and the results published in ‘The Social Composition of English Methodism to 1830: A Membership Analysis’, Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, Vol. 76, No. 1, Spring 1994, pp. 153-78. This article is freely available at:

https://www.escholar.manchester.ac.uk/api/datastream?publicationPid=uk-ac-man-scw:1m2333&datastreamId=POST-PEER-REVIEW-PUBLISHERS-DOCUMENT.PDF

A few of these registers went even further and, by means of symbols (dots, question marks, letters, and strokes), categorized Methodist members according to their spiritual state, as perceived by the ministers, along a continuum from awakening through justification to sanctification. This aspect of the listings, which had generally been discontinued by the time of John Wesley’s death in 1791, has been less often studied – until now: Robert Schofield, ‘Methodist Spiritual Condition in Georgian Northern England’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, Vol. 65, No. 4, October 2014, pp. 780-802. Using data especially from the Keighley Round for 1763-65, but also four other circuits (three of them in the North), Schofield demonstrates through ten tables and four figures that both short-term recruitment to and leakage from Methodism were considerable and that the majority of members did not experience spiritual growth over a twelve-month period. For access options, go to:

http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=9348156&fulltextType=RA&fileId=S0022046913000547

Another new publication to make good use of Methodist statistics is Jonathan Rodell, The Rise of Methodism: A Study of Bedfordshire, 1736-1851 (Publications of the Bedfordshire Historical Record Society, Vol. 92, Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2014, ISBN 978-0-85155-079-4, £25.00). Its 16 tables examine the number and demographics of Wesleyan and Moravian members; the occupations of fathers of children baptised by Wesleyan and Primitive Methodists; and attendances at chapel and Sunday school in the 1851 religious census.

 

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Second Edition of UK Church Statistics

 

The indefatigable Dr Peter Brierley has recently produced what will perhaps be the highlight of the religious statistical publishing year: UK Church Statistics, Number 2, 2010 to 2020 (Tonbridge: ADBC Publishers, 2014, ISBN 978-0-9566577-7-0, £27 inclusive of postage and packing). Copies can be obtained directly from the author at The Old Post Office, 1 Thorpe Avenue, Tonbridge, Kent, TN10 4PW. Cheques should be made payable to Brierley Consultancy or you can arrange to pay via BACS by contacting peter@brierleyres.com

The first edition of UK Church Statistics was published in 2011. However, the title is, in effect, a continuation of UK Christian Handbook: Religious Trends (seven editions of which appeared between 1997 and 2008), which was edited by Brierley when he was director of Christian Research. Although Religious Trends nominally survives as an online publication on the Christian Research website, accessible to the organization’s subscribers, it is but a shadow of its former self and is not especially current. Even further back, the origins of UK Church Statistics can be traced to the statistical sections pioneered by Brierley in the main UK Christian Handbook, starting with UK Protestant Missions Handbook, Volume 2 in 1977.

UK Church Statistics, Number 2 extends to 184 densely-packed A4 pages, so the book cannot be easily summarized and critiqued in a single BRIN post. Here we simply strive to give an overview of the principal contents, as follows:

Denominational statistics (sections 0-11)

These sections comprise about one-third of the volume and, for this reader, constitute its most important part. The number of members, churches/congregations, and ministers are given for each of 292 UK denominations, based on a survey by Brierley during the second half of 2013. Comparative data are shown for 2008, 2010, 2011, and 2012 (2009 being omitted on the rather flimsy grounds that it was covered in the first volume of UK Church Statistics), with forecasts for 2015 and 2020 (which denominations were also asked to supply). Gaps arising from non-response or other reasons are filled by estimates, which generally seem plausible. Data have been summed for ten broad denominational groupings (the same as have been used by Brierley for reporting over the past 35 years), with Fresh Expressions of church separately recorded, while each denomination’s figures are disaggregated by the four home nations comprising the UK.

One conclusion is that, although church membership in the UK is continuing to decline overall, the rate of decrease seems to have lessened significantly, with the result that the membership level previously anticipated for 2020 will probably not now be evident until 2025. Moreover, the trend is bucked in Independent, New, Orthodox, and Pentecostal Churches, as well as in the category of smaller bodies, all of which reported absolute growth between 2008 and 2013, much of which can be attributed to the effects of immigration. Partly for the same reason, church membership has flattened out in England, with the traditionally more religious Wales, Northern Ireland, and – most notably – Scotland proportionately losing most members between 2008 and 2013. It should be noted, of course, that the Churches do not have a common criterion of ‘membership’, and thus Brierley has needed to use multiple indicators (including attendance in the case of the Roman Catholic Church and the New Churches). Perhaps a more substantive explanation of this point would have been beneficial. The number of denominations rose by 6% during the last quinquennium, of places of worship by 2%, and of ministers by 6%.

Additional to the data for membership, congregations, and ministers which he has gathered from his 2013 survey, Brierley reproduces other statistics collected by individual denominations. This is especially so for the Church of England, Roman Catholic Church, Methodist Church, and Free Church of Scotland.

London church census, 2012 (section 12)

A report on the census of church attendance in London in 2012, conducted by Brierley for the London City Mission, has already appeared in Brierley’s Capital Growth (Tonbridge: ADBC Publishers, 2013). In UK Church Statistics, Number 2, some of the finer, borough-level detail from this research is provided for the first time, with comparative data for 1989, 1998, and 2005 and contextual information from the 2001 and 2011 censuses of population. There is also a useful executive summary of the census, whose importance and interest stem from the fact that attendance in London actually grew by 16% between 2005 and 2012, largely on the back of immigration.

Distribution of English and Scottish churches (section 13)

The numbers of churches by denomination are given for counties and local authorities. These are derived from the 2002 Scottish and 2005 English church censuses, undertaken by Brierley, with revisions to the 2005 data in respect of the Roman Catholic Church.

Religion in the population census, 2001 and 2011 (section 14)

There are 31 pages of tables (and some maps), but no substantive commentary, exploring the results of the religion question posed in the 2001 and 2011 UK census of population, with breaks by age, gender, ethnicity, and local/unitary authorities or counties. There are also comparative data on the spatial distribution of English churchgoers, including in 2012 (estimated by Brierley since, apart from London, there has been no census of church attendance in England since 2005).

International religious statistics (section 15)

The section comprises 15 rather disparate sub-sections abstracted from collations of data by Patrick Johnstone and Todd Johnson or taken directly from primary sources such as the Australian and Irish censuses. Other international data appear in sub-section 5.6.

Other UK religious statistics (section 16)

This miscellany of 11 sub-sections is a slight misnomer, since much of the content relates to secular rather than religious data. However, there are useful tables of baptisms of children and of marriages by denomination back to, respectively, 1991 and 2000 (data on funerals are to be found in sub-section 2.8); estimates of usual Sunday attendance in England by age and denomination at five-yearly intervals back to 1980; and of passes in public examinations in Religious Studies, back to 2010.

Essays on UK religious life (section 17)

There are five essays by Brierley: ‘Church Families and Young People’ (2012); ‘Nominal Christians’ (2011); ‘Democracy and Protestantism’ (2013); ‘The Optimum Length of Ministry’ (2013); and ‘Norwich: “the Most Godless City”’ (2013). Also included is the article by Steve Bruce and Tony Glendinning on ‘The Extent of Religious Activity in England’ (2013). All essays have previously been circulated with FutureFirst, the bi-monthly bulletin of Brierley Consultancy.

Index (section 18)

With a claimed 4,000 entries, this is a helpful tool, not least since some data appear in sections where one might not necessarily expect to find them.

Summation

In general, this is a valuable resource, a great credit to the seemingly boundless energy and creativity of one man, and well worth the money. However, the exact extent of its value may depend upon your starting point. Experienced users of British religious statistics, with ready access to earlier volumes by Brierley and otherwise already familiar with some of the sources such as the population census, will derive the greatest benefit from sections 0-12, which incorporate the results of important original research by Brierley. In contrast to religious practitioners, they may also be less interested in, and occasionally more sceptical of, some of the forecasts of future trends. Those seeking a more one-stop-shop guide to British religion in numbers will find their needs very substantially, but by no means completely, met by this book, the single major omission being sample survey data touching on religion (albeit these often do not relate to institutional Christianity, which is Brierley’s principal preoccupation).

 

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Religion and Attitudes Towards Faith Schools

The expansion of faith schools in recent years, as part of a broader parental choice and diversity of provision agenda in state-sector education, has been a prominent and divisive issue, both within religious traditions and between religious and secular lobbies. Of course, education has historically been an important battleground for religious groups’ identities and interests, whether the established Church of England, Roman Catholicism, the Nonconformist churches or, more recently, non-Christian faiths. Moreover, the historical and contemporary debate over faith-based schooling has varied in myriad ways across the constituent parts of Britain (and, indeed, in Northern Ireland), reflecting their differing religious compositions and deep-rooted tensions between religious traditions.

The renewed prominence of the faith schools debate as a result of recent government policy has been reflected in various opinion polls conducted to elicit whether faith schools have public backing, and to see whether public perceptions match the claims made by those campaigning on either side of the debate regarding, for example, the (supposed) unfair or biased admissions procedures and policies of faith schools, and their better or worse social and educational outcomes relative to non-faith schools. Of course, many of the opinion polls on this issue have been covered in previous BRIN posts. This BRIN post reviews the available social survey evidence on religious groups’ attitudes towards faith schools in Britain. It analyses data from the British Social Attitudes surveys (BSA).

The main focus is on data from more recent BSA surveys but the discussion starts with a question asked in the BSA 1989 survey:

If you were deciding where to send your children to school, would you prefer a school with children of only your own religion, or a mixed-religion school?

Table 1 shows the full distribution of responses to this question based on religious affiliation (Anglican, Catholic, other Christian or no religion). Catholics stand out for being the most likely to have preferred their children to go to a school of their own religious faith but, even so, this amounts to a just third of Catholic respondents (32.7%). Similar – and very small – proportions of Anglicans, other Christians (including those belonging to the traditional Nonconformist churches and those unaffiliated with a particular tradition) and those with no religious affiliation declared they would prefer to send their children to attend a same-faith school. Around two-thirds of Anglicans, other Christians and those with no affiliation preferred their children to attend a mixed religion school, compared to just under half of Catholics (48.9%). Similar proportions in each group had no preference for either a single faith school or a mixed religion school (nearly a fifth).

Table 1: Preferences for a single religion school or a mixed religion school, by affiliation

 

Anglican (%)

Catholic (%)

Other Christian (%)

No religion (%)

Own religion only

13.7

32.7

15.7

10.2

Mixed religion

67.4

48.9

66.0

69.9

No preference

17.7

17.1

17.4

18.7

Don’t know

1.1

1.3

0.8

1.3

Source: BSA 1989 survey. Weighted data.

Do preferences on this question vary within religious groups based on their religious practice? Table 2 shows the distribution of opinion for Anglicans, Catholics and other Christians according to whether they are (i) frequent attenders or (ii) infrequent or non-attenders at church services. Frequent attendance is defined as going once a month or more. It should be noted that, when religious groups are divided on the basis of attendance or other indicator of religiosity, some of the percentages cited will necessarily be based on small numbers in the samples, so the data should be treated with a suitable degree of caution.

The most notable feature of the table is the markedly greater variation in the views of Catholics based on regularity of religious practice compared to Anglicans and other Christians. Catholics who attend services on a frequent basis were much more likely to express a preference for schools belonging to their own faith (44.7%) compared to those who attended less often or not at all (21.8%). Well over half of the infrequent attenders preferred mixed religion schools compared to just under two-fifths of regular churchgoers. Within the other Christian group, frequent church goers are also more supportive of single religion schools than mixed religion schools, being twice as likely to choose this preference as infrequent or non-attenders (respectively, 22.3% and 10.8%). However, around two-thirds of both of these groups expressed a preference for mixed religion schools. Amongst other Christians, those who attend church less often (or not at all) are much more likely to say they have no preference either way. Amongst Anglicans, there is much less variation based on religious practice. Those who attend services on a less frequent basis (or not at all) are somewhat more likely to express no preference either way.

Table 2: Preferences for a single religion school or a mixed religion school, attendance by affiliation

Response option

Anglican: Frequent attender (%)

Anglican: Infrequent or non-attender (%)

Catholic: Frequent attender (%)

Catholic: Infrequent or non-attender (%)

Other Christian: Frequent attender (%)

Other Christian: Infrequent or non-attender (%)

Own religion only

15.9

13.2

44.7

21.8

22.3

10.8

Mixed religion

70.7

67.0

38.2

57.7

65.2

66.9

No preference

12.2

18.8

15.8

19.2

10.7

22.3

Don’t know

1.2

1.1

1.3

1.3

1.8

0.0

Source: BSA 1989 survey. Weighted data.

Are these differences based on affiliation and when groups are divided by religious practice evident in more recent BSA surveys which have asked questions on faith schools? The BSA 2003 and 2007 surveys asked several identical questions on faith schools, which tap into different aspects of the wider societal debate – for example, whether they should be expanded to meet the demands of parents and families from non-Christian minority faiths, and the perceived better (or worse) social and educational outcomes of faith schools compared to other schools in the state sector.

How much do you agree or disagree that … the government should fund single religion schools if parents want them.

How much do you agree or disagree that … if the government funds separate Christian faith schools, it should also fund separate schools for other faiths.

How much do you agree or disagree that … single religion schools have a better quality of education than other schools.

How much do you agree or disagree that … single religion schools give children a better sense of right and wrong than other schools.

Another question, asked only in the 2007 survey, asked:

How much do you support or oppose having some schools that are linked to a particular religious denomination, such as Roman Catholic?

Responses to these questions are given in Table 3, based on religious affiliation (and this time also including those from non-Christian faiths). For each question, Table 3 reports the response option favourable towards faith schools: those who strongly agree or agree that the government should fund non-Christian faith schools; those who strongly agree or agree the government should fund single religion schools; those who strongly agree or agree that single religion schools have a better quality of education; those who strongly agree or agree that single religion schools give children a better sense of right and wrong; and those who strongly support or support schools that are linked to a particular religious denomination. Before looking in detail at any differences based on affiliation, it is worth noting that between 2003 and 2007, possibly as the issue became a more controversial and prominent aspect of the debate over education policy, views in support of faith schools tended to decline across the different groups.

Table 3: Attitudes towards faith schools, by affiliation

Question Response option

Anglican (%)

Catholic (%)

Other Christian (%)

Other religion (%)

No religion (%)

Government should fund non-Christian faith schools 2003: Agree

38.3

56.1

43.1

66.8

41.3

2007: Agree

32.9

49.0

35.2

65.9

35.8

Government should fund single religion schools 2003: Agree

28.2

51.1

32.4

46.1

16.0

2007: Agree

24.8

38.7

21.8

36.3

13.8

Single religion schools have a better quality of education 2003: Agree

23.5

40.5

21.2

28.3

12.5

2007: Agree

21.6

35.7

22.4

30.8

12.6

Single religion schools give children a better sense of right and wrong 2003: Agree

29.8

46.6

32.0

34.1

13.4

2007: Agree

28.9

39.0

25.9

29.9

11.9

Support schools that are linked to a particular religious denomination 2007: Support

33.3

58.4

31.2

34.5

21.2

Source: BSA 2003 and 2007 surveys. Weighted data.

Looking first at the two questions on government funding of faith schools, it is clear that, in 2003 and 2007, Catholics and those belonging to non-Christian religions are more supportive than Anglicans, other Christians and those with no religion. For example, in 2003, majorities of Catholics and those within non-Christian traditions think that the government should fund faith schools for non-Christian religions; while a majority of the former and a plurality of the latter think the government should, in general, fund faith schools. In terms of the perceived social and educational outcomes of faith schooling, Catholics have the most positive assessments in 2003 and 2007, thinking that faith schools are more likely to provide a better quality of education and to instil a better sense of right and wrong in their pupils. In each case, those belonging to non-Christian religions show the next highest level of positive appraisal. There is a clear divergence in the views of those with and without a religious affiliation, with the latter group much less positive in its views of faith schools. In 2007, 12.6% of those with no affiliation think that such schools provide a better quality of education, while 11.9% think they provide pupils with a better sense of right and wrong.  Positive evaluations are much higher across all religious groups, albeit they are usually not a majority.

The question asked only in the 2007 survey (and which, it should be noted, refers to the Roman Catholic faith by way of example), also sorts out the religious and the non-religious to some extent. Again, those with no religion are less supportive of schools linked to particular religious traditions (21.2%). Even so, support amounts to just a third amongst Anglicans, other Christians and non-Christian faiths, but is considerably higher amongst Catholics, at 58.4%, which may partly reflect the specific wording of the question.

As in Table 2, the religious groups in the 2003 and 2007 surveys were subdivided on the basis of their attendance at services, in order to look at attitudinal variation within traditions. Table 4 reports opinions for the same set of questions shown in Table 3. There is a general tendency for those who are frequent attenders – whether Anglican, Catholic or other Christian – to be more supportive of state funding of faith schools and to have more positive appraisals of what they offer to pupils. The highest levels of support – a majority in each case but one – are registered amongst Catholics who attend church on a frequent basis.

Table 4: Attitudes towards faith schools, attendance by affiliation

Question and response option

Anglican: Frequent attender (%)

Anglican: Infrequent or non-attender (%)

Catholic: Frequent attender (%)

Catholic: Infrequent or non-attender (%)

Other Christian: Frequent attender (%)

Other Christian: Infrequent or non-attender (%)

Government should fund non-Christian faith schools: Agree

2003: 50.0

2003: 35.1

2003:

67.9

2003:

44.9

2003:

45.6

2003:

41.5

2007: 37.1

2007: 32.0

2007:

59.8

2007:

41.0

2007:

37.2

2007:

34.0

Government should fund single religion schools: Agree

2003: 42.5

2003: 24.4

2003:

64.5

2003:

38.7

2003:

38.9

2003:

27.8

2007: 41.0

2007: 26.0

2007:

51.0

2007:

29.0

2007:

27.1

2007:

18.4

Single religion schools have a better quality of education: Agree

2003: 36.9

2003: 20.1

2003:

47.7

2003:

33.6

2003:

27.8

2003:

16.7

2007: 40.7

2007: 16.7

2007:

51.0

2007:

23.8

2007:

29.6

2007:

17.6

Single religion schools give children a better sense of right and wrong: Agree

2003: 49.4

2003: 24.6

2003:

56.4

2003:

37.8

2003:

47.0

2003:

21.5

2007: 53.8

2007: 22.6

2007:

53.4

2007:

28.2

2007:

35.4

2007:

19.7

Support schools that are linked to a particular religious denomination: Support

2007: 52.6

2007: 28.8

2007:

76.0

2007:

47.4

2007:

38.9

2007:

25.8

 Source: BSA 2003 and 2007 surveys. Weighted data.

As well as attendance, another way of looking at attitudes within religious traditions is on the basis of self-defined religiosity – in this case, how religious individuals are, which was probed in the BSA 2007 survey. For each religious group, respondents have been subdivided into whether they feel (i) very or somewhat religious or (ii) not very or not at all religious. Data are shown in Table 5. Within religious groups, there is marked variation in attitudes towards faith schools on the basis of self-defined religiosity. The general pattern is for those who express a greater degree of religiousness to be more supportive of government funding of faith schools and to have more positive appraisals of what they offer pupils compared to other schools. Amongst Catholics, this is the case for each of the questions. Amongst Anglicans and other Christians, this is also the pattern except for the question on funding faith schools for non-Christian religions, where the differences are much less apparent on the basis of religiosity.  The more religious within each group are also much more likely to support schools linked to a particular denomination (with the greatest divergence amongst Catholics and other Christians).

Table 5: Attitudes towards faith schools, religiosity by affiliation

Question and response option

Anglican: Very or somewhat religious (%)

Anglican: Not very or not at all religious (%)

Catholic: Very or somewhat religious (%)

Catholic: Not very or not at all religious (%)

Other Christian: Very or somewhat religious (%)

Other Christian: Not very or not at all religious (%)

Government should fund non-Christian faith schools: Agree

34.5

32.0

55.0

38.4

33.7

37.9

Government should fund single religion schools: Agree

32.1

18.4

42.7

31.2

26.7

14.2

Single religion schools have a better quality of education: Agree

27.3

16.6

46.3

16.5

29.3

11.5

Single religion schools give children a better sense of right and wrong: Agree

36.4

22.2

47.7

23.8

33.3

13.7

Support schools that are linked to a particular religious denomination: Support

38.5

29.2

70.5

37.5

41.5

15.6

Source: BSA 2007 survey. Weighted data.

A question in the 2008 BSA survey also asked about support for faith schools. The question was included in the BSA survey as part of the International Social Survey Programme specialist module on religion. The question was worded as follows:

Some schools are for children of a particular religion. Which of the statements on this card comes closest to your views about these schools.

Table 6 reports the full distribution of responses for this question, based on affiliation. Again, Catholics are most supportive of different religious traditions having faith schools (at 63.3%), with support at similar levels amongst Anglicans, other Christians and non-Christian faiths. Interestingly, over a third of those with no religion also support all religious groups being able to have faith schools. There are generally low levels of support for only some religious groups having their own schools (highest at 16.5% for Anglicans). Catholics are least likely to take the view that there should not be any faith schools (21.6%). This view is more common amongst the other religious groups – Anglicans: 36.3%; other Christians: 37.9%; non-Christian: 44.4% – and is held by nearly half of those with no affiliation (48.3%).

Table 6: Attitudes towards religious groups having their own schools, by affiliation

Response option

Anglican (%)

Catholic (%)

Other Christian (%)

Other religion (%)

No religion (%)

No religious group should have its own schools

36.3

21.6

37.9

44.4

48.3

Some religious groups but not others should have their own schools

16.5

13.9

14.1

5.7

12.8

Any religious group should be able to have its own schools

44.6

63.3

44.1

48.8

36.8

Don’t know

2.6

1.2

4.0

1.1

2.0

Source: BSA 2008 survey. Weighted data.

Finally, Table 7 shows responses to this question based on attendance within each Christian religious group. For each group, those who are less likely to attend services are more favourable to the view that there should not be any faith schools, highest at over two-fifths for other Christians who go to church (or chapel) infrequently or not at all. Amongst Catholics, support for all groups having their own faith schools varies only a little on the basis of attendance (and is around two-thirds of both groups); whereas, amongst Anglicans and other Christians, frequent attenders are much more likely to express this view. Across each group, the most prevalent opinion is that of allowing all groups to have faith schools with the exception of infrequent or non-attending other Christians, where support for no faith schools is the plurality viewpoint.

Table 7: Attitudes towards religious groups having their own schools, attendance by affiliation

Response option

Anglican: Frequent attender (%)

Anglican: Infrequent or non-attender (%)

Catholic: Frequent attender (%)

Catholic: Infrequent or non-attender (%)

Other Christian: Frequent attender (%)

Other Christian: Infrequent or non-attender (%)

No religious group should have its own schools

24.2

38.9

14.9

25.2

22.3

45.3

Some religious groups but not others should have their own schools

14.3

17.0

18.9

11.5

12.4

14.8

Any religious group should be able to have its own schools

59.3

41.4

66.2

61.8

60.3

36.3

Don’t know

2.2

2.8

0.0

1.5

5.0

3.5

Source: BSA 2008 survey. Weighted data.

Summary

This review of religious groups’ attitudes towards faith schools – across various questions and using different measures of religiosity – points up two noteworthy findings. Firstly, when looking at attitudes on the basis of affiliation, Catholics have tended to hold the most supportive views of faith schools, whether that is for public funding in general or for non-Christian traditions, or in terms of what they offer their pupils compared to other schools. Not surprisingly, those who declare they have no religious affiliation tend to be least favourable towards the claims of faith-based schooling. Secondly, when looking at views within religious groups, it is apparent that the more religious – as manifested in regular attendance and a greater sense of religiousness – have more favourable views of faith schools. Accordingly, the most favourable views are held by more religiously-involved or committed Catholics. There is, then, considerable attitudinal variation within religious groups in terms of support or opposition towards faith schools, and therefore – at the level of ordinary adherents – views do not align with simplistic notions of an overarching religious-secular divide over the appropriate role of religion in the public sphere.

Further reading:

Clements, B. (2010), ‘Understanding public attitudes in Britain towards faith schools’, British Educational Research Journal, 36(6): 953–973.

Patrikios, S. and Curtice, J. (2014), ‘Attitudes Towards School Choice and Faith Schools in the UK: A Question of Individual Preference or Collective Interest?’, Journal of Social Policy, 43(3): 517-534.

 

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