Understanding Society, Wave 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Quality of Religious Research

 

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

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

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

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

%

3*/4*

4*

3*

2*

1*/U

Durham

85

50

35

14

1

Exeter

83

21

62

14

3

Leeds

82

33

49

18

0

Cambridge

80

34

46

19

1

Birmingham

79

51

28

17

4

University College London

78

37

41

22

0

Edinburgh

78

34

44

19

3

SOAS

78

29

49

20

2

King’s College London

76

39

37

18

6

Cardiff

76

33

43

21

3

Lancaster

75

42

33

23

2

Kent

75

38

37

23

2

Manchester

75

28

47

20

5

Nottingham

74

30

44

23

3

Oxford

72

34

38

24

4

Sheffield

72

21

51

28

0

Aberdeen

68

29

39

24

8

National average

68

28

40

27

5

Bristol

66

21

45

32

2

St Andrews

62

31

31

38

0

Heythrop College London

62

22

40

36

2

Wales Trinity St David

62

14

48

26

12

Glasgow

55

11

44

35

10

Open

53

18

35

47

0

Canterbury Christ Church

53

6

47

40

7

Liverpool Hope

46

9

37

38

16

Roehampton

43

16

27

45

12

Winchester

42

6

36

43

15

St Mary’s Twickenham

35

9

26

41

24

Chester

35

8

27

57

8

Leeds Trinity

34

0

34

32

34

Gloucestershire

33

3

30

52

15

Newman

26

0

26

28

46

York St John

25

2

23

57

18

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

 

 

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Christmas Observance and Other News

 

Christmas observance

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

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

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

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

%

Attending Christians

Non-attending Christians

No religion

Christmas cards expect to send

 

 

 

Under 30

47

61

78

More than 30

47

34

18

Expect to have Christmas tree at home

 

 

 

Yes

87

87

77

No

11

12

19

Expect to have Christmas dinner

 

 

 

At home

62

58

57

Elsewhere

37

38

40

Likely to be present at Christmas dinner

 

 

 

Up to three other people

29

38

42

Four or more other people

68

59

54

Charitable donations in past year

 

 

 

Nothing

5

8

15

Under £100

52

67

62

More than £100

35

15

14

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

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

Full data tables for the poll are at: 

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

Leaving Christ out of Christmas

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

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

Christmas knowledge

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

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

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

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

Freedom of speech

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

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

Social integration

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

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

Pope Francis

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

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

% regarding Pope Francis

Very favourably

Somewhat favourably

Unfavourably

Italy

66

25

5

Poland

57

35

3

United States

38

40

11

Spain

34

50

9

France

30

58

11

Germany

25

57

11

Great Britain

20

45

17

Greece

8

41

24

BRIN source database update

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

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

 

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Advent Pot-Pourri

 

Correlates of belief

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

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

Catholics, assisted suicide, and abortion

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

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

Catholic schools

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

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

School nativity plays

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

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

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

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

Debt support

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

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

Christians in sport

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

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

New Churches in North-East England

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

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

Muslims and crime

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

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

Muslims and employment

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

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

Religious book sales

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

 

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Jesus Test and Other News

 

The Jesus test

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pope Francis on the European Union

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

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

Islamic State

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

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

% supporting country’s involvement in

Britain

France

Germany

Airstrikes against IS

65

49

35

Ground operations against IS

53

41

20

Both

49

37

16

Neither

18

28

55

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

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

Youth social action

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

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

Liking the Church of England

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cathedral statistics

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

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

FutureFirst

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

Advent calendars

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

Religion in the First World War

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

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

 

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Sacred Texts and Other News

 

Sacred texts

The potential contribution of religious and sacred texts to the school curriculum is explored in new research published by the Bible Society on 20 November 2014. Commissioned from YouGov, it involved online interviews with samples of (a) 795 primary and secondary teachers in England and Wales between 24 October and 4 November 2014 and (b) 566 students aged 8-15 in Britain on 24-27 October 2014. The Bible Society’s press release, incorporating links to the full data tables for both samples, will be found at: 

http://www.biblesociety.org.uk/news/more-sacred-texts-in-schools-would-help-children-love-thy-neighbour-as-yourself-say-teachers/

Almost three-quarters (73%) of teachers agreed that the education system has more of a role to play in addressing the challenges of inter-religious and ethnic strife at home and abroad through changing attitudes and behaviour of the next generation. Just over two-fifths (42%) thought the teaching of religious and sacred texts in more of the curriculum would improve the cross-cultural understanding of their students with minority groups, with 31% believing it would enhance the general social development of students and 28% community cohesion. However, less than half of teachers (47%) felt confident about including such texts in their teaching plans. Beyond religious education (85%), personal, social, health and economic education classes were deemed appropriate for teaching about religion and faith (48%), followed by those in citizenship (46%), history (27%), and English (11%).  

Some two-thirds (64%) of pupils acknowledged the importance of knowing about different religions, but only 15% considered they would have a more positive opinion of religious people as a result (three-fifths saying it would make no difference). A minority clearly viewed religious people with some suspicion, 6% describing them as threatening, 7% as dangerous, 11% as weird, and 13% as old-fashioned. Overall, 46% of pupils said they were not religious themselves. One-fifth (21%) claimed not to have read or been taught about during the past year any of the six religious texts named in the survey, with 64% being exposed to the Bible and 25% the Koran.  

Aspirational churchgoing

One-fifth of Britons anticipate they will attend church during the forthcoming Christmas period, according to a YouGov poll for The Sunday Times conducted online on 20-21 November 2014 among 1,970 adults. The proportion rises to 25% for Conservative voters, 24% for the over-60s, and 23% for non-manual workers. The figure is likely to include a fair amount of aspiration since we know that, in the Church of England, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services last year were attended by around 2,400,000, or 4% of the English population. Even if we factor in churchgoing during Advent and Christmas attendances by non-Anglicans, it is hard to see how the 20% prediction will be met in reality. Moreover, this total is made up of 9% who claim to be regular churchgoers and 11% who are not but expect to worship at Christmas. The former statistic is also likely to be inflated as the last (2005) English church census revealed 6% of the population in the pews on a typical Sunday, which is almost certainly less now, notwithstanding recent growth in London. YouGov’s data tables are at: 

https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/6au4g3f66s/YG-Archive-Pol-Sunday-Times-results-211114.pdf

Christians and poverty

Christian attitudes to poverty in Britain are briefly reported in a new book by Martin Charlesworth and Natalie Williams, The Myth of the Undeserving Poor: A Christian Response to Poverty in Britain Today (Grosvenor House Publishing for Jubilee+, ISBN 978-1-78148-875-1) – see especially pp. 42-7. The data, which derive from an online survey completed by an apparently self-selecting (and thus potentially unrepresentative) sample of 419 Christians (including church leaders) over a three-week period in the summer of 2014, were compared with opinions of a cross-section of adults as recorded by the British Social Attitudes Surveys.  

In general, Christians were found to have a slightly narrower definition of who is in poverty than the public, with 51% selecting the narrowest definition and merely 12% the broadest. However, Christians were ‘more sympathetic to those in need, more aware of the poverty that exists in Britain, and less prone to buying into myths about people on benefits’. For example, as many as 54% of Christians suggested that support for the poor from the State is too low, compared with 22% of the population as a whole.  

Nevertheless, as in the nation at large, political allegiance made a big difference to Christian opinion, with Christians who identified as Conservatives taking the hardest line. Whereas 67% of Christians who were Labour and 48% who were LibDems agreed that the income gap between rich and poor is morally wrong, just 33% of Conservative Christians said so. Newspaper readership and proximity to poverty were also revealed as having a substantial impact on Christian attitudes. The authors of the book seemed surprised that there was less of a consensus among Christians.    

Cathedral friends

An illustration of social capital generated in a religious domain is provided by Judith Muskett, ‘Measuring Religious Social Capital: Scale Properties of the Modified Williams Religious Social Capital Index among Friends of Cathedrals’, Journal of Beliefs & Values, Vol. 35, No. 2, 2014, pp. 242-9. The main purpose of the article is methodological, to validate a modified version of the religious social capital index originally devised by Emyr Williams in 2008. However, along the way, interesting light is shed on the profile and motivations of 923 members of the friends’ associations of six Anglican cathedrals in England who responded to a postal questionnaire sent out by Muskett in 2011. These respondents were disproportionately over 65 years of age (74%), educated to degree level (44%), and – in their own estimation – religious (96%, including 54% who described themselves as rather or extremely religious). The research originated in the author’s 2013 PhD thesis from York St John University on ‘Cathedrals Making Friends: The Religious Social Capital of Anglican Cathedral Friends’ Associations’. Access options to the article are outlined at: 

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13617672.2014.884843#.VHDfPekqXX4

Clergy burnout

One manifestation of the decline of institutional Christianity in Britain has been the growing trend for clergy to be required to look after more than one church, especially in rural areas. Mandy Robbins and Leslie Francis have examined the relationship between ministerial oversight of multiple churches and levels of clerical burnout, taking into account personal, psychological, theological, and other contextual factors, based upon a sub-sample of 867 female Anglican clergy under the age of 71 serving in stipendiary parish ministry in England in 2006-07. Their findings are reported in ‘Taking Responsibility for Multiple Churches: A Study in Burnout among Anglican Clergywomen in England’, Journal of Empirical Theology, Vol. 27, No. 2, 2014, pp. 261-80. They demonstrate a small significant inverse association between number of churches and satisfaction in ministry but no association with emotional exhaustion. Access options are outlined at: 

http://booksandjournals.brillonline.com/content/journals/10.1163/15709256-12341310;jsessionid=3mkajba2b384x.x-brill-live-03

Origins of life on earth

News that the European Space Agency’s Philae probe had landed on comet 67P rekindled the debate about the origins of life on earth and, in particular, the extent to which comets might have played a part by bringing organic compounds to earth many millions of years ago. This prompted YouGov to ask representative samples of both Britons and Americans how they currently think life on earth began. In Britain 2,003 adults were interviewed online on 12-13 November 2014, and the results are presented at: 

https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/t0vgrsctuq/PeterResults_141113_life_on_earth-Website.pdf

Just 15% of Britons believed that the earth was created by God, the proportion rising to no more than 23% in any demographic sub-group, that being Londoners among whom, through immigration, there are relatively high levels of religiosity. Overall, the divine explanation found less favour than comets, which 19% suggested were instrumental in starting life on earth (possibly because they had heard media speculation along these lines). Another 4% subscribed to the view that an older, alien civilization brought life here from elsewhere in the universe. Two-fifths discounted all these arguments and opted for life beginning because conditions on earth happened to be suitable, while 22% had no idea.

These findings were in stark contrast with those for the United States sample, with no fewer than 53% of Americans agreeing that life on earth was created by God, ranging from 42% in the western states to 70% among blacks and Republicans. However, there is absolutely no difference between Britain and America in the likelihood of intelligent life existing elsewhere in the universe, an opinion held by, respectively, 66% and 67%. American data tables are at: 

http://cdn.yougov.com/cumulus_uploads/document/l0f4q17xnt/tabs_OPI_space_20141114.pdf

Anti-creationism

Peter Webster’s latest blog post, on 18 November 2014, continues his analysis of the religious dimensions of UK webspace. This time, he has identified and categorized the unique UK hosts linking to any of the four main anti-creationist websites at any point between 1996 and 2010. His conclusion is that, during this period, ‘British creationism was talking largely to itself, and was mostly ignored by academia, the media and most of the churches’. His blog, with links to the source data, can be found at: 

http://peterwebster.me/2014/11/18/reading-creationism-in-the-web-archive/

Time to say goodbye

Hymns, as well as classical music, are decreasingly popular as choices for funeral music, according to 84% of funeral directors in the latest annual survey by Co-operative Funeral Care, which was published on 21 November 2014, and based on more than 30,000 funerals conducted by the company. There are now only three traditional hymns left in the top 20 funeral music choices: The Lord is My Shepherd (in second place, the most requested hymn in all but one listing since 2005), Abide with Me (in third position), and All Things Bright and Beautiful (in sixth). In top spot is Monty Python’s Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, which has displaced the former long-standing leader, Frank Sinatra’s My Way (now in fifth place). Advancing up the league table is the Match of the Day theme tune, occupying fourth place. Schubert’s Ave Maria came sixteenth. Funerals have often been viewed as the ‘last monopoly’ of organized religion, but, if music choice is anything to go by, they too are being secularized. For the overall top 20, and the top 10 or 20 in each music genre (including the top 10 hymns), see the press release at: 

http://www.co-operative.coop/corporate/press/press-releases/Funeralcare/the-final-countdown-funerals-march-to-a-different-tune-as-brits-look-on-the-bright-side-of-life/

Jewish lives

The Jewish Chronicle for 21 November 2014 (p. 18) highlights an interim report from Jewish Lives, an ongoing project of UJIA (United Jewish Israel Appeal) and funded by the Pears Foundation, involving a longitudinal study of more than 1,000 Jewish families whose children entered Jewish secondary schools in London and Manchester in 2011. The report, which does not appear to be in the public domain, is said to show that, during their first two years at Jewish secondary school, pupils strengthened their British identity without any diminution of their Jewish identity or lessening of support for Israel. The newspaper write-up, which is relevant to current debates about the teaching of ‘British values’ in schools, is at: 

http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/125709/jewish-schools-make-you-feel-more-british

BRIN site traffic

The latest site traffic statistics (analysed by Siobhan McAndrew) reveal that there have been 650,457 page views of the BRIN website since its official launch in March 2010 in 300,543 sessions and by 234,744 unique users. In the latest complete month (October 2014) there were 13,587 page views by 6,144 unique users.

 

 

Posted in church attendance, News from religious organisations, Religion and Politics, Religion and Social Capital, Religion Online, Rites of Passage, Survey news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Public attitudes towards women bishops

Given important recent developments in the long-running debate on the issue of women bishops in the Church of England, this post provides a brief review of topline and group attitudes using recent data from opinion polls. Several polls on the topic of women bishops and the Church of England have been conducted by YouGov and ComRes, based on nationally-representative samples of the adult population in Britain (on their initial release, many of these surveys were covered in earlier BRIN posts).

Table 1 shows the topline findings for YouGov surveys conducted between 2010 and 2013. The general pattern is for public opinion to be very favourable towards the Church of England allowing women to become bishops. The level of support is somewhat lower for the two surveys where an additional response option has allowed respondents to declare that they have no opinion either way (which significant minorities do). Across surveys, only around a tenth of respondents are opposed to women being allowed to become bishops.

Table 1: Public opinion towards women bishops in the Church of England

Should allow (%)

Should not allow (%)

Have no opinion either way (%)

Don’t know

(%)

11-12 July 2010

63.0

10.0

24.0

3.0

7-8 July 2012

77.0

11.0

-

12.0

8-9 July 2012

55.0

12.0

30.0

4.0

22-23 November 2012

78.0

10.0

-

11.0

14-15 March 2013

80.0

11.0

-

10.0

27-28 March 2013

78.0

9.0

-

13.0

Source: YouGov surveys.

Table 2 shows topline response for three ComRes surveys conducted in 2012, which have used differently-worded response options. The overall picture is similar to that obtained from Table 1. Opinion is very firmly in favour of women bishops in each survey. Around a tenth of respondents are opposed. It is also worth noting that ComRes asked a question on this issue to its CPanel of churchgoing Christians aged 18 years and older. This survey, conducted in September 2012, found that 57% of respondents  either strongly or tended to support women bishops being allowed in the Church of England, with 38% opposed to some degree (only 5% said they did not know). Another question on this issue in the same survey found that 51% agreed that the Church of England should allow women to become bishops, compared to 34% who disagreed and 15% who did not know or could not state a view.

Table 2: Public opinion towards women bishops in the Church of England

Should allow (%)

Should not allow (%)

Don’t know (%)

4-5 July 2012

74.0

12.0

15.0

 

Agree (%)

Disagree (%)

Don’t know (%)

24 August-9 September 2012

79.0

11.0

9.0

In favour (%)

Against (%)

Don’t know (%)

16-18 November 2012

67.0

13.0

20.0

Source: ComRes surveys.

A more recent Opinium survey of the UK adult population, conducted in July 2014, posed separate questions about women becoming bishops in the Church of England and becoming part of the clergy in the Roman Catholic Church. The distribution of responses was similar for each question. Majorities agreed with each of these propositions and very few disagreed. Interestingly, the levels of don’t know responses were comparatively high compared to those recorded in Table 1 and Table 2 (this poll was discussed  in more detail in a BRIN post at the time).

Moving on from the overall state of public opinion, what about variation in attitudes across socio-demographic and religious groups? Table 3 presents the views of different groups based on analysis of the YouGov survey from late-March 2013. Again, data are shown for indicators of religious belonging, behaving and believing.

In terms of socio-demographic groups, women are slightly more in favour of women bishops than men while support is slightly lower amongst those in the DE social grade.  In terms of religious groups, Catholics, adherents of non-Christian religions and those who attend religious services on a frequent basis are less supportive. Even so, around two-thirds of Catholics, adherents of non-Christian faiths, and frequent-attenders support women bishops. The opinions of occasional attenders are broadly similar to those who do not attend religious services. Levels of support are similar for Anglicans and other Christians. In terms of believing, support is somewhat higher amongst those who believe in a spiritual higher power (but not in God). Support is lowest amongst those who don’t know whether they believe in a God or higher spiritual higher power, but this does not translate into higher levels of opposition. Rather, around a third of this group does not have a clear view either way on this issue.

Table 3: Public opinion towards women bishops in the Church of England, by social and religious group

Should allow (%)

Should not allow (%)

Don’t know

(%)

All

77.9

9.0

13.0

Male

74.0

10.3

15.8

Female

81.6

7.9

10.4

15-24

75.9

8.6

15.5

25-34

76.2

4.9

18.8

35-44

76.0

11.0

12.9

45-54

78.6

8.8

12.6

55-64

80.0

10.5

8.8

65-74

79.3

10.4

10.4

75+

73.8

14.3

11.9

AB

79.7

10.4

9.9

C1

80.0

8.3

11.7

C2

78.9

7.5

13.7

DE

72.5

9.5

18.0

Church of England

82.5

7.5

10.0

Catholic

67.1

19.5

13.4

Other Christian

82.4

7.6

9.9

Other religion

66.7

10.8

22.5

No religion

79.1

7.7

13.2

Frequently attend

65.8

23.0

11.3

Infrequently attend

82.9

8.0

9.1

Never attend

80.6

6.6

12.8

Believe there is a God

75.1

13.9

10.9

Do not believe in a God, but believe there is some sort of higher spiritual power

86.5

6.3

7.3

Do not believe in a God or higher spiritual power

80.6

6.5

12.9

Don’t know

64.0

3.9

32.0

Source: YouGov survey, 27-28 March 2013.

Summary

This brief review of recent survey data on the views of British adults towards women bishops has shown that usually sizeable majorities have taken positions supportive of this move. There has been some variation in levels of support and opposition across population groups, even though negative sentiment has been the preserve of very small minorities of the adult population. Higher levels of opposition are evident amongst older age groups, Catholics, non-Christian faiths, as well as those attending religious services on a regular basis.

Posted in Attitudes towards Religion, Religion in public debate, Religion in the Press, Survey news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bible Versus Darwin and Other News

 

Bible versus Darwin

Given a list of 30 books, and invited to select three which they considered to be most valuable to humanity (as opposed to having read or enjoyed), 37% of the 2,044 adult Britons recently questioned by YouGov for the Folio Society put the Bible in top spot, narrowly ahead of what is often thought to be its arch rival, Darwin’s Origin of Species (35%). However, in the battle between religion and science, Darwin won out among men (37% against 36% for the Bible), while women put the Bible (38%) ahead of Darwin (33%). In regional terms, the Bible scored most highly in Northern England (41%). Asked why they had opted for the Bible, the most frequent response was because it ‘contains principles/guidelines to be a good person’. The Koran came in eighth position, on 9%. The top ten titles are shown below.  

   

%

1 Bible

37

2 Origin of Species – Charles Darwin

35

3 Brief History of Time – Stephen Hawking

17

4 Relativity – Albert Einstein

15

5 Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell

14

6 Principia Mathematica – Isaac Newton

12

7 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

10

8 Koran

9

9 Wealth of Nations – Adam Smith

7

10 Double Helix – James Watson

6

The survey has been widely reported in British and overseas print and online media during the past few days, from which the above summary has been compiled. Irritatingly, the Folio Society’s press release is not yet posted on its website, and the data tables are not yet in YouGov’s online archive either. 

Religious liberty

Religious liberty issues are of some concern to a minority of the electorate, according to a ComRes poll conducted for the Christian Institute in the 40 most marginal constituencies of England and Wales. Fieldwork was carried out online among 1,000 adults between 18 and 26 September 2014. Full data tables have yet to be released into the public domain (albeit they have been generously made available to BRIN by ComRes), but a news release from the Christian Institute (on 31 October 2014) is available online at: 

http://www.christian.org.uk/news/poll-shows-voters-concerned-over-religious-liberty-threats/

Two-fifths (39%) of the sample disagreed with the proposition that religious liberty in Britain had been improved by the current Coalition Government, with just 11% in agreement and 50% recorded as don’t knows. A plurality (44%) thought that UK law should ensure that people are not forced to provide goods or services that violate their beliefs, while 31% dissented from the view that enforcement of equality should always take precedence over conscience in law. Asked whether ‘the tide of legislation has gone too far in elevating equality over religious freedom’, 43% agreed, 21% disagreed, and 35% were undecided. One-third believed that Britain should follow the example of other nations in offering asylum to displaced Christians in Iraq, and 17% said that they would be more likely to vote in the forthcoming general election for a party which promised to grant such asylum.

The Christian Institute’s purpose behind the poll was presumably to ascertain the extent to which neglect of religious liberty might cost politicians votes in May 2015. In practice, however, this seems highly unlikely since we know from a myriad of other polling that it is topics such as the economy, immigration, and the health service which are foremost in the public mind. When it comes to the crunch, religious issues per se generally do not have saliency in British politics. 

Jewish vote

Talking of religion and politics, Ed Miliband’s condemnation of Israel’s ground operation in Gaza this summer seems to have upset many Jewish voters, according to a survey published by the Jewish News on 6 November 2014. Three in ten admitted that they would be less likely to vote Labour at the next general election as a result of Miliband’s comments, and 16% that they would be more likely to vote Labour (perhaps suggesting a certain lack of sympathy for Israel’s actions). A plurality (39%) stated that they would not have voted for Labour in any case, with 15% intending to vote Labour anyway.  

Overall, 48% of the 1,300 Jewish News readers questioned online on 3-5 November 2014 said that they would vote Conservative if a general election were to be held now (rising to 63% among orthodox Jews), 19% Labour, 8% UKIP, 4% Green, 3% Liberal Democrat, with 16% undecided. The economy was ranked as the top political issue by 85%, followed by the National Health Service (57%), Israel (51%), education (49%), and Europe (40%). The majority (56%) said that a party leader’s or a local candidate’s views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be a major factor in determining how they voted. For further information, go to: 

http://www.jewishnews.co.uk/general-election-poll-results-lipman-test/

The usual caveat applies: the poll was evidently completed via a self-selecting sample alerted via various Jewish organizations, so it may not be representative of Britain’s Jewish community as a whole. The pattern of prospective voting by Jews is certainly a little different from the British Election Study (BES) 2015 panel (analysed by Ben Clements for BRIN on 17 October 2014), which was 46% Conservative, 30% Labour, 5% LibDem, and 12% UKIP. However, the BES data were based on only 134 Jews and omitted the undecideds, so the comparison is by no means exact. Moreover, a lot of the fall in the Labour vote between the two surveys may be accounted for by the negative reaction to Miliband’s criticism of Israel. Capturing the opinions of minority religious populations is no easy task.  

Blasphemy

Asked about five different types of content in television and film, only 7% of the British public are concerned about blasphemy, compared with 17% who object to racism, 14% to sex, 14% to swearing, and 11% to homophobia, with 37% not being troubled about any of them or undecided. Blasphemy is of most concern to the over-60s (10%) and Conservative voters (9%) and of least concern (4% each) to people aged 25-39 and Labour supporters. The survey was conducted by YouGov for The Sunday Times among 2,022 adults, who were interviewed online on 6 and 7 November 2014. Data tables are at: 

https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/ggg23xnvxt/YG-Archive-Pol-Sunday-Times-results-071114.pdf

Anglican statistics

The Church of England’s Statistics for Mission, 2013 were published on 10 November 2014 in 63 pages of tables, figures, commentary, and methodological notes. They are based upon an 80% completion rate of parochial returns, with estimation being used for the remaining data. The report revealed a by now all too familiar picture of slow net decline, with some more dramatic reductions (for example, electoral roll membership dropped by 9% last year, which saw its first renewal since 2007), but also tempered by some pockets of growth. As columnist Giles Fraser commented in The Guardian for 15 November 2014 (p. 40), ‘it seems that the Church of England continues to slip quietly into non-existence’ while, at the same time, ‘it is holding up pretty well, despite seriously adverse market conditions’.

A variety of measures of all age churchgoing were included; in descending order of magnitude these are: Christmas attendance 2,368,400 (equivalent to 4% of the English population); Easter attendance 1,272,000; worshipping community 1,056,400; average weekly attendance 1,009,100 (2% of the population); average Sunday attendance 849,500; and usual Sunday attendance 784,600. Additionally, an estimated 5,000,000 individuals attended special services during Advent. Overall, it was calculated that 24% of churches were declining, 19% growing, and 58% stable. Enhanced information about joiners and leavers indicated that losses arise from death/illness (38%), moving away (32%), leaving the church (17%), and moving to another local church (14%). Gains derive from joining church for the first time (46%), moving into the area (29%), returning to church (14%), and moving from a local church (12%). Statistics for Mission are at: 

https://www.churchofengland.org/media/2112070/2013statisticsformission.pdf

Disestablishment

Only 29% of Britons think the official link between the Church of England and the state is good for Britain, according to a ComRes survey for ITV News between 31 October and 2 November 2014, for which 2,019 adults were interviewed online. The range by demographic sub-groups was from 16% in Scotland to 39% among retired people with a private pension. A similar overall number (30%) believed that establishment is a bad thing, while the plurality (41%) was unable to express a view. The results were comparable with previous polls by ComRes this year (27-29 June and 12-14 September) which posed the identical question. Data tables are at: 

http://www.comres.co.uk/polls/ITV_News_Index_6th_November_2014.pdf

English and Welsh Catholic statistics

Tony Spencer of the Pastoral Research Centre Trust has recently published, as a blog, the second part of his critique of the collation of Catholic statistics in England and Wales printed in the 2014 edition of the Catholic Directory. This part covers mass attendance, baptisms, marriages, and receptions, together with some overarching reflections on the quality of Catholic data. It also describes the Trust’s own plans for future publications on pastoral and demographic statistics. The blog can be found at: 

http://www.prct.org.uk/

Sectarianism in Scotland

Earlier this year, Equality Here, Now released on its website an analysis of the religious composition of the workforce in Scottish local authorities, concluding that there continues to be significant institutional discrimination in the employment of Catholics. A robust response to this has just been published by Steve Bruce in ‘Sectarian Discrimination in Local Councils and Myth-Making’, Scottish Affairs, Vol. 23, No. 4, November 2014, pp. 445-53. He points out the fundamental methodological flaw of Equality Here, Now in drawing conclusions from very incomplete data (religious affiliation only being available for 14% of council staff). He also presents an alternative way of interpreting these partial statistics, suggesting that, in general, ‘self-declared Catholics and self-declared Protestants are present in ratios that fit local council profiles [in the census of population] reasonably well’. Access to the article can be gained from: 

http://www.euppublishing.com/doi/abs/10.3366/scot.2014.0043

The original Equality Here, Now report can still be read at:

https://sites.google.com/site/equalityherenow/home/performance-on-equalities/performance-of-councils—general/catholics-work-and-local-authorities-in-scotland-2014

On retreat

The Autumn 2014 issue of Promoting Retreats: The Newsletter of the Association for Promoting Retreats includes (on pp. 7-9) a summary by Ben Wilson of a survey of the membership of the Association earlier this year, to which 200 members (approaching one-quarter of the total) responded. Two-thirds of them were aged 65 and above, with one-third over the age of 75, and almost two-thirds were women. One-fifth had joined the Association within the past five years, while one-third had been in membership for more than two decades. Members currently attended an average of one retreat and two non-residential quiet days each year. Time constraints (56%), cost (34%), and distance to the nearest retreat house (20%) were cited as the main barriers to going on retreat more often. The newsletter can be read at: 

http://www.promotingretreats.org/downloads/2014-2-Autumn.pdf

Islamic State

Things have been a bit quiet on the polling front of late regarding the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, but the British public has certainly not forgotten about the group, 78% regarding it as a very or fairly serious threat to Britain in the most recent YouGov poll, for which 2,003 adults were interviewed online on 12-13 November 2014. This was a slightly higher proportion than said the same about al-Qaeda (72%) and significantly more than with Iran (40%) or Russia (38%). The data table is at: 

https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/i0qdjx3dhs/InternalResults_141113_threats_Russia_Ukraine.pdf

 

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Huffington Post and Other Polls

 

Huffington Post religion poll

As part of its new ‘Beyond Belief’ series, The Huffington Post UK commissioned Survation to carry out a short online survey about religion among 2,004 Britons on 31 October and 1 November 2014. Results were published on 4 November 2014. Full data tables are at:

http://survation.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Huffington-Post-Results.pdf

while the Huffington Post’s analysis of the survey, by Jessica Elgot, is at: 

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/11/03/religion-beyond-belief_n_6094442.html

The first of the three questions concerned self-assessed religiosity. The majority (61%) of the sample did not consider themselves religious, whereas 31% described themselves as somewhat religious and 8% as very religious. The non-religious were somewhat over-represented among men, those aged 35-64, residents of Northern England and Scotland, and non-manual workers, with two-thirds of each of these groups saying they were not religious. The proportion of very religious was, not unexpectedly, highest for those professing a religion, as well as with the younger age cohorts and Labour voters (probably reflecting a concentration of, respectively, non-Christians and Roman Catholics). 

Asked about the influence of religion on society, 52% thought it caused more harm than good, this view being held especially strongly by the non-religious (62%), the 55-64s (60%), and Liberal Democrats (60%). Just under one-quarter (24%) felt religion did more good than harm, peaking at 66% for the very religious, with 24% undecided. 

In similar vein, 56% deemed atheists and religious people as equally likely to be moral, only 6% considering atheists to be less likely to be moral than the religious against 12% who assessed atheists as the more moral, with 26% unable to comment. Even among the self-designated very religious, no more than one-fifth claimed atheists to be less likely to be moral than religious people. The long-standing conflation of ethics and Judeo-Christian culture appears to be collapsing. 

Religious affiliation

Populus has just released another large-scale survey containing details of religious affiliation. Online interviews took place throughout October 2014 with 18,330 adult Britons, each of whom was asked ‘which of the following religious groups do you consider yourself to be a member of?’ Results are summarized below, indicating that age is now far more important than gender or social class in shaping religious identity (age probably also contributes to the differences by voting intention). Full details can be found in table 12 at: 

http://www.populus.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/OmFT_October_BPC3.pdf

% across

Christian

Non-Christian

No religion

All

54

7

37

Men

52

7

38

Women

55

6

36

18-24

29

13

52

25-34

40

11

45

35-44

49

8

41

45-54

54

5

39

55-64

66

3

29

65+

74

3

23

AB

54

8

36

C1

54

5

37

C2

54

7

37

DE

53

7

38

Conservative

69

5

25

Labour

49

11

37

LibDem

52

6

40

UKIP

64

3

32

Religious hate crimes

One UK resident in 20 claims to have been the victim of a self-defined religious hate crime during the past 12 months, according to a poll by Opinium Research published on 5 November 2014, for which 2,002 online interviews were conducted between 14 and 17 October 2014. The incidence of religious hate crimes was slightly less than those related to disability and race (6% each) and the same as for sexual orientation, gender prejudice or gender identity. Young people aged 18-34 were most likely to say they had been the victim of a religious hate crime (13%), although this age group disproportionately reported being a victim of any hate crime (26%, which was double the national average). Religious hate crimes took many and multiple forms, including harassment (64%), physical assault (52%), internet abuse (52%), domestic abuse (49%), verbal abuse (45%), hate mail (43%), vandalism (36%), and bullying (34%). Data tables are at: 

http://ourinsight.opinium.co.uk/sites/ourinsight.opinium.co.uk/files/op4924_opinium_pr_hatecrime_tables__0.pdf

Religious bake off

The gay cake row, which we covered in our post of 29 July 2014, has flared up again. The case involves a Christian family-run bakery in Belfast (Ashers Baking Company) which was threatened with prosecution by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland for its refusal to decorate a cake promoting same-sex marriage (which is not legal in the province), on the grounds that it would be contrary to the family’s beliefs. YouGov has just tested public opinion on the subject for a second time (the first being by ComRes in July 2014), interviewing 2,022 Britons online on 6-7 November 2014. It found that 56% deemed the action of the company acceptable and 33% unacceptable, with the strongest support coming from Conservatives (67%), over-60s (69%), and UKIP voters (74%). It also recorded disapproval by 65% of the Equality Commission’s threat of legal proceedings against the bakery unless compensation is paid to the person who requested the cake, approval running at 25% (and no more than 35% in any demographic sub-group). At the same time, majorities ranging from 56% to 80% regarded it as unacceptable for owners of services to decline access to them by a gay couple. Data tables are at: 

https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/ex7ykytmu1/InternalResults_141107_cultural_beliefs_Website.pdf

Drinking habits

A ComRes poll for Channel 4 News published on 3 November 2014, but conducted online on 24-25 September 2014, discovered that 17% of the 2,144 Britons aged 16 and over who were questioned never drink alcohol, with a further 18% not having consumed any during the week prior to interview. Asked whether there were any factors which prevented them from drinking alcohol, 5% of the whole sample cited their own religious beliefs (rising to 11% of 16-24s and 10% of Londoners, presumably disproportionately non-Christians in both cases), 2% their family’s religious beliefs, and 1% their friends’ religious beliefs. Data tables are at: 

http://www.comres.co.uk/polls/Channel_4_Drinking_habits_survey_26_September_2014.pdf

Supernatural beliefs (1)

Just over one-third (35%) of a representative sample of 1,629 Britons told YouGov, in an online pre-Halloween survey for The Sun on 26-27 October 2014, that they believed in life after death, a reduction from the earliest polling on the topic by Gallup (48% in 1939 and 49% in 1947). Belief was substantially greater among women (43%) than men (26%), and it was also high in London (42%), where the concentration of immigrants has raised levels of religious belief generally. Almost the same proportion of the whole population (34%) believes in ghosts, with still more (39%) convinced that houses can be haunted, and 28% even claiming to have seen or felt the presence of a supernatural being. However, very few (9%) state that they have communicated with the dead. Data tables are at:   

http://cdn.yougov.com/cumulus_uploads/document/otjwvdct9z/SunResults_141027_Ghosts-Website.pdf

Supernatural beliefs (2)

Meanwhile, another survey by OnePoll for price comparison website confused.com, on 21-23 October 2014, has reported that 31% of 2,000 UK adults have lived in a property they thought was haunted, one-sixth of whom had moved home as a result. The most common haunted occurrences were strange noises (53%), shadows moving around the house (30%), items disappearing without explanation (28%), rooms suddenly becoming chilly (27%), sighting of a ghost (17%), and doors opening and closing of their own accord (16%). Anxieties about the supernatural apparently influence house-buying decisions, with 39% saying they would be put off a property if they knew something bad had happened there, 31% if it was built on an ancient burial ground, 28% if they believed it was haunted, 25% if it was located next to a cemetery, and 11% if it was numbered 13. No data tables are available in the public domain, but there is a press release at:  

http://www.confused.com/press/releases/things-that-go-bump-in-the-night-causing-brits-a-fright

Halloween

Opinium Research reported on 30 October 2014 that 40% of UK adults intended to celebrate Halloween the following day, most commonly by watching a scary film on television (20%), going to or hosting a party (17%), dressing up (17%), carving a pumpkin (15%), or going trick-or-treating (12%). It was the youngest generation, aged 18-34, which most enjoyed the various aspects of Halloween, such as dressing up (61%), parties (60%), scary films (58%), Halloween recipes (55%), and trick-or-treating (47%). Overall, 52% of the population expressed a dislike for trick-or-treating and 42% admitted to having pretended not to be at home in order to avoid a visitation from the trick-or-treaters. Data tables and methodological details are not available, but there is a press release at: 

http://ourinsight.opinium.co.uk/survey-results/brits-hiding-away-trick-or-treaters

Child abuse

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has recently admitted, in a private letter subsequently publicized on the Exaro website, that the sexual abuse of children has been ‘rampant’ in the Church of England and other British institutions in recent times. A substantial majority (69%) of the British public agrees with his assessment of the situation, according to a YouGov poll for The Sunday Times on 30-31 October 2014, for which 1,808 adults were interviewed online. Among the over-60s the proportion rose to 82% and for UKIP voters it was 86%. Only 16% suggested that Welby was exaggerating the scale of the problem, with 15% uncertain what to think (32% for the 18-24s). Data tables are at:  

http://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/n965i9mzb8/YG-Archive-Pol-Sunday-Times-results-311014.pdf

Anglican clergy poll

In the Church Times for 31 October 2014 (p. 12), Linda Woodhead provided further analysis of the results of the YouGov poll of Church of England clergy which she commissioned in August-September 2014 (and which we have covered in two recent BRIN posts). Her article can be read online at: 

http://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2014/31-october/comment/opinion/clergy-are-more-like-old-labour-than-new

A critique of the article by Jonathan Chaplin appeared in the form of a letter to the editor in Church Times for 7 November 2014 (p. 16).

 

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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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