Islamic State and Other News

 

Islamic State

According to opinion polling published in the past week, the British public is becoming uneasy about the advances being made by the armed forces of the Islamic State (IS, formerly known as ISIS) in northern Iraq, its brutal persecution of ethno-religious minorities there, and the humanitarian crisis left in its wake.

A ComRes survey for ITV News, conducted online on 12 August 2014 among 1,088 adult Britons, found that 84% blamed IS for the current situation in Iraq. The same proportion wanted Britain to send humanitarian aid to the Yazidis then trapped by IS on Mount Sinjar, with 73% wishing to see British helicopters used to airlift them to safety. A plurality (45%) supported British fighter planes making airstrikes on the Islamists (which have yet to happen), but there was much less appetite (18%) for British troops becoming embroiled in ground combat against them. The potential fate of the Iraqi Christian community was a particular cause for concern, no fewer than 50% (including 62% of the over-65s) wanting Britain to give asylum to those currently at risk of death, even though no numbers were specified, just 29% being against. Full tables for these and other ComRes questions on Iraq are located at:

http://www.comres.co.uk/polls/ITV_News_Iraq_Crisis_Snap_Poll_12th_August_2014.pdf

YouGov has conducted three polls, all online among samples of adults aged 18 and over: on 10-11 August 2014 (n = 1,676), 11-12 August 2014 (n = 1,942, for The Times), and 14-15 August 2014 (n = 2,019, for The Sunday Times). They revealed strong backing (around three-quarters) for the RAF’s involvement in the airlifting of humanitarian aid to members of religious minorities fleeing the Islamists, with a plurality of around two-fifths approving of RAF airstrikes against IS (albeit a majority backed similar action being taken by the Americans). However, only 28% endorsed the supply of arms by Britain to Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting IS, with 44% opposed, and no more than one-fifth favoured the engagement of British and American ground troops against IS (58% disapproving). A potential British offer of asylum to ‘some of the Yazidi people’ was less popular than in the ComRes poll in respect of Iraqi Christians, approval running at 34% and disapproval at 46%. Two-thirds discerned IS to be a major or moderate threat to Britain itself. YouGov data tables are available as follows:

10-11 August 2014:

http://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/2a3r3j0yj4/InternalResults_140811_Iraq_aid_and_air_strikes_W.pdf

11-12 August 2014:

http://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/3otq667g5p/Times_Results_140812_Iraq_aid_and_air_strikes_W.pdf

14-15 August 2014:

http://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/bm0fuq6bgy/YG-Archive-Pol-Sunday-Times-results-140815.pdf

A Level results

This summer’s A Level results for England, Wales, and Northern Ireland were published by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) on 14 August 2014. Entrants for Religious Studies (RS) numbered 24,213, a rise of 3.7% over the previous year, notwithstanding a 2.0% reduction in those for all subjects. RS entries represented 2.9% of all A Levels sat. RS A Level candidates were preponderantly female (69.3%), compared with the all subject average of 54.4%. The RS pass rate (at grades A*-E) in RS was 98.5%, half a point above the figure for all A Levels, with 24.8% gaining A* or A in RS (marginally down on the 25.5% for RS in 2013 and also lower than the 26.0% achieved for all subjects in 2014). Results are further disaggregated by the three home nations. Entries for the AS (Advanced Subsidiary) Level in RS rose even more impressively, by 12.2%, far more than the 5.0% for all AS Level subjects. The full JCQ tables are at:

http://www.jcq.org.uk/examination-results/a-levels

Church of England finance statistics

The Church of England published its national and diocesan finance statistics for 2012 on 14 August 2014, in 25 pages of tables, figures, and commentary, and based on the annual parochial returns (as distinct from the central accounts of the Church Commissioners, which are entirely separate). After three years of deficit, parishes reached break-even point in 2012 through a combination of reductions in expenditure and increased giving. However, donor income, while at a record level, has not kept pace with inflation, being up by just 0.4% on the year (reflecting lower Gift Aid payments from HMRC and slightly fewer regular donors). Full details at:

https://www.churchofengland.org/media/2048371/2012financestatistics.pdf

Church of England clergy survey

The latest issue of the Church Times (15 August 2014, p. 5) reports that YouGov is to carry out an online survey of the background and attitudes of 5,000 Anglican clergy aged 70 and under, randomly selected from Crockford’s Clerical Directory. The poll has been commissioned by Professor Linda Woodhead of Lancaster University in connection with a new series of Westminster Faith Debates on ‘The Future of the Church of England’, to be held in Oxford during the autumn of 2014, in association with Ripon College Cuddesdon and the Church Times. For more information about the programme, go to:

http://faithdebates.org.uk/category/debates/2014-debates/oxford-faith-debates-the-future-of-the-church-of-england/

Attitudes to homosexuality

The past half-century has witnessed a dramatic change in public views of homosexuality in Britain, as recently documented by Ben Clements and Clive Field in  ‘Public Opinion Toward Homosexuality and Gay Rights in Great Britain’, Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 78, No. 2, Summer 2014, pp. 523-47. Deploying a wide range of attitudinal measures, presented in 31 tables and commentary, they demonstrate some of the key turning-points in this process of liberalization, including the setback brought about by AIDS in the mid-1980s and the rapid improvements in perceptions which have occurred since the Millennium. The abstract and options for accessing the full text of the article are located at:

http://poq.oxfordjournals.org/content/78/2/523.abstract

In line with the journal’s template for contributions to its series of poll trends, the authors reproduce topline data only, for representative probability samples of adult Britons, and with no breaks by standard demographics, including religion (albeit relatively few surveys actually included religious affiliation as a variable). However, two of their tables do have a religion component, based on discontinued series of Gallup data. Table 14 summarizes answers to the question: ‘in your opinion, can a homosexual be a good Christian, Jew, etc. or not?’ In six of seven surveys between 1977 and 1993 around three-quarters answered in the affirmative, and just over one-tenth in the negative. However, much more discomfort was expressed about the appointment of homosexual clergy in six polls from 1977 to 1991 (Table 16), with the plurality (and, in 1986, a majority) opposed. Only in 1991 were more people reconciled to the prospect (49%) than not (41%).

Anti-Semitism

Anti-Semitic incidents in Britain have certainly increased since armed conflict between Israel and Hamas erupted again in Gaza in early July 2014. So much so that, among British Jewry, ‘63% say there may be no future for Jews in UK.’ Thus proclaimed the headline on the front page of the current issue (15 August 2014) of The Jewish Chronicle, the percentage appearing in thick, bold characters almost seven centimetres high. In the relatively brief story which followed, the newspaper explained that: ‘in a straw poll conducted by the JC this week, 150 people were asked: “Since the protests against the war in Gaza began, have you or your friends had a discussion about whether there is a future for Jews in the UK?” Just over 63 per cent answered “yes”’.

More information was revealed in an editorial on p. 28: ‘This week’s front-page story is not something we ever thought would be published. The poll is not scientific; we simply approached 150 people randomly in the street. But it accurately reflects the overwhelming anecdotal evidence of recent weeks. Emphatically, that does not mean that 63 per cent of us are preparing to leave. But it is deeply shocking that the stench of antisemitism is now so pungent that many in our community feel the question has to be asked.’ In an obvious slip of the pen, the editor then proceeded misleadingly to describe the poll as ‘a random sample of British Jews’.

Given that the survey has been widely reported in the online media, in Britain and overseas, thereby acquiring some authority, it is important to recognize that this is little more than a ‘voodoo poll’, to use market research industry jargon, and not necessarily representative of Jewish opinion in the country. The small sample size and inadequate sample selection process undermine its wider validity. This is a useful reminder of the difficulties of gauging the views of religious minorities which are so thinly and/or unevenly spread as not to show up in sufficient numbers in nationally representative sample surveys of all adults.

 

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Baroness Warsi’s Resignation and Other News

 

Baroness Warsi’s resignation

Last Tuesday (5 August 2014), Baroness Sayeeda Warsi resigned from Britain’s coalition government in protest at its response to the crisis in Gaza arising from the latest round of conflict between Israel and Hamas. She had been the first female Muslim member of a UK Cabinet and, in addition to being Senior Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, held the portfolio of Minister for Faith and Communities at the Department for Communities and Local Government.

In what appears to be the first test of public reaction on the subject, a plurality (44%) of 1,943 adult Britons questioned online by YouGov for The Sunday Times on 7-8 August 2014 felt that she had been right to resign, with a big difference between Conservatives (27%) on the one hand and Labour voters (58%) and Liberal Democrats (50%) on the other. One-quarter considered she had been wrong to resign (including 46% of Conservatives), with 31% undecided.

Somewhat fewer than endorsed Warsi’s resignation, 33%, wanted to see the British government doing more to condemn Israeli actions in Gaza, with Labourites (48%), Liberal Democrats (42%), and Scots (40%) especially of this view. Just 7% wished to see the government doing more to support Israel. In particular, Israel’s bombing of Gaza is widely and increasingly regarded as unjustified, as the following table shows:

Gaza bombing (%)

Justified

Unjustified

Don’t know

20-21 July 2014

15

51

34

24-25 July 2014

18

52

31

28-29 July 2014

17

52

31

31 July-1 August 2014

17

54

29

3-4 August 2014

15

55

30

7-8 August 2014

17

60

24

Public sympathy with the Palestinians has also increased since the current flare-up in Gaza began early last month, now running at twice the level expressed for the Israelis. However, a steady two-fifths of the British public still feels sympathy for neither side. Trend data are as follows:

Sympathize with (%)

Israelis

Palestinians

Neither

Don’t know

13-14 July 2014

14

20

40

26

20-21 July 2014

14

23

40

23

24-25 July 2014

14

27

41

19

28-29 July 2014

14

27

41

18

31 July-1 August 2014

14

28

40

17

3-4 August 2014

12

30

39

20

7-8 August 2014

16

30

41

13

Full tables for the most recent YouGov poll are at:

http://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/s41ippsqgi/YG-Archive-Pol-Sunday-Times-results-140808.pdf

Sunday trading

Resistance to the Sunday opening of shops in England and Wales still persists twenty years after the Sunday Trading Act 1994 brought in greater liberalization of shop hours. This is revealed in a poll by ICM Research for Retail Week in which 1,838 English and Welsh adults were interviewed online on 25-27 July 2014. Asked directly, 26% of respondents thought that shops should not be open at all on Sundays, with 53% disagreeing. However, fewer (17%) expressed the view that shops should be closed on Sundays when the question was put in a more indirect way, regarding future priorities for Sunday trading. And fewer still (13%) claimed never to shop on a Sunday, against 41% who were frequent Sunday shoppers (every week or most weeks) and 42% more occasional ones. Among those who ever shopped on a Sunday, supermarkets (71%), garden centres (33%), and home or DIY stores (31%) were the most frequently visited venues. Support for a change in the law to enable large shops to open on Sundays for more than the present six hours was voiced by 48% (rising to 55% among under-45s), 31% being opposed, with 17% rejecting the call for longer opening hours on religious grounds. An account of the survey was published in Retail Week on 1 August 2014, which is available online for subscribers only. Topline results can be accessed without restriction in the form of a slide pack at:

http://www.icmresearch.com/data/media/pdf/Sunday%20Trading%20Poll%20July_August%202014_29.07.14.pdf

Religion and the European Union

Few in Europe or the UK view religion as a major component of the European Union (EU), according to the initial results of Standard Eurobarometer wave 81.4, conducted by TNS Opinion and Social among adults aged 15 and over in all 28 member states, including face-to-face interviews with 1,373 in the UK between 31 May and 14 June 2014. Asked which of twelve issues most created a feeling of community among EU citizens, only 9% in the UK and in the EU overall selected religion, culture scoring most highly (29% and 27% respectively), with sport in second place in the UK (25%). Religion was positioned bottom of the table in the EU and equal second bottom in the UK, somewhat ahead of solidarity with poorer regions (5%). Similarly, when it came to which of twelve values best represented the EU, religion came bottom of the list in the EU and second bottom in the UK, with 3% each (only self-fulfilment being regarded as less significant in the UK). Peace was considered by far the most important value in the EU (37%) but was pipped to the top spot by human rights in the UK (41%). A maximum of three answers was permitted to each question. Topline data only are available at present at:

http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/eb/eb81/eb81_anx_en.pdf

Scottish Gods

Steve Bruce’s latest book, Scottish Gods: Religion in Modern Scotland, 1900-2012 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014, xi + 244p., £70, ISBN 978 0 7486 8289 8), is an elegantly-written and stimulating social history of, and sociological commentary on, religion in twentieth- and early twenty-first century Scotland, charting both progressive secularization and religious diversification. It does not aspire to provide a fully comprehensive account of the Scottish religious scene, being essentially a series of case studies along ‘confessional’ or thematic lines. These are successively devoted to: the islands of Lewis, Orkney, and Shetland; the Roman Catholic Church; Protestant sectarianism; the Church of Scotland; the Free Church and the Free Presbyterian Church; the New Churches; the Buddhists of Samye Ling; the Findhorn Community; Muslims; and sex and Scottish politics.

Although statistics are quoted throughout, this is not a heavily quantitative work (and doubtless all the more readable and less dull for that). The single most cited quantitative source is the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey for 2001, which included a module on religion and belief, which (sadly) has not been replicated since. The volume also draws quite heavily on the results of the religion question in the 2001 census of population; the (relative to England and Wales) belated and still incomplete publication of Scottish religion data from the 2011 census meant that Bruce could not accommodate them in the main text, but he does discuss them in a two-page addendum. There is also a statistical appendix containing eight tables, as well as seven further tables distributed across individual chapters, the original plan for a much longer appendix of statistics being dropped in view of the existence of BRIN (whose achievement is fulsomely acknowledged). The preface holds out the promise of companion volumes on English Gods and Welsh Gods.

Future of Jewish community research

The future of the Community Research Unit of the Board of Deputies of British Jews is under review, according to the latest issue of the Jewish Chronicle (8 August 2014, p. 14). This follows the departure for a new job of its senior researcher, Daniel Vulkan, after almost nine years in the role. The Board has apparently held talks with the Institute of Jewish Policy Research on continuation of the Unit’s work. The Unit has traditionally collected and analysed key data relating to British Jewry, including preparation of an annual survey of Jewish births, marriages, divorces, and burials, as well as publishing regular reports on synagogue membership and Jewish day schools, and conducting research on behalf of other Jewish communal organizations.

 

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Religious Self-Identification and Other News

 

Religious self-identification

The current issue of Religion (Vol. 44, No. 3, 2014) is a special theme issue on ‘Making Sense of Surveys and Censuses: Issues in Religious Self-Identification’, guest-edited by Abby Day and Lois Lee. It contains a number of contributions which will be of interest to BRIN readers, and these are detailed below (there are also three other papers on exclusively non-British topics). All can be accessed (via institutional subscription or pay-per-view options) through the journal issue homepage at:

http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/rrel20/44/3#.U94fmTZwbX4

Abby Day and Lois Lee, ‘Making Sense of Surveys and Censuses: Issues in Religious Self-Identification’ (pp. 345-56) – This provides a general introduction to the theme issue and summarizes the individual chapters. It also draws upon Day’s own research into the religion question in the 2001 UK census of population and upon her involvement in discussions with the Office for National Statistics regarding the 2011 and 2021 censuses.

Clive Field, ‘Measuring Religious Affiliation in Great Britain: The 2011 Census in Historical and Methodological Context’ (pp. 357-82) – This traces the history of the measurement of religious affiliation in Britain from the Reformation to the present day, with particular reference to the contribution of the Churches, the State, and empirical social science. Nominal affiliation is shown to have been universal until the time of the French Revolution and preponderant until as late as the 1980s. The phenomenon of religious ‘nones’ has emerged since the latter date, but its extent today is dependent upon the way each question about religious affiliation is formulated. Alternative question-wordings are revealed to lead to wide variations in the results obtained. There are twelve tables.

Conrad Hackett, ‘Seven Things to Consider When Measuring Religious Identity’ (pp. 396-413) – The author offers seven suggestions for those wishing to describe and understand religious identity using survey data. He draws upon a range of American and international examples to illustrate his arguments. One section (pp. 402-4) attempts to explain the apparent discrepancy in religious affiliation results between the 2010 Annual Population Survey in England and Wales and the 2011 census of population.

Serena Hussain and Jamil Sherif, ‘Minority Religions in the Census: The Case of British Muslims’ (pp. 414-33) – The article considers the benefits for religious groups of having census data on religion, and for Muslims in particular. Much space is given over to the successful campaign (involving, among others, the Muslim Council of Britain) to persuade Government to field a religion question in the 2001 census; to the profile of Muslims which emerged from the 2001 and 2011 censuses, not least concerning disadvantage; and to the public policy and media impacts of such data, including perceived Islamophobic responses to the results of the 2011 census. The authors conclude with a brief expression of concern about the potentially negative effects for publicly available data on religion of the proposed changes in the methodology for the 2021 UK census.

Martin Stringer, ‘Evidencing Superdiversity in the Census and Beyond’ (pp. 453-65) – The concept of ‘superdiverse’ communities, as originally defined by Steve Vertovec, is explored through the lens of religion and other census statistics for England and Wales, with particular reference to Birmingham. The discussion is somewhat inconclusive, partly because the full range of local census data was not available to the author at the time of writing, but the conclusion appears to be that a mix of quantitative and qualitative measures will be necessary to differentiate ‘superdiverse’ from simply ‘diverse’ communities. The paper will probably make most sense when read alongside Stringer’s book Discourses on Religious Diversity (Ashgate, 2013).

Lois Lee, ‘Secular or Nonreligious? Investigating and Interpreting Generic “Not Religious” Categories and Populations’ (pp. 466-82) – The author uses qualitative, ethnographic research among self-identifying non-religious in Cambridge and Greater London to investigate what non-religious categories actually measure, specifically whether they indicate non-affiliation or disaffiliation or an alternative form of cultural affiliation. The widespread assumption that such categories merely denote secularity or secularization is questioned, many who subscribe to non-religious categories identifying with substantive (albeit diverse) non-religious and spiritual cultures. Distinctions between religious and non-religious categories as, respectively, ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ are thus flattened. The paper is somewhat jargon-ridden.

Vivianne Crowley, ‘Standing Up To Be Counted: Understanding Pagan Responses to the 2011 British Censuses’ (pp. 483-501) – Although the number of people self-identifying as Pagan increased between the 2001 and 2011 censuses, from 44,000 to 85,000, many Pagans remain reluctant to declare their Paganism, and census statistics of Pagans thus fall below those from other sources. The paper principally reports the results of an online questionnaire completed by 1,706 Pagans in Britain in May-June 2013 who were recruited via ‘snowballing/viral methods’, the sample consequently being ‘skewed heavily towards those well-networked Pagans who are active in e-groups, rather than those whose community links are weaker and more diffuse’. Respondents were asked about how they had handled the 2011 census question on religion and about their motivations for doing so. Overall, 85% recollected that they had written in Pagan on the census form, the remainder opting for another religion category (including none), not answering the census question, or being unable to say what they had done two years before. Crowley concludes that: ‘The census is not a good instrument for measuring the number of Pagans in Britain, particularly when based on household rather than individual forms.’

2021 census

On 18 July 2014 the Government, under the signature of Francis Maude (Minister for the Cabinet Office), gave its response to the National Statistician’s recommendations for taking the 2021 population census. It accepted the proposal to have a predominantly online census in that year supplemented by more extensive use of administrative and survey data. However, Government made it clear that its support for this dual-track approach was restricted to 2021 and that its ‘ambition is that censuses after 2021 will be conducted using other sources of data and providing more timely statistical information’. The exact content of the 2021 census has still to be determined, so it is not yet definite that a question on religion will be included for a third time.

Christians, sex, and marriage

The UK’s practising Christians mostly continue to uphold a ‘traditional’ view of Christian marriage but are far from being strait-laced or immune from marital failure. This is according to a new survey by Christian Research on behalf of Christian Today, published on 30 July 2014, and for which 1,401 churchgoers and church leaders were interviewed online on 28-30 June 2014. More than two-thirds said that Christians should not cohabit before marriage. About four-fifths felt it important to marry another Christian, and of those who were married, a similar proportion had done so. Nearly seven in ten thought their spouse or partner had been specially ‘put aside’ for them by God, and almost half had explicitly looked for their ideal partner in a Christian context. Although two-thirds believed that personal desire did not need to translate into the sex act, more than seven in ten agreed that ‘my spouse/partner and I love the physical part’. Some 12% reported that their relationships had failed, in that they were either divorced or separated or remarried after divorce. A surprisingly high 0.6% of practising Christians claimed to be in civil partnerships, which only came into effect in December 2005, and this was the lead finding from the poll in the Christian Today coverage (there are currently no data tables in the public domain), which is at:

http://www.christiantoday.com/article/one.in.200.churchgoers.in.same.sex.relationships/39175.htm

Ex-Anglican Catholic Priests

Research by Professor Linda Woodhead and Fr Christopher Jamison, reported in the current issue of The Tablet (2 August 2014, p. 32), suggests that 389 Catholic priests in England and Wales are former Anglican clergy, most of them believed to be working in Catholic parishes and chaplaincies, and a very large proportion of them married. The figure is approaching one-tenth of all active Catholic priests, secular or religious, in England and Wales. Of the 389, it is estimated that 250 left the Church of England between 1994 (when the first women were ordained in that Church) and 2000, 52 from 2001 to the present, with a further 87 joining the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham following its establishment in 2011. The report is online at:

http://www.thetablet.co.uk/news/1028/0/new-figures-show-almost-400-catholic-priests-were-anglicans

Muslim heroes

Today marks the centenary of Britain’s entry into the First World War. It is an appropriate moment to remember the service and sacrifice of millions from Britain and its then Empire who supported the war effort in the front line and on the home front. Among them were 400,000 Muslims, preponderantly from the then unpartitioned India (covering the area of the present-day India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh), who fought in the British armed forces, alongside 800,000 Hindus and 100,000 Sikhs. Few contemporary British citizens are aware of the strength of this Muslim contribution to the First World War, according to the results of an ICM Research poll for the British Future think tank which were released on 2 August 2014 to coincide with the Living Islam festival. Asked to estimate how many Muslims fought with Britain in the First World War, only 2% correctly placed the number between 250,000 and 500,000. Another 600,000 Muslims fought in the Second World War.

Islamic terrorism

Almost half (46%) of the population view Islamic terrorism as a critical threat to Britain, according to an opinion poll by YouGov, conducted online on 31 July and 1 August 2014 among 2,083 adults aged 18 and over. The proportion rose to 71% of UKIP voters, 60% with the over-60s, and 59% for Conservatives. A further 33% regarded Islamic terrorism as an important but not critical threat to Britain, bringing to 79% the figure for those deeming it some kind of serious threat (and 92% or 93% for Conservatives, UKIP supporters, and over-60s). Just 2% (peaking at 8% of 18-24s and 6% of Londoners) saw it as no threat at all, with another 10% assessing it as only a minor threat. Islamic terrorism was seen as a greater danger to Britain than Russia’s military in the post-Ukraine crisis world; 11% viewed Russia as a critical threat and 47% as an important but not critical threat. Data tables can be found at:

http://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/1hdxa38zho/InternalResults_140801_NATO_W.pdf

Anti-Semitic incidents

The Community Security Trust announced on 31 July 2014 that the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the UK in the first six months of the year was, at 304, 36% up on the January-June 2013 figure. The reasons for the increase are unclear, since no specific ‘trigger event’ occurred during that half-year, but the Trust speculates that improved reporting of incidents as well as more anti-Semitism both contributed to the trend. Naturally excluded from the data are incidents registered in July 2014, over 130 of them in what the Trust describes as ‘the second worst outburst’ of anti-Semitism in recent memory, and largely linked to the ongoing Israeli military operation against Hamas in Gaza. Antisemitic Incidents Report, January-June 2014 can be downloaded from:

http://www.thecst.org.uk/docs/Incidents%20Report%20Jan%20-%20June%202014.pdf

 

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Women in the Church and Other News

 

Women in the Church

Prompted by the recent debate (and decisive vote) about women bishops in the Church of England’s General Synod, Opinium Research resolved to test public opinion about several facets of the role of women in the Church. Questions were put to an online sample of 2,003 UK adults on 11-14 July 2014, with the results being published on 15 July. Key data are tabulated below for meaningfully-sized demographic sub-groups (unfortunately, some sub-groups, including regular churchgoers, had too few cases to be statistically reliable).

Q1.0 Women should be allowed to become bishops in the Church of England

% across

Agree

Disagree

Neither/

don’t know

All

56

7

37

Men

52

8

41

Women

60

6

34

18-34

52

4

43

35-54

57

7

37

55+

58

9

33

Anglican

62

7

31

Catholic

42

15

42

No religion

58

3

39

Q1.1 Women should be allowed to become clergy in the Roman Catholic Church 

% across

Agree

Disagree

Neither/

don’t know

All

53

8

40

Men

49

9

42

Women

56

6

37

18-34

51

7

42

35-54

56

7

37

55+

51

9

40

Anglican

56

6

38

Catholic

48

24

28

No religion

54

4

43

Q1.2 The ordination of women is not consistent with Christian teaching

% across

Agree

Disagree

Neither/

don’t know

All

21

30

49

Men

25

25

50

Women

18

35

47

18-34

27

19

54

35-54

22

30

48

55+

15

40

45

Anglican

20

36

44

Catholic

36

24

41

No religion

15

30

55

Q1.3 Gender equality in religious organisations should be enforced by law

% across

Agree

Disagree

Neither/

don’t know

All

38

20

42

Men

35

22

42

Women

40

18

42

18-34

41

14

45

35-54

41

17

42

55+

32

28

40

Anglican

40

20

40

Catholic

27

35

37

No religion

40

13

46

Q1.4 Whether or not women are allowed to become priests or bishops is an important issue for the 21st century  

% across

Agree

Disagree

Neither/

don’t know

All

46

14

40

Men

40

17

43

Women

52

10

37

18-34

43

11

46

35-54

45

14

41

55+

50

15

34

Anglican

55

10

34

Catholic

49

23

29

No religion

39

16

45

Q1.5 Whether or not women should be ordained as clergy is entirely a matter for each Christian denomination to decide

% across

Agree

Disagree

Neither/

don’t know

All

44

15

40

Men

46

12

41

Women

43

18

40

18-34

35

17

49

35-54

44

16

40

55+

53

13

34

Anglican

53

11

36

Catholic

58

18

25

No religion

32

21

48

At first sight, these results may seem a little surprising. Given the legislative and other strides taken toward gender equality in Britain, otherwise reflected in strong support in public opinion polling, the fact that, at best, only a slim majority appears to favour a greater role for women in the Church strikes one as odd. But the solution to the puzzle lies in the very substantial numbers unable to express a view on the matters surveyed (Q1.2 being a particular case in point), often, one imagines, because they considered themselves insufficiently well-informed to make a judgment or because they were indifferent to the issue. This is a phenomenon characteristic of a lot of polling on religion (see, also, the item on disestablishment, below).

Beyond that, females tended to endorse a stronger role for women in the Church than males, but the effect of age was less consistent save the disproportionate tendency of the 18-34s not to take sides. Anglicans were generally more favourable than Catholics to women assuming more responsibility in Church life, albeit almost half the latter endorsed women priests. People of no religion were only marginally more likely to take a gender diversity stance than the average, and they were disproportionately to be found among those registering as neutral or don’t know.

The full data are available at:

http://news.opinium.co.uk/sites/news.opinium.co.uk/files/op4677_opinium_pr_women_bishops_external.pdf

British values

The so-called ‘Trojan Horse’ plot in Birmingham schools recently triggered a political debate about the need to instil ‘British values’ in our children and citizens more generally. In BRIN’s post of 28 June 2014 we noted an initial attempt by ComRes on 11-13 June to define those values, by offering a representative sample of Britons a list of twelve candidate values, from which they were asked to select the most important. They included religious freedom (which was actually ranked tenth in significance).

Subsequently, on 25-27 June 2014, ICM Research (on behalf of British Future) proposed an alternative list of ten items to its online sample of 2,030 adults aged 18 and over. On this occasion, respondents were not specifically asked to rank them but to identify any which they deemed a ‘British value’. Respect for other people’s religion and beliefs was so regarded by 52% (with highs of 67% among the over-65s and 62% for the top AB social group), placing it in seventh position. The most prized British value was respect for the law (69%) and the least respect for MPs and others in elected office (18%). Data tables are at:

http://www.icmresearch.com/data/media/pdf/British%20Future-British-Values-June%202014-V2.pdf

Disestablishment

Only one-third of Britons think the official link between the Church of England and the state is good for Britain, according to a survey by ComRes for ITV News on 27-29 June 2014, for which 2,049 adults aged 18 and over were interviewed online. Support was greatest among the over-65s (41%), the top (AB) social group (40%), and retired people with a private pension (42%); it was least in Scotland (19%). The link was considered bad by 29% overall, peaking at 35% for men and in Wales and at 42% in Scotland. The remaining 38% of respondents were unable to express any view on the matter, rising to 46% in the case of the 18-24s and lowest (DE) social group, thereby reinforcing the impression from other polls that indifference and ignorance effectively help to shore up the current establishment of the Church. Full data tables can be found at:

http://www.comres.co.uk/polls/ITV_News_Index_EU__30th_June_2014.pdf

Gay cake row

The Christian Institute has taken up the case of the Christian family-run bakery in Belfast (Ashers Baking Company) which has been 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). This followed a complaint against the business lodged by a gay activist. In pursuit of its campaign, the Institute commissioned ComRes to pose several questions to an online sample of 2,007 Britons on 16-17 July 2014, the results being published on 23 July.

Three-fifths of respondents thought the Commission had acted in a disproportionately heavy-handed way, with just 14% dissenting. A plurality (45%) agreed with the suggestion that ‘Christian-run businesses appear to be being singled out unfairly by gay activists in order to make an example of them’, and this was especially felt by men (54%), Conservatives (55%), the over-65s (62%), and UKIP voters (66%). One-quarter disagreed with the proposition (including one-third of under-35s and of Labourites and Liberal Democrats and 38% of Scots), while 30% voiced no opinion. Full results can be located at:

http://www.comres.co.uk/polls/CI_Bakery_Poll_July_2014.pdf

 

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British Academy Recognition and Other News

 

BRIN secures British Academy recognition

The British Academy, the UK’s national academy for the humanities and social sciences, announced on 23 July 2014 that BRIN is to be one of fine new Academy Research Projects in the social sciences. Following an open and peer-review-based competition, BRIN has been awarded funding for five years in the first instance, with the potential for further support thereafter. BRIN and the four other projects ‘have been recognised for the excellence of their scholarship, and the promise and exciting nature of their programmes’. The British Academy’s announcement can be found at:

http://www.britac.ac.uk/news/news.cfm/newsid/1123

Ipsos Global Trends Survey, 2014

Britain has often been placed toward the bottom of international league tables of religiosity, and this continues to be the case according to the newly-published inaugural Ipsos MORI Global Trends Survey, 2014. Fieldwork was undertaken online in 20 developed and developing countries in two waves (3-17 September and 1-15 October 2013) among a sample of adults aged 16/18-64 (thereby excluding the over-65s, who tend to be the most religious cohort, as well as the group least likely to use the internet). Britain was ranked sixteenth in terms of identification of its citizens with any religion or faith (57% against the unweighted global mean of 71%), and sixteenth equal for the personal importance of religion/faith (27%, with 64% of Britons saying it was not important to them). It was also fifth equal for agreement with the statement that ‘organised religion is not for me’ (72%, with just 21% dissenting and 7% uncertain). The most consistently religious of the nations investigated were Argentina, Brazil, India, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Turkey, and the United States. Topline results can be extracted from the survey website at:

http://www.ipsosglobaltrends.com

Prospects for religious revival

In an important new article, ‘Late Secularization and Religion as Alien’, published on 17 July 2014, Steve Bruce of the University of Aberdeen argues that it is ‘sociologically implausible’ that secularization could be reversed in the UK since there are too many obstacles to ‘religious revival’, whether of Christianity or other creeds. In particular, ‘the shared stock of religious knowledge is small, the public reputation of religion is poor, and religion is carried primarily by populations that are unusual in being drawn either from a narrow demographic or from immigrant peoples’. These ‘carriers of religion’ in the UK have been allegedly reduced to elderly women, residents of rural peripheries, Poles, West Africans, and Muslims, leading to the conclusion that ‘religion is now alien’. ‘Being religious is no longer a characteristic that is thinly but fairly evenly distributed throughout the population: it is concentrated in specific minority populations, which reinforces the sense that religion is what other people do.’ The article is published in Open Theology, Vol. 1, 2014, pp. 13-23 and available for free download at:

http://www.degruyter.com/view/j/opth.2014.1.issue/issue-files/opth.2014.1.issue.xml

No religion hotspots

In a recent post on the Nonreligion & Secularity blog, dated 21 July 2014, Katherine Sissons of the University of Oxford explores the potential of DataShine, a data visualization tool developed at University College London, for the study of the distribution of no religion in the 2011 census: ‘“Godless Cities” and “Religious Enclaves”? The Distribution of Religion and Nonreligion in England and Wales’. She cautions against an over-simplistic interpretation of the data, noting that, although there are some apparent no religion urban ‘hotspots’ (such as Brighton and Norwich), religious and non-religious populations are generally not as spatially segregated as is often assumed, with, for example, above average levels of irreligion occurring in several more rural areas, such as large parts of Wales, East Anglia, and the South-West. The post can be read at:

http://blog.nsrn.net/2014/07/21/godless-cities-and-religious-enclaves-the-distribution-of-religion-and-nonreligion-in-england-and-wales/

Churches and social capital

‘The Church in England reaches approximately 10 million people each year through its community activities, even excluding “familiar” church activities – Sunday services, Christmas, Easter, Harvest, baptisms, weddings, and funerals.’ So concludes Paul Bickley in a new report prepared by Theos think tank for the Church Urban Fund: Good Neighbours: How Churches Help Communities Flourish. The report itself is largely based on an analysis of twelve case studies of the work of Church of England congregations in areas of high deprivation but is informed by an online survey from ComRes among 2,024 English adults aged 18 and over between 19 and 21 February 2014.

Respondents in the national study were first asked to select from a list of community activities and services (i.e. delivered by churches, charities, or voluntary organizations, rather than by private companies or the state) those which they or someone in their immediate family had accessed in the last twelve months. Almost half (48%) reported accessing such activities and services and 43% not. Among those who had taken up the provision, 51% recalled that it had come from a church or a church group (the tables fail to clarify how this figure was calculated). Setting aside weddings or funerals, the majority of this voluntary provision was church-based in only six areas: pastoral support for pub- and club-goers (68%), marriage/relationship advice (64%), food banks (56%), community events such as lunch clubs and cafés (56%), assistance of asylum seekers/migrants (55%), and counselling/befriending services (50%). In the other eleven areas secular agencies predominated.

Good Neighbours can be read at:

http://www.cuf.org.uk/sites/default/files/PDFs/Research/Good%20Neighbours%20Report-CUF-Theos-2014.pdf

and the ComRes data tables at:

http://www.comres.co.uk/polls/Theos_and_Church_Urban_Fund___Churches_in_the_Community___Final_Data___25th_February_2014.pdf

United Reformed Church statistics

The General Assembly of the United Reformed Church met in Cardiff on 3-6 July 2014, and this provides an opportunity to record its latest Britain-wide statistics, which reveal a pattern of decline characteristic of most of the ‘historic’ Free Churches (the United Reformed Church itself evolved after 1972 as a union of several previous denominations). The following table has been abstracted from:

http://www.urc.org.uk/statistics.html

 

2012

2013

% change

Churches

1,512

1,487

-1.7

Active ministers

615

576

-6.3

Retired ministers

900

915

+1.7

Active lay preachers

484

479

-1.0

Serving elders

11,229

10,247

-8.7

Non-serving elders

8,791

8,396

-4.5

Members

61,627

59,077

-4.1

Regular attenders

20,596

19,968

-3.0

Average congregation

61,725

59,828

-3.1

Children associated with Church

44,771

42,076

-6.0

Children worshipping at main service

15,504

15,473

-0.2

Faith and Belief Scotland

Faith and Belief Scotland: A Contemporary Mapping of Attitudes and Provisions in Scotland, by Anthony Allison, is a report on research undertaken in 2013-14 by the School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh on behalf of the Equality Unit of the Scottish Government. The project was designed to investigate the compliance of Scottish councils with the Public Sector Equality Duty of The Equality Act 2010 in respect of religion and belief as a protected characteristic. Data-gathering comprised qualitative research in eight council areas and an online national survey completed by 1,407 adults aged 16 and over between December 2013 and March 2014.

Although respondents to the online survey were drawn from all 32 Scottish councils, the method of distribution of the questionnaire (‘through various religion and belief mailing lists and popular social media platforms’) means that the sample cannot be considered as statistically representative. In particular, relative to the results of the 2011 Scottish census, adherents of the Church of Scotland and Roman Catholic Church appear to be seriously under-represented and non-Christians and those professing no religion to be over-represented.

Nevertheless, the 37 questions in the online survey do yield some interesting findings, including the significant number of people who rejected the Equality Act’s definitions of religion (43%) and belief (38%), seemingly because they incorporate the lack, as well as the existence, of religion and belief. It is also noteworthy that only 7% of respondents regarded Scotland as a Christian country, with 33% viewing it as a post-Christian or secular nation, and 60% as a society of many religions and beliefs. In part reflection of this fact, there was a significant amount of discomfort with religious organizations providing schools (47%), adoption (39%), and foster care (38%), while 47% were opposed to state funding of religion or belief groups (with 34% in favour).

The report can be found at:

http://faithandbelief.div.ed.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Faith-and-Belief-Scotland-FINAL-VERSION-OF-REPORT.pdf

An interactive map, permitting analysis of all 37 questions by gender, religion or belief group, and council is at:

http://faithandbelief.div.ed.ac.uk/fabs/

Anti-Semitism

A spike in anti-Semitic incidents in the UK has arisen this month as a direct consequence of the conflict in Gaza between Israel and Hamas, in much the same way as occurred with the similar conflict in January-February 2009. The Community Security Trust is reporting that the number of incidents in this country is currently running at double the level which would be expected under ‘normal’ circumstances (approximately 100 since 1 July 2014 compared with 58 for the whole of July 2013). Recent YouGov polling (as tabulated below) also indicates that, since Israeli military action commenced on 8 July 2014, Britons have been somewhat and increasingly more sympathetic to the Palestinian than the Israeli cause, although the plurality remains neutral and a substantial minority is undecided.

Sympathize with (%)

13-14/7/14

20-21/7/14

24-25/7/14

Israelis

14

14

14

Palestinians

20

23

27

Neither

40

40

41

Don’t know

26

23

19

 

Posted in News from religious organisations, Official data, Religion and Social Capital, Religious Census, Survey news, visualisation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mid-Summer Miscellany

 

Burka

The burka (and thus Islam) has been in the news again during the past week, partly because the European Court of Human Rights has upheld France’s ban on wearing the full face-veil in public (a similar ban also operates in Belgium), and partly because an imam has written to The Times to point out that ‘there is no Koranic mandate for female facial masks’ and to suggest that wearing the burka in public should be made illegal in the UK.

The latest publicity has prompted Opinium Research to test the popular mood in the UK, and the company put several questions to an online sample of 2,004 adults between 4 and 7 July 2014. Topline results are tabulated below, revealing two-thirds of people in favour of banning the burka, similar to other polls in recent years, albeit one-quarter expressed some concern on the grounds of implications for human rights and individual freedoms.

%

Agree

Disagree

Burqa, or full veil, should be banned in public places

68

14

Burqa a predominantly cultural rather than religious requirement

66

8

Banning burqa would give women who wear it less freedom

24

39

Banning burqa would be serious breach of rights of women

26

46

What people wear in public legitimate topic of public debate

62

11

What people wear, even in public, entirely private matter

26

48

Breaks by sex, age, and region, which show over-55s to be most illiberal in their views on all the questions, are also available at:

http://news.opinium.co.uk/sites/news.opinium.co.uk/files/op4663_opinium_pr_veils_tables.pdf

Jihadists

The British Muslim community has also been in the headlines because of official confirmation that several hundred of its members have been engaged in jihad in Syria and Iraq, with a proportion of them potentially continuing their struggle on their return to Britain. The news has inevitably led to public concern, as recorded in a YouGov poll for The Sunday Times, for which 1,936 adults were interviewed online on 26-27 June 2014. Two-thirds of respondents felt that there was a serious danger of such jihadists undertaking terrorist attacks in this country, and this view was particularly held by Conservatives (78%), UKIP supporters (87%), and the over-60s (77%); just 17% believed the risk has been exaggerated. Social media have proved an effective vehicle for jihadist propaganda, and 61% were convinced that these media could be doing much more to prevent this happening, with 12% disagreeing and 27% unsure. Similarly, 63% of Britons considered that there was much more which Muslim community leaders could be doing to help the authorities identify young people who might become jihadists, a position again disproportionately taken up by Conservatives (76%), UKIP voters (85%), and the over-60s (74%); only 12% assessed that such leaders were doing all they reasonably could to assist, the remaining 25% expressing no opinion. In answer to a hypothetical question about having a Muslim child (including a convert), 63% said that they would inform the police if he had gone on jihad in Syria, while 8% would not, and 29% were uncertain what they would do. Full data tables are at:

http://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/s703u4qd5l/YG-Archive-Pol-Sunday-Times-results-270614.pdf

Sunday trading

The overwhelming majority of Britons (77%) appear content with the provisions of the Sunday Trading Act 1994, which limits the opening of large shops in England and Wales to a maximum of six hours on a Sunday. This is according to a ComRes poll for the Association of Convenience Stores, released on 1 July 2014, and for which 1,004 adults were interviewed by telephone between 28 and 30 March 2014. The survey was presumably triggered by recent agitation on the part of some of the retail giants to get these restrictions lifted. Support for the status quo was highest in Scotland (86%), to which the law does not apply, but otherwise did not vary much by demographics (including by religious affiliation). Opposition to the six-hour rule was voiced by 20%, peaking at 30% in South-East England, albeit it sprang from a variety of motives. Among this minority, 56% wished to see no Sunday opening of large shops at all, while 23% wanted their hours to be reduced; on the other hand, 5% opted for a small increase in permitted opening hours and 17% for complete deregulation of Sunday trading, enabling large shops to open for as long as they desired. Data tables can be found at:

http://www.comres.co.uk/polls/ACS_Public_Sunday_Trading_Tables_31_March_2014.pdf

Church and clergy

In a seminal article in Social Forces in 1994 Mark Chaves sought to redefine secularization as declining religious authority. His reformulation has hitherto been little examined in a British context, but Clive Field has now used it as a framework for considering changing views of Church and clergy: ‘Another Window on British Secularization: Public Attitudes to Church and Clergy since the 1960s’, Contemporary British History, Vol. 28, No. 2, June 2014, pp. 190-218. This is, in effect, a meta-analysis of opinion poll evidence from the last half-century, derived from 125 non-recurrent surveys and 15 time series (incorporating 114 data points). Much comparative information about other institutions and professions is also provided, notably in the twelve tables. The standing of Church and clergy in Britain is shown to have diminished, especially in the 1990s and 2000s, mirroring the net decline in institutional Christianity revealed in performance indicators of church membership, attendance, rites of passage, and affiliation. This loss of status, it is argued, reflects, not merely the passive effects of a secularizing climate, but active disenchantment with policies and practices pursued by Church and clergy, especially in respect of the Church of England and Roman Catholic Church. Access options for the article are explained at:

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13619462.2014.923765#.U7cR4DZwbX4

Roman Catholic pastoral statistics

The Catholic Directory of England and Wales has been a standard source of statistical information about the Roman Catholic Church for more than a century. The statistical section was dropped by the editor from the 2013 edition, on the grounds of doubts about the quality of the data, bur reinstated in the 2014 edition (in respect of returns for 2012). Unfortunately, the new data are also flawed, according to the first of three blogs by Tony Spencer of the Pastoral Research Centre (PRC), subjecting the Catholic Directory figures to forensic examination. This first blog, published on 7 June 2014, reviewed the Catholic Directory’s table of Roman Catholic population, highlighting several problems. In brief, two dioceses failed to send in data (so there is no national total); other diocesan returns were incomplete, sometimes as a consequence of the belated or non-cooperation of parish priests; and most dioceses failed to implement adequate data collection and quality control procedures. As a result, Spencer argues, the Catholic population estimates are ‘meaningless and useless’ and ‘utterly misleading’. The claim is demonstrated by reference to the PRC’s own estimates for several dioceses. The Catholic Directory’s figures thereby exemplify the ‘highly dysfunctional statistics regime’ and ‘chaotic arrangements’ operated by the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales since 2000-01. Regrettably, according to Spencer, the Catholic hierarchy has thus far ignored all proposals by the PRC to put a more systematic and credible statistics gathering process in hand. The blog can be read at:

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

Religious hatred in Scotland

Criminalized religious hatred is declining in Scotland, according to Janine McKenna and Kathryn Skivington, Religiously Aggravated Offending in Scotland, 2013-14, which was published by Scottish Government Social Research on 13 June 2014. In 2013-14 there were 635 criminal charges relating to religious prejudice in Scotland laid under Section 74 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 or Sections 1 and 6 of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012. This represented a decrease of 17% on the 2012-13 total and of 29% since 2011-12. The majority of those charged were men (90%) and a plurality (47%) aged 16-30, while in 59% of cases the accused was described by the police as being under the influence of alcohol. The faiths targeted were Roman Catholicism (63%), Protestantism (29%), Islam (8%), and Judaism (2%). Almost half (48%) of victims were police officers. Many cases are still ongoing, but, of those which have already been concluded, 85% resulted in a conviction, with a monetary penalty (39%), community penalty (30%), or a custodial sentence (24%) being the principal resolutions. The report is at:

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0045/00452559.pdf

 

Posted in Historical studies, News from religious organisations, Official data, Religion and Politics, Religion in public debate, Survey news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Recent Journal Articles and Other News

As well as carrying the usual miscellany of news, this post reports on a selection of recent articles in academic journals which may be of interest to BRIN users. We give a URL for each, in line with our standard practice, but it should be noted that the articles themselves are behind paywalls, only available ‘free’ to those with a personal or institutional paid subscription to the journal concerned. If you do not have such access, you can use the online pay-per-view option or ask your local library to obtain a copy.

Religious polarization

Sarah Wilkins-Laflamme (Nuffield College, University of Oxford), ‘Toward Religious Polarization? Time Effects on Religious Commitment in US, UK, and Canadian Regions’, Sociology of Religion, Vol. 75, No. 2, Summer 2014, pp. 284-308.

http://socrel.oxfordjournals.org/content/75/2/284.abstract

The article tests the theory of polarization between religious and secular people by reference to cross-sectional datasets for 13 regions in three countries from 1985 to 2009-10. The four UK regions are England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. The UK datasets are the British, Scottish, and Northern Ireland Social Attitudes Surveys and the Northern Ireland Life and Times Surveys, with a combined sample of 118,244 respondents. A religious commitment typology was devised from measures of self-reported religious affiliation and religious attendance to produce three categories of: no religion, affiliate but attend less than monthly (nominally affiliated), and affiliate and attend monthly or more (committed). Increasing polarization is shown to have occurred in England, Wales, and Scotland (also in Alberta and British Columbia) in that, while there has been undoubted growth in nones over time, the proportion of religiously committed has been fairly stable, thereby averting a decline of religion into nothing. In Northern Ireland, by contrast, religious commitment has decreased and nominal affiliation has risen.

Religious attendance

Marion Burkimsher (University of Lausanne), ‘Is Religious Attendance Bottoming Out? An Examination of Current Trends Across Europe’, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Vol. 53, No. 2, June 2014, pp. 432-45.

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jssr.12111/abstract

The article examines self-reported religious attendance monthly or more in 24 European countries (including 10 ex-Communist states) on the basis of European Values Studies and European Social Surveys for the years 1990-2012. Four different methods of assessing trends in religious participation are deployed: inter-cohort differentials, attendance of young people (aged 18-29), attendance by post-war cohorts born in 1950-81, and life-course variations (child versus young adult). Overall, decline is being experienced in some previously high-attending Catholic countries, while attendance in traditionally secular countries (including Britain) is stabilizing at a relatively low level. Only on the child-adult attendance measure was a decline recorded in Britain. A few ex-Communist countries are seeing sustained growth.

UK religious census

A.J. Christopher (Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University), ‘The Religious Question in the United Kingdom Census, 1801-2011’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, Vol. 65, No. 3, July 2014, pp. 601-19.

http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=9281949&fulltextType=RA&fileId=S0022046912003636

The author offers an overview of the historical debates and controversies, inside and outside Parliament, surrounding the attempts to include a religion question in the population census of the various nations comprising the United Kingdom. Apart from Ireland (where a question on religious affiliation was included from 1861) and in Northern Ireland (from 1926), these efforts only succeeded in mainland Britain in 2001. The principal exception was the one-off census of religious accommodation and worship in 1851, which is barely discussed by Christopher, notwithstanding the vast primary and secondary literature to which it has given rise. The most detailed consideration in his article is reserved for the debates on the 1861 and 1911 censuses, while the survey of the campaign in the 1990s to add religion to the 2001 census schedule is somewhat brief and fails to cite several of the published first-hand accounts.

Anti-Catholicism

Clive Field (University of Birmingham and University of Manchester), ‘No Popery’s Ghost: Does Popular Anti-Catholicism Survive in Contemporary Britain?’ Journal of Religion in Europe, Vol. 7, No. 2, 2014, pp. 116-49.

http://booksandjournals.brillonline.com/content/journals/10.1163/18748929-00702004

In accordance with the self-archiving policy of the publisher (Brill), an open access version of this article is also available on the author’s personal website at:

https://clivedfield.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/anti-catholicism-published.pdf

Anti-Catholicism has been a feature of British history from the Reformation, but it has been little studied for the period since the Second World War, and rarely using quantitative methods. A thematically-arranged aggregate analysis of around 180 opinion polls among representative samples of adults since the 1950s offers insights into developing attitudes of the British public to Catholics and the Catholic Church. Anti-Catholicism against individual Catholics is found to have diminished. Negativity toward the Catholic Church and its leadership has increased, especially since the Millennium. Generic and specific explanations are offered for these trends, within the context of other manifestations of religious prejudice and other religious changes.

Jediism

Beth Singler (Pembroke College, University of Cambridge), ‘“See Mom It is Real”: The UK Census, Jediism, and Social Media’, Journal of Religion in Europe, Vol. 7, No. 2, 2014, pp. 150-68.

http://booksandjournals.brillonline.com/content/journals/10.1163/18748929-00702005;jsessionid=23bvmdgci17ic.x-brill-live-02

The author considers Jediism (of Star Wars fame) as an ‘invented’ New Religious Movement (NRM) and, in particular, its ‘Internet Event’, in the shape of online campaigns to encourage self-identification as Jedi Knight in response to the religion question in the 2001 and 2011 UK censuses of population. These campaigns had significant impact in 2001, with 390,127 individuals (0.7% of UK residents) writing in Jedi as their religion from a wide variety of motivations, including as a joke, but were much less effective in 2011 (when there were 176,632 Jedis). In practice, the Office for National Statistics chose to categorize Jedis as no religion rather than other religion. The use of email (in 2001) and social media, notably Twitter (in 2011) in underpinning these campaigns is explored as a legitimation strategy for NRMs. In this way even ‘invented’ religions such as Jediism can acquire a source of tradition.

Trust in the Church

A majority (55%) of the British public distrusts the Church, according to the latest results from nfpSynergy’s Charity Awareness Monitor (CAM), which were published on 23 June 2014. For the twelfth time since 2003 a representative sample of 1,000 Britons aged 16 and over was asked about the degree of trust which they had in various public bodies and institutions, 24 being included in the most recent survey, conducted online in April 2014. The nfpSynergy press release, with links to some Powerpoint slides, will be found at:

http://nfpsynergy.net/trust-2014

Response options included ‘very little’ and ‘not much’, which have been combined to give a distrust score, and ‘quite a lot’ or ‘a great deal’ which have been merged to produce a trust figure. The table below, ranked according to level of distrust, summarizes the findings for 2014.

%

Distrust

Trust

Difference

Political parties

83

12

-71

Government

75

20

-55

Insurance companies

71

24

-47

Newspapers

71

24

-47

Multinational companies

70

20

-50

Banks

68

27

-41

Local authorities

63

32

-31

Trade unions

62

30

-32

Civil service

57

34

-23

Legal system

56

39

-17

Church

55

37

-18

Supermarkets

47

49

+2

TV and radio stations

45

50

+5

BBC

42

53

+11

Police

42

55

+13

Royal Mail

40

56

+16

Charities

38

56

+18

Royal family

38

57

+19

Fundraising Standards Board

35

28

-7

Schools

34

61

+27

Small businesses

30

62

+32

NHS

29

68

+39

Scouts and guides

26

64

+38

Armed forces

25

70

+45

The Church was the eleventh most distrusted of all the institutions, with 18% more adults distrusting it than trusting it, and only 10% trusting it a great deal (against 27% quite a lot, 29% not much, and 26% very little). A majority from 52% to 65% has distrusted the Church in every single CAM since September 2006, and a plurality of 45% in the first CAM in November 2003.

The relatively poor showing of the Church in terms of public esteem exemplifies how secularization can be understood (following a famous article by Mark Chaves in Social Forces in 1994) as declining religious authority.

Religious freedom

The recent allegations of a ‘Trojan horse’ plot in some Birmingham state schools have sparked off a debate about the importance of teaching so-called ‘British values’. Several opinion polls have tried to get the public to define precisely what those values might encompass. Little weight is apparently attached to religious freedom, according to one such survey, conducted by ComRes on behalf of the Sunday Mirror and Independent on Sunday between 11 and 13 June 2014, for which 2,034 adult Britons were interviewed online. Out of a list of 12 possible British values, religious freedom was ranked tenth in importance, with just 12% of the vote, albeit twice that (23%) among the over-65s. Freedom of speech came top (48%), followed by respect for the rule of law (34%), and fairness and tolerance (27% each). Full details on pp. 73-6 of the data tables at:

http://www.comres.co.uk/polls/SM_IoS_Political_Poll_15June_2014.pdf

Scottish Episcopal Church statistics

The General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church met in Edinburgh between 12 and 14 June 2014 and, on its final day, debated a motion from the Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney, calling on the College of Bishops to devise an annual statistical return which would better reflect the full range of the Church’s activities, some of which were said to go unrecorded under the present system. In an attempt to provide a fuller picture, the Diocese had compiled a supplementary ‘Fresh Expressions Statistical Return’ for 2011-12, which is reproduced on pp. 157-8 of the General Synod agenda and papers at:

http://www.scotland.anglican.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Synod-Papers.pdf

There is a summary of the debate in the Church Times for 20 June 2014 (p. 10). The main speaker was Professor David Atkinson, from the Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney, who claimed that ‘there is an imbalance between the numbers we collect and what we are experiencing’.

The Church’s latest figures are included in its annual report to 31 December 2013, disaggregated to individual ‘charge’. Three measures are given: persons of all ages belonging to the congregation (members) – 34,119 in 2013 (down 2.3% on 2012); names on the communicants’ roll – 24,852 in 2013 (up 0.8% on 2012); and attendance on a Sunday before Advent – 13,631 in 2013 (3.5% down on 2012). The annual report can be found at:

http://www.scotland.anglican.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/2014-Annual-Report1.pdf

Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life

The independent Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life, an initiative of the Woolf Institute at Cambridge, has recently launched a national consultation, which is, in effect, a call for written evidence in answer to both general and specific questions. The deadline for submissions is 31 October 2014. It does not appear that the Commission intends to conduct a representative national cross-section survey, to set alongside the views of what will inevitably be a self-selecting group of individual and organizational respondents to the consultation and of those invited to attend seven national and local public hearings. Further information can be found at:

http://www.corab.org.uk/national-consultation

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Religious Attitudes Towards Gay Rights in 2013

This post looks at religious groups’ views on gay rights and related issues based on newly-released data from the British Social Attitudes 2013 survey. The 2013 survey asked various questions on this topic, some of which were carried in earlier surveys in the BSA series and some of which have not been asked before. The data have been compiled from the BSA’s interactive, online data catalogue – BritSocAt (the full survey dataset will probably not be made available via the UK Data Service for some time). Those interested in reading about the various topics covered in the 2013 survey can access and download chapters and other material from the accompanying microsite – which can be found here. This analysis builds on previous BRIN posts which have used the BSA (and sometimes other social surveys) to analyse religious groups’ attitudes in this area. The previous posts are as follows:

http://www.brin.ac.uk/news/2014/religion-and-social-morality-issues-in-2012/

http://www.brin.ac.uk/news/2012/anglicans-and-attitudes-towards-gay-marriage/

http://www.brin.ac.uk/figures/attitudes-towards-gay-rights/

This post focuses on attitudes on the basis of religious affiliation (or belonging). It uses the BSA’s standard categorisation which is itself derived from a more much more detailed classification of religious belonging. Religious affiliation has five categories: Anglican, Catholic, other Christian, other religion, and no religion.

The first two questions looked at here asked respondents about their views of lesbian women and gay men (asked as part of a broader set of questions concerning different groups in society). This is the first time these questions have been asked in the BSA series. The questions were worded as follows:

People have more positive attitudes towards certain groups in society and more negative attitudes towards others. Please tick one box to show how you feel about each of the following groups in Britain. Lesbian women.

People have more positive attitudes towards certain groups in society and more negative attitudes towards others. Please tick one box on each line to show how you feel about each of the following groups in Britain. Gay men.

Responses are shown in Table 1. Note that some of the response options have been collapsed into broader categories: ‘negative’ includes the responses ‘very negative’ or ‘somewhat negative’ and ‘positive’ comprises the responses ‘somewhat positive’ and ‘very positive’. The pattern of responses shows that, in relation to lesbian women, those with no religion are less likely to have a negative feeling compared to all religious groups. In fact, for each group, the most prevalent view is one of having neither positive nor negative feelings – this view is held by a majority of Anglicans, other Christians and those with no religion. Around a third of those with no religion hold a positive view (33.0%), next highest at around a quarter of Catholics (25.7%). A similar picture is evident from the responses to the question on feelings towards gay men. Again, in every group bar one, holding neither negative nor positive feelings is the most prevalent view. The exception is for adherents of other (non-Christian) religions, amongst whom a majority (56.2%) have negative feelings towards gay men, compared to around a quarter or even lower for the other groups. Those with no religion are again more likely to have positive feelings, at just over a third (35.5%).

Overall, then, within all groups a clear majority either holds negative or neutral feelings towards lesbian women or gay men. The majorities are somewhat smaller amongst those with no religious affiliation (64.0% for lesbian women and 63.0% for gay men).  Within these majorities, however, those holding neutral feelings always outnumber those with negative views. The one exception here is for attitudes towards gay men on the part of those belonging to other religions.

Table 1: Attitudes towards lesbian women and gay men

Anglican

(%)

Catholic (%)

Other Christian (%)

Other religion (%)

No religion (%)

Lesbian women
Negative

15.1

24.7

18.1

27.4

9.8

Neither

58.9

47.8

61.5

44.2

54.2

NEGATIVE OR NEITHER

74.0

72.5

79.6

71.6

64.0

Positive

22.3

25.7

17.4

16.1

33.0

Can’t choose

3.6

1.8

3.0

12.3

3.1

Gay men
Negative

23.9

14.9

24.6

56.2

17.1

Neither

47.6

61.3

44.7

12.6

45.9

NEGATIVE OR NEITHER

71.5

76.2

69.3

68.8

63.0

Positive

25.7

20.3

27.9

20.4

35.5

Can’t choose

2.9

3.5

2.8

10.8

1.5

Source: Compiled by the author from BritSocAt.

Next, Table 2 shows responses to a question asking about same-sex couples and parenting. The wording is as follows:

Please tick one box to show how much you agree or disagree with this statement. A same sex couple are just as capable of being good parents as a man and a woman.

The ‘agree’ category includes those who answered ‘agree strongly’ or ‘agree’ and, similarly, the ‘disagree’ category includes those who responded ‘disagree’ or ‘disagree strongly’. Two questions asking about male and female same-sex couples bringing up children were also asked on the 2012 survey – see here for analysis of opinions by affiliation and religious attendance.

In 2013 respondents were much more likely to agree than disagree with the statement. Agreement was highest for those with no religion (at 65.0%), followed by Catholics (at 57.5%). Around two-fifths of Anglicans and other Christians expressed agreement, which was lowest for adherents of other religions (at just 19.1%). Disagreement was therefore much higher amongst those belonging to other religions, at 69.6%, and lowest amongst those with no religion (at 19.1%). In each group, relatively small proportions opted for a neutral stance – reaching just over a fifth of Anglicans and other Christians and lowest for adherents of other religions (at 11.4%) and those with no religion (15.8%).

Table 2: Attitudes towards parenting

Anglican

(%)

Catholic (%)

Other Christian (%)

Other religion (%)

No religion (%)

Agree

43.0

57.5

39.5

19.1

65.1

Neither

21.5

13.2

22.7

11.4

15.8

Disagree

35.5

29.3

37.8

69.6

19.1

Source: Compiled by the author from BritSocAt.

The BSA 2013 also asked a question about equal opportunities, which was worded as follows (a similar question, albeit slightly different in wording, was asked in the 1994 survey):

Do you think attempts to give equal opportunities to lesbians, gay men and bisexuals have gone too far or not gone far enough?

Major reforms in this area – including civil partnerships, adoption and, most recently, same-sex marriage – have been enacted under recent governments. In Table 3, the category ‘gone too far’ consists of ‘gone much too far’ and ‘gone too far’ responses, while the category ‘not gone far enough’ includes the responses ‘not gone far enough’ and ‘not gone nearly far enough’. It is clear that those with no religion are less likely to perceive that equal opportunities have gone too far, at 23.1%, compared to the religious groups (highest at 55.3% for those belonging to some other religion). Interestingly, Catholics are somewhat less likely to offer this response (30.0%) compared to Anglicans (47.5%) and other Christians (41.2%). The view amongst religious groups that things have gone too far may have been influenced by the divisive debate in 2012 and beyond over the coalition government’s same-sex marriage proposals, which met with strong opposition from religious leaders and organisations, representing both Christian traditions and other faiths. Even so, not too dissimilar proportions of every group – those belonging to non-Christian faiths aside – think the situation is about right (in the region of 40.0%-47.0%). There is some divergence in perceptions of whether things have not gone far enough, albeit it is a minority viewpoint in each case – highest amongst Catholics (18.4%) and those with no religion (27.5%).

Table 3: Attitudes towards equal opportunities

Anglican

(%)

Catholic (%)

Other Christian (%)

Other religion (%)

No religion (%)

Gone too far

47.5

30.0

41.2

55.3

23.1

About right

40.2

46.7

45.3

18.3

44.6

Not gone far enough

8.5

18.4

10.5

11.3

27.5

Don’t know

3.8

4.9

3.1

15.1

4.8

Source: Compiled by the author from BritSocAt.

Respondents were also asked about how they would feel about informal or formal social interaction, based on the following two questions:

How would you feel socialising with someone, for example as part of a sports club or leisure activity, who you knew or thought to be gay, lesbian or bisexual?

How would you feel talking to someone in a formal setting such as in a workplace or in a shop, who you knew or thought to be gay, lesbian or bisexual?

The distribution of responses is shown in Table 4. The responses ‘very comfortable’ and ‘fairly comfortable’ have been combined in the ‘comfortable’ category and, likewise, the ‘uncomfortable’ category includes the responses ‘fairly uncomfortable’ and ‘very uncomfortable’. First, in terms of informal interaction in a sports club or leisure activity, large majorities of respondents in each group report being comfortable with this form of social contact. Such views are highest amongst those with no religion (at 87.2%) and Anglicans (81.4%), and lowest amongst those belonging to non-Christian faiths (66.1%). Across all groups, small proportions report either that they feel to an extent uncomfortable with this type of informal social interaction or that they would not feel either comfortable or uncomfortable. Those from other religions are more likely to say they would feel uncomfortable or to be unsure.

In terms of social interaction in a more formal setting (such as in the workplace or a shop), again large majorities declared they would be comfortable talking to someone who they know is, or who they perceive to be, gay, lesbian or bisexual. As with the previous questions, feeling comfortable is most likely amongst those with no religion (87.2%), followed by Anglicans (at 81.4%). Those belonging to other religions are similarly more likely to report they would feel uncomfortable with more formal social interaction (at 16.9%) or to be unsure (8.2%). Overall, a very similar pattern of results is evident for both questions.

Table 4: Attitudes towards social interaction

 

Anglican

(%)

Catholic

(%)

Other Christian (%)

Other religion

(%)

No religion (%)

Socialising with someone (sports club or leisure activity)
Comfortable

81.4

76.1

73.8

66.1

87.2

Neither

11.2

18.5

13.0

8.4

8.0

Uncomfortable

7.1

4.5

12.7

17.4

4.2

Don’t know

0.3

0.9

0.6

8.2

0.6

Talking to someone in a formal setting (workplace or shop)
Comfortable

83.8

82.9

78.3

65.0

87.7

Neither

11.1

13.0

10.2

10.0

8.4

Uncomfortable

4.7

4.1

11.0

16.9

3.0

Don’t know

0.3

0.0

0.6

8.2

0.9

Source: Compiled by the author from BritSocAt.

A question, carried in both 2006 and 2013, asked respondents if they personally know anyone who was gay or lesbian (responses are not shown in tabular format here). On each occasion, only a small minority of Christians and those with no religion said they did not know someone who was gay or lesbian. Amongst those with no religion, 18.8% reported they did not know such a person in 2006 (comparable to 19.0% of Catholics) and just 10.6% said this in 2013 (with Catholics again lowest amongst Christian groups, at 15.6%). The exception here on both occasions were those belonging to non-Christian faiths, amongst whom around half in reported that they did not know someone who was gay or lesbian (2006: 53.6%; 2013: 52.1%).

Finally, Table 5 presents the distribution of responses to two other questions asked in the BSA 2013, which were asked in earlier surveys and allow for over time comparison of attitudes. They concern approval of same-sex relations in general – a long-running BSA question since its inception – and acceptance of marriage between same-sex couples. The question wordings are as follows:

About sexual relation between two adults of the same sex. Do you think it is always wrong, almost always wrong, wrong only sometimes, or not wrong at all?

How much do you agree or disagree that … gay or lesbian couples should have the right to marry one another if they want to?

Looking first at approval of sexual relations between same-sex individuals – reporting the proportions who think it is ‘rarely wrong’ or ‘never wrong’ in 1983 (the first BSA survey) and 2013 – it is clear that there has been substantial liberalisation of opinion over time, across all groups. Those with no religion were most likely to offer either of these responses in both years, at 29.2% in 1983 and 81.2% in 2013. Just a small minority of Christians – regardless of tradition or denomination – adopted these views in 1983 (a fifth or lower), but majorities expressed such opinions in 2013 (highest at 65.1% for Catholics). In 2013, those from other religions are much less likely to take a liberal standpoint on this question, with only 26.7% saying such relations are rarely or never wrong (1983 survey data are not reported as this group comprised a very small proportion of the sample).

In terms of support for marriage for same-sex couples (showing the proportions who either agreed or strongly agreed), most groups show an increase in support from 2007 to 2013, albeit the magnitude of the increase varies. Support amongst Anglicans has noticeably risen from 32.0% to 45.6%, while amongst the group with no religion it increased from 59.7% to 69.3%. Positive sentiment has remained the same amongst Catholics and marginally increased amongst other Christians. As in 2007 Catholics (at 56.4%) remain more supportive than other Christians in 2013, but are now less so relative to those with no religion. In both surveys, those belonging to other religions are much less likely to favour a right to marry among same-sex couples, with positive opinion amounting to around a third in 2007 (32.0%) and just a fifth in 2013 (22.5%).

Table 5: Attitudes towards same-sex relations and same-sex marriage

 

Anglican

(%)

Catholic (%)

Other Christian (%)

Other religion (%)

No religion (%)

Sexual relations
1983: Rarely or never wrong

19.5

16.8

15.0

-

29.2

2013: Rarely or never wrong

52.1

65.1

52.7

26.7

81.2

Right to marry
2007: Agree

32.0

57.4

40.0

32.0

59.7

2013: Agree

45.6

56.4

43.9

22.5

69.3

Source: Compiled by the author from BritSocAt.

Summary

Overall, the data presented here from the 2013 BSA survey (as well as based on comparisons with earlier points in time) show some clear differences in view on the basis of religious affiliation. While most groups have become much more approving of same-sex relations in recent decades, show considerable support for same-sex marriage and parenting, and overwhelmingly declare themselves comfortable with informal and formal social interaction with gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals, those with no religion generally stand out as having the most tolerant or liberal stances in this issue area. Amongst those with a religious affiliation, Catholics are sometimes more likely to hold supportive attitudes compared to other Christian groups (such as same-sex parenting and marriage). Also notable are the more socially-conservative views adopted by those belonging to other religions, evident for a number of the questions analysed above. Indeed, those with no religion and those belonging to other (non-Christian) religions are generally furthest apart in their views and feelings towards gay rights and associated issues. Of course, the higher levels of tolerance shown by those with no religious affiliation will partly reflect their disproportionately younger age profile. What is perhaps surprising is that levels of positive appraisal of both gay men and lesbian women are not higher: across all groups – even amongst those with no religion – a clear majority has either negative feelings or feels neutral, although the latter is usually the more preponderant view.

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British Social Attitudes, 2013

 

Results have recently started to emerge from the 2013 British Social Attitudes (BSA) Survey, although it will still be some time before the full dataset is available at the UK Data Archive. Meanwhile, the best available source for rather more limited online statistical analysis is the British Social Attitudes Information System, which can be found at:

http://www.britsocat.com/

BSA has been conducted by NatCen Social Research on an annual basis since 1983 (except in two years), and on behalf of the Economic and Social Research Council and a consortium of Government and charitable funders.

Interviewing is face-to-face, supplemented by a self-completion questionnaire. For the 2013 survey (undertaken between June and November) the sample comprised 3,244 adults aged 18 and over living in private households in Britain. However, many questions were only put to one of three sub-samples.

This post is confined to reporting the headline results for the religion questions posed in the 2013 BSA, with trend data for previous years, where extant. The British Social Attitudes Information System also permits, as a standard feature, analysis of all other questions by religious affiliation, and we hope to provide additional coverage from this perspective in due course.

Religious affiliation

BSA has routinely asked: ‘do you regard yourself as belonging to any particular religion?’ This was question Q857 on the main BSA questionnaire in 2013. Results at ten-yearly intervals are shown in the following table:

% down

1983

1993

2003

2013

No religion

31.4

36.8

43.4

50.6

Christian – no denomination

3.2

4.6

6.6

11.8

Christian – Church of England

39.9

32.6

26.8

16.3

Christian – Roman Catholic

9.6

10.8

8.9

8.8

Christian – other

14.0

11.8

8.2

4.8

Non-Christian

2.0

3.5

6.0

7.7

It will be seen that the proportion professing no religion has steadily climbed, from 31% in 1983 to 51% in 2013, with a rise also in the number of non-Christians (from 2% to 8%). All forms of denominational Christianity have lost ground, but notably the Church of England (from 40% to 16% over the three decades) and other Protestant Christians (the Free Churches and Presbyterian Churches, down from 14% to 5%). Although the number of non-denominational Christians has virtually quadrupled, the increase has not stemmed the overall fall in Christians, from 67% to 42%.

BSA also asks about religion of upbringing (main questionnaire Q866). Setting religion of upbringing alongside current affiliation, in the table below, emphasizes the extent of loss of faith over the life-cycle, with the Church of England losing half its original constituency but even non-Christian faiths subject to a modest ‘leakage’.

% down

2013

2013

2013

 

Upbringing

Current

Change

No religion

19.0

50.6

+31.6

Christian – no denomination

16.7

11.8

-4.9

Christian – Church of England

31.3

16.3

-15.0

Christian – Roman Catholic

14.5

8.8

-5.7

Christian – other

10.4

4.8

-5.6

Non-Christian

8.0

7.7

-0.3

Religious attendance

It should be noted that BSA does not ask the entire British cross-section sample about attendance at religious services other than for the rites of passage. This question (main questionnaire Q868) is only put to those declaring some religion at the time of interview and/or reporting a religion of upbringing. It is important to interpret the statistics in this light. Self-reported attendance dropped considerably between 1993 and 2003 but seems to have been more stable over the past ten years, albeit the majority of this sub-sample (58%) never worship.

% down

1993

2003

2013

Once a week or more

18.9

13.9

13.1

At least once in two weeks

3.2

2.4

2.5

At least once a month

9.0

5.8

6.4

At least twice a year

16.6

10.1

8.4

At least once a year

8.5

5.8

4.2

Less often

6.1

4.3

5.5

Never

36.7

56.7

58.4

Varies

1.0

1.1

1.4

Christianity and Britishness

Respondents were given a list of attributes which potentially define what it means to be ‘truly British’ and asked to rate their importance. One of the factors was ‘to be a Christian’ (self-completion questionnaire, Version A, Q2e). This question had been included in three previous BSA surveys, although the 2008 data are omitted from the published discussion by Zsolt Kiss and Alison Park, ‘National Identity: Exploring Britishness’, British Social Attitudes, 31, 2014 Edition, eds Alison Park, Caroline Bryson, and John Curtice (London: NatCen Social Research, 2014), pp. 64-5, which is at:

http://www.bsa-31.natcen.ac.uk/media/38202/bsa31_full_report.pdf

The results from all four surveys are shown below. It will be seen that the proportion thinking ‘to be a Christian’ is important to Britishness has reduced from just under one-third in 1995 and 2003 to just under one-quarter in 2008 and 2013. However, between 2008 and 2013 the number believing a Christian profession to be very important to British identity has doubled, while those deeming it unimportant have reduced by four points, from 75% to 71%. These changes coincide with greater public concern about Muslims (see the next item) and Christianophobia.

% down

1995

2003

2008

2013

Very important

18.5

15.1

6.2

12.5

Fairly important

13.5

15.6

17.4

12.0

Not very important

27.3

23.7

37.3

26.2

Not at all important

35.1

39.0

37.7

45.0

Can/t choose/not answered

5.7

6.6

1.4

4.4

‘To be a Christian’ came last in the 2013 list of nine factors defining what it means to be ‘truly British’, well behind sharing customs and traditions in eighth place on 50%. The top three attributes were an ability to speak English (95%), having British citizenship (85%), and respecting institutions and laws (85%).

Attitudes to Muslims

Q467 in the main questionnaire repeated a question asked in 2003 about whether Britain would begin to lose its identity if more Muslims came to live here. Far more agreed with the proposition in 2013 (62%) than in 2003 (48%), with the number who agreed strongly doubling. The growth perhaps exemplifies greater anxieties about Muslims after 7/7 and about immigrants in general. Dissentients reduced from 30% to 22% over the decade.

% down

2003

2013

Agree strongly

17.1

35.3

Agree

31.0

26.8

Neither agree nor disagree

17.0

15.0

Disagree

26.1

16.7

Disagree strongly

4.1

5.2

Don’t know/not answered

4.6

0.9

Respondents were also asked about the scenario in which a close relative married a Muslim, from two perspectives, the perceived reaction of most white people in Britain if one of their relatives was involved (main questionnaire Q656) and the likely reaction of the respondent if it was one of his/her relatives (Q659). The results are tabulated below:

% down

2013

2013

 

White people

Own reaction

Mind a lot

34.0

23.4

Mind a little

36.3

21.0

Not mind

22.7

51.5

Other/DK/refused

7.0

4.0

As so often happens in sample surveys, respondents claimed a greater degree of tolerance for themselves than they were inclined to see in others. Whereas 70% thought that most white people would mind about a relative marrying a Muslim, only 44% felt that they would object themselves.

This particular question has not been asked before, in exactly the same words, but the 2003 BSA did pose a similar one, about reactions to a close relative marrying or otherwise forming a long-term relationship with a Muslim. At that time, just 25% voiced unhappiness at the prospect, 19% less than in 2013, suggesting a growth in Islamophobic attitudes over recent years.

 

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More Trojan Horse Polling

 

Trojan horse plot (1)

For the second week running, YouGov was commissioned by The Sunday Times to investigate public opinion surrounding issues raised by the so-called ‘Trojan horse’ plot, whereby Muslim hardliners were alleged to have been trying to take over the governance of some state schools in Birmingham. For this second poll, 2.106 Britons were interviewed online on 12 and 13 June 2014, with data tables published on 15 June at:

http://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/v0zlbnvgel/YG-Archive-Pol-Sunday-Times-results-140613.pdf

More than three-quarters (79%) of respondents identified some risk to state schools being taken over by religious extremists, 34% agreeing that there was a large risk in many parts of the country and 45% a minor risk in just a few parts of the country (with 10% detecting no significant risk and 2% none at all). Risks were most likely to be perceived by Conservatives (88%), UKIP voters (94%), and the over-60s (91%). One-half the sample considered that academies and free schools were at greater risk from religious extremism than local authority controlled schools, while 28% judged them at equal risk.

In relation to the Birmingham situation, bearing in mind that fieldwork followed the publication of Ofsted reports on the schools concerned, a plurality (44%) of adults were convinced that there probably was a plot by Muslim groups to take control of certain schools in the city in order to install a Muslim ethos. Once again, it was Conservatives (55%), UKIP supporters (74%), and over-60s (56%) who were most convinced of the plot. Another third did not believe there had been a plot, but they did agree that some Birmingham schools had gone too far towards adopting a Muslim ethos. Just 6% sensed there was no problem, in that Birmingham schools with a majority of Muslim pupils were merely reflecting their own cultural background.

A majority (55%) of Britons were critical of the Government for not reacting strongly enough to the situation in Birmingham schools, thinking it should have done more sooner, with UKIP voters (88%) and over-60s (72%) most strongly of this persuasion. Just 10% (and no more than 16% in any demographic sub-group) took the contrary line – i.e. Government had over-reacted to the situation with potential to damage community relations. However, the public was largely neutral (63%) in the recent spat between the Home Secretary and the Education Secretary about which had better handled extremism in schools.

Trojan horse plot (2)

The ‘Trojan horse’ plot also provided the context for an online poll by Opinium Research among 1,002 UK adults aged 18 and over on 12 and 13 June 2014. It was conducted for The Observer, with a report appearing on pp. 1 and 14 of the main section of that newspaper dated 15 June. The survey concerned ‘faith schools’, although it should be noted that the schools at the centre of the ‘Trojan horse’ plot were not faith schools in the strict meaning of the term, but rather community schools, some under local authority control and some academies. The tables from the Opinium poll were released on 16 June and can be found at:

http://news.opinium.co.uk/sites/news.opinium.co.uk/files/op4610_observer_faith_schools_tables.pdf

In the wake of the ‘Trojan horse’ controversy, Opinium’s panellists were asked whether they thought some predominantly Muslim schools were actually fostering extremist attitudes among their pupils. Most (55% overall, 60% of men and 63% of over-55s) considered that they were, far more than the 16% who believed that mainly Muslim schools were simply reflecting the values and views of the parents of their pupils. A further 29% did not know or otherwise could not choose between the two options on offer.

A supplementary question was around the perceived risk of predominantly Muslim schools encouraging their students to adopt extremist views. A plurality (44%, with 54% of over-55s) deemed the risk to be very serious and another 31% quite serious, giving a combined 75% sensing some threat. Few (14%) judged the risk to be not very or not at all serious, and no more than 20% in any demographic sub-group. Responsibility for preventing and combating extremism in British schools was felt to lie especially with the Home Office and police (33%) and teachers and governors (31%), and to a much lesser extent with families (13%) and community leaders (8%).

The extensive media coverage of the ‘Trojan horse’ affair will almost certainly have conditioned answers to the more general introductory questions about ‘faith schools’ in the Opinium study, albeit other polls (including by YouGov for the Westminster Faith Debates in June 2013) have also revealed growing negativity toward them. In the Opinium survey, just 30% of respondents were comfortable with the idea of faith schools and the taxpayer helping to finance them. The majority (58%) voiced concerns, 23% (including 28% of men), opting for a complete ban on faith schools, with 35% accepting their existence but objecting to any state funding of them.

Asked why they opposed faith schools, the reasons most frequently given by this 58% majority were: the taxpayer should not be funding religion (70%), faith schools promote division and segregation (60%), faith schools are contrary to the advancement of a multicultural society (41%), and faith schools promote radicalization and extremism around faith (41%). Those who wanted to see faith schools banned entirely were most likely to cite the second to fourth of these reasons.

Most respondents (56%) were also clear that faith schools should teach strictly in accordance with the national curriculum, rising to 86% among those who thought such schools should be abolished. One-fifth were willing to give faith schools some flexibility about the teaching of other areas, and an additional 11% conceded discretion in the delivery of the national curriculum beyond core subjects. Only 3% wished to give faith schools total freedom about what to teach provided that pupils were still entered for national examinations.

Scottish independence

The potential religious effect has not featured much in the debate about Scottish independence in the run-up to the referendum on 18 September 2014 in Scotland. However, a recent Populus survey (conducted online among an unusually large sample of 6,078 Britons between 28 May and 6 June 2014) ostensibly suggests that religion may have a marginal bearing on the debate.

Respondents were asked what result they were hoping for from the referendum and given three choices: Scotland remaining in the UK, Scotland becoming independent, or no strong views. The results by religious affiliation for Britain overall are tabulated below:

% down

All

Christian

Non-

Christian

None

Remain part of UK

54.3

58.8

48.1

48.7

Leave UK

17.1

15.4

19.8

19.2

No strong view

28.6

25.8

32.3

32.0

It will be seen that: a) non-Christians and those of no religion are more likely than Christians to want Scotland to leave the UK; b) Christians are more likely and non-Christians and those of no religion less likely to want Scotland to stay in the UK; and c) non-Christians and the nones are more likely than Christians to hold no strong views on the matter.

Of course, these associations may imply correlation but they do not necessarily prove causation, so we cannot claim for sure that there is a distinctly religious influence at work. The picture is almost certainly complicated by the operation of other demographic factors. Unfortunately, there is little scope for further analysis of the published data, which are on pp. 33-4 of the tables at:

http://www.populus.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/140607-Populus_FT_ScottishIndependence.pdf

Religious refugees

As part of a YouGov poll for British Future in connection with Refugee Week 2014, a representative sample of 2,190 adults was asked to identify the single biggest historical flow of refugees to Britain from one country arising from persecution or war. Interviewees were presented with a list of six options to choose from, including Belgian refugees at the start of the First World War. There were actually 250,000 of them, overwhelmingly Roman Catholic, so this was the correct answer to YouGov’s quiz. However, they were placed last with 0%. The next largest refugee influx was of Huguenots (Protestants) from France at the end of the seventeenth century, of whom more than 50,000 fled to Britain (and some have claimed up to 100,000), but just 7% of YouGov’s respondents thought they were the biggest flow of refugees. Jewish refugees from Germany in the 1930s and 1940s were positioned second, on 17%, yet the total number of Jews admitted to Britain and fleeing Nazi persecution in various countries combined is usually reckoned not to exceed 50,000. Top of the YouGov list, with 20%, were Ugandan Asians expelled by Idi Amin in the 1970s, disproportionately Hindu and to a lesser extent Muslim, notwithstanding fewer than 30,000 of them were allowed to enter Britain. Besides the wrong answers, two-fifths of adults could not even venture an opinion. The data tables, based on fieldwork on 21 and 22 April 2014, are at:

http://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/nyti7hmnu4/British_Future_Results_140422_GB_Refugee_Week_2_W.pdf

The same survey was also run, between 17 and 23 April 2014, among a sample of 1,005 young Britons aged 17-21. They did little better (2%) than all adults in identifying the predominance of Belgian refugees in the First World War. They had Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany in first place (18%), with Ugandan Asians only on 8% and French Huguenots on 7%. One-quarter (26%) knew that ‘Kindertransport’ involved the transport of Jewish children escaping the Nazis, which was 9% less than among all adults. These tables are at:

http://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/vudbg13za9/British_Future_Results_140422_Young_People_IMMIG_ONLY_W.pdf

 

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