Counting Religion in Britain, October 2017

Counting Religion in Britain, No. 25, October 2017 features 35 new sources. It can be read in full below. Alternatively, you can download the PDF version: No 25 October 2017


Global views on religion

Great Britain has again emerged as one of the least religious nations in the world, this time from the latest report of Ipsos Global @dvisor, for which 17,401 online interviews were conducted with adults aged 16-64 in 23 countries (1,010 of them in Britain) between 24 June and 8 July 2017. On this occasion, six Likert-style religious indicators were included in the survey, the ‘agree’ (strongly and somewhat) responses to which are tabulated below. In Britain, under one-quarter of people claimed their religion defined them as a person (the third lowest score in any of the countries), while 62% agreed that religion did more harm than good (the seventh highest score). The report, in the form of slides featuring topline results for each nation, together with detailed data tables showing breaks by demographics, can be found at:

% agreeing with each statement



Religion does more harm in the world than good



My religion defines me as a person



I am completely comfortable being around people who have different religious beliefs than me



I lose respect for people when I find out that they are not religious



Religious people are better citizens



Religious practices are an important factor in the moral life of my country’s citizens



British and American values

On behalf of UnHerd, ComRes conducted online surveys about values among samples of the adult populations of Great Britain (n = 2,059 on 7-8 August 2017) and the United States (n = 1,011 on 7-9 August 2017). A couple of the questions had a religious dimension. One asked which of ten groups or things on a list was the most dangerous in the world today (multiple options evidently being possible). In Britain, religious leaders scored highly as a risk, ranking as the second most dangerous threat (31%), a considerable way behind terrorists (80%), of course, but just ahead of fake news (26%); in the US, by contrast, religious leaders were placed seventh, on 14%, with fake news in second position (38%), after terrorists (80%). The other question forced respondents to choose between two statements: ‘we need more Christianity in our nation’s life’ or ‘we need less Christianity in our nation’s life’. Surprisingly, perhaps, Britons elected for more Christianity (58%), peaking at 73% among over-55s, whereas a majority of Americans (53%) preferred less Christianity. This finding potentially reopens the debate about the extent to which Britain is or should be a ‘Christian country’ and the role of ‘Christian values’ within it. Data tables can be found at:

Religious narratives

Neil MacGregor, former director of the British Museum, claimed recently that Britain is the first society to operate without shared religious beliefs and rituals at its heart, adding that ‘we are trying to live without an agreed narrative of our communal place in the cosmos and in time’. In an app-based YouGov poll reported on 23 October 2017, 30% said that we are indeed living without an agreed narrative but that this was a good thing, while 24% judged that we are living without an agreed narrative and it was a bad thing. One-third (32%) assessed that our society does have a narrative but were split between those who sensed it was working well (13%) and those who thought it was not (19%). The final 14% were unsure. This seems a difficult topic to explore in a snap poll, and it remains unclear how much significance to attach to the results. The topline statistics only are available at:

Ten Commandments

The Ten Commandments inform the role of Christianity in national and personal life, so it was interesting to see YouGov running an online poll of the extent to which these teachings are still perceived as ‘important principles to live by’, among a sample of 1,680 adult Britons on 10-11 October 2017. It transpires that six of the Ten Commandments (the most ‘social’ ones) are seen to have continuing relevance by the majority, not least ‘you shall not commit murder’ (93%), ‘you shall not steal’ (93%), and ‘you shall not bear false witness against other people’ (87%). However, the remaining four (precisely the ones with the most ‘religious’ character) are sitting in the doldrums, especially ‘remember to keep the Sabbath day holy’ (which 73% judge no longer significant), ‘you shall not take the Lord’s name in vain’ (an injunction rejected by 68%), and ‘you shall have no other God before me’ (also irrelevant for 68%). Breaks by religious affiliation reveal that the same pattern of broad acceptance of six of the Ten Commandments and rejection of the other four also holds good for religious nones, although, murder and theft apart, their majorities were a little smaller than average. Professing Christians were somewhat more likely than the norm to see all the Commandments as pertinent to modern life, but even they seemed to doubt the value of Sunday observance, which was important for 29% of Protestants and 44% of Catholics. A news report (incorporating a link to the data table) and reactions to it can be found at:

Difficult decisions

Asked where they looked for help when making major or difficult decisions, friends and family (77%) and online search engines or websites (51%) were by far and away the most favoured of the maximum of two sources which a sample of Britons was able to choose. Relatively few people turned to the supernatural for assistance, just 6% citing prayer, 2% a religious source such as a minister or holy book, and 1% a spiritual but not religious source like a clairvoyant or horoscope. The survey was commissioned by journalist Ruth Gledhill and conducted online by ComRes among 2,076 adults on 4-5 October 2017. Data tables can be found at:


It has been reported in the media that schools across England are abandoning the dating conventions of BC (Before Christ) and AD (Anno Domini) in favour of the BCE (Before the Common Era) and CE (Common Era) formats. The trend arises from concerns that BC and AD might offend non-Christians. Asked, in an app-based poll by YouGov which was reported on 4 October 2017, whether they thought the move was a good idea or not, 69% of Britons deemed it a bad idea and only 19% a good one, with 12% undecided. The topline result only is at:


This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the passage of the Abortion Act 1967. In connection with research for a commemorative programme the BBC had commissioned from Raw TV, on 26-29 May 2017 ICM Unlimited carried out an online survey of attitudes to abortion among 2,002 Britons aged 18 and over. Ten questions about abortion were asked, the answers to each of which were analysed by a range of socio-demographic variables, including religious affiliation and differentiating self-identified practising and non-practising members of each faith. Space precludes a full discussion of the findings here, but it is worth noting that, when given a list of 13 possible scenarios which might justify a woman having an abortion, hardly anybody subscribed to the morally absolutist position that abortion is never acceptable under any circumstances: 6% of practising Catholics (notwithstanding the implacable opposition to abortion of the Roman Catholic Church), 3% of practising mainline Protestants, 12% of other practising Christians, 1% of practising non-Christians, 2% of non-practising religious, and 2% of religious nones. On the other hand, there are particular situations, such as abortion on the grounds of the gender of the foetus, in which a majority of members of all religious faiths and none is still agreed that abortion should not be permitted. Data tables are available at:

Gay rights

On behalf of Stonewall, YouGov has investigated discrimination and crime on the basis of sexual orientation which was experienced by 5,375 lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) adult Britons, who were interviewed online between 16 February and 11 April 2017. Replies to each question were disaggregated by religious affiliation. Reflecting their younger than average profile, 66% of LGBTs professed no religion, with 24% being Christians and 9% non-Christians. During the previous year, 28% of those who had attended faith services or otherwise visited places of worship said they had felt discriminated against because of being LGBT. Among the avowedly religious, there were also mixed reactions to the statement ‘my religious community is welcoming to LGB people’, 39% agreeing, 27% disagreeing, and 34% being undecided. Data tables are located at:


Interviewed online by ComRes on behalf of Hospice UK on 7-8 August 2017, 80% of 2,120 British adults thought that hospices either currently provide (55%) or should provide (36%) spiritual care (for example, through chaplaincy). This was a higher proportion than anticipated that hospices did or should offer complementary therapy (77%) or rehabilitation (74%). The spiritual care total increased with age, from 73% of under-25s to 88% of over-65s. Data tables are at:

Ethical champions and the £20 note

News that the Bank of England will be launching a replacement £20 note in 2020 prompted the UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association (UKSIF) to commission YouGov to ask a sample of 2,128 UK adults on 24-25 September 2017 which of 15 individuals they would suggest should appear on the note as an ‘ethical champion’ (the intention being to remind the public to be ethical in how they spend their money). The current Archbishop of Canterbury (Justin Welby, a campaigner against poverty) was one of the names on the list and received 3% of the overall votes (and no more than 5% in any demographic sub-group), which put him in a respectable joint fifth position. The popular choice, by a mile, was the conservationist David Attenborough, with 40%. Data tables are available at:

Meeting the Pope

Asked to imagine they had been invited to meet the Pope in the Vatican, 51% of 1,615 adult Britons interviewed online by YouGov on 4-5 October 2017 said they would accept the invitation, including a surprisingly high proportion (65%) of under-25s; 38% thought they would decline the invitation, while 11% were undecided. The hypothetical invitation was also extended to visit Her Majesty the Queen at Buckingham Palace (73% being disposed to accept), Prime Minister Theresa May at 10 Downing Street (54%), Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin (38%), and US President Donald Trump at the White House (36%). Full data are available at:


Britons have a reputation for clinging to various superstitions but not, apparently, when money is at stake. So one might deduce from an app-based poll by YouGov released on 27 September 2017. Asked which of two identical flats they would prefer to buy, one on floor 13 and costing £250,000 and the other on floor 12 and costing £255,000, 75% of respondents opted for the cheaper one on floor 13 and just 25% for floor 12. The topline result only is at:


With Halloween just around the corner, BMG Research polled the British public about their intentions to observe the festival in 2017 (56% had none, five points up on 2016) and their attitudes to trick or treating by children (which were divided), but also included a couple of prefatory questions about the paranormal. The sample comprised 1,347 adults aged 18 and over interviewed online on 17-20 October 2017. Asked whether they believed in ghosts, ghouls, spirits, or other types of paranormal activity, a plurality (46%) replied in the negative, 33% in the affirmative, while 21% had not made up their minds. Belief was higher among women than men, younger than older people, and manual than non-manual workers. The believers and the uncertain were then asked whether they had seen or felt the presence of paranormal activity in the past, 40% saying they had, 24% they might have had, and 36% they had not. A blog about the survey, with a link to full data tables, is at:

Scottish religious affiliation

An online survey of 1,010 Scots by ComRes for campaign group Be Reasonable between 21 September and 2 October 2017 included a question about religious affiliation: ‘which of the following, if any, do you consider yourself to be?’ In reply, 51% declared they were Christian (rising to 70% of over-65s) and 7% non-Christian, with 39% professing no religion (peaking at 54% for those aged 25-34) and 2% preferring not to say. The results appear as table 5/1 in the full data report, but it should be noted that religion is not used therein as a variable to analyse the answers to the main questionnaire, which concerned children and families, with particular reference to the vexed issue of smacking. The data report is at:

Middle East

The British Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM) commissioned Populus to conduct two online surveys of representative samples of Britons about their attitudes towards Israel and related Middle East topics. The first poll was on 6-8 October 2017 with 2,021 adults, the second on 9-10 October 2017 with 2,041 adults; the two questionnaires were slightly different. BICOM has been testing British public opinion in this area since 2010, and its press release on the 2017 enquiries highlighted some modest improvement in perceptions of Israel, in terms of the warmth expressed towards the country and lessening of the willingness to support boycotts of Israeli goods and produce. Even so, there were mixed views about the wisdom of the British government in committing in 1917 to the principle of creating a Jewish homeland in Palestine (only 38% judged it to have been right). In 2017, there is significant negativity towards the Jewish state which eventually emerged, Israel receiving a below average mean score (on a feelings thermometer scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being very warm and favourable) of 3.82 and Israelis one of 4.13. The saving grace for the Israeli cause is that mean scores for some of Israel’s neighbours in the Middle East conflict are even lower, especially those for Hamas and Hezbollah, while Islamic State (IS) comes rock bottom, feelings towards it being very cold and unfavourable. Also on the brighter side, a plurality regards Israel as an important ally (49%) and post-Brexit trading partner (37%) of Britain. A majority (51%) does not believe that criticizing Israel is anti-Semitic; however, 46% agree it is anti-Semitic to express hatred of Israel and question its right to exist. Both sets of data tables are accessible at:

Islamic State

YouGov has recently run three questions in three separate surveys touching on Islamic State (IS). In an app-based poll reported on 24 October 2017, respondents were asked whether they agreed with the assessment of a Foreign Office minister that the only way of dealing with Britons who had joined IS was, in almost every case, to kill them. A majority of respondents (53%) supported the minister’s views, 35% opposed them, and 12% were unsure. Topline results only have been posted online at:

Another app-based poll, reported on 25 October 2017, enquired whether people should be given the name ‘Jihad’, as one family in the French city of Toulouse had done for their baby (and been challenged by the authorities). The term ‘jihad’ is usually now associated with violent Islamist extremism, although in the original Arabic it can simply mean self-denial or an individual battle against sin. Two-thirds (65%) of adults thought Jihad should not be allowed as a personal name, while 21% were relaxed about it being so, and 13% were undecided. Topline results only are at:

A third app-based poll, conducted on 25 October 2017 with 3,398 adults, asked whether it was appropriate to prosecute, on their return, Britons who had gone out to the Middle East to fight against IS. A plurality (48%) deemed it inappropriate, with 22% favouring prosecution and 30% uncertain. Results, with breaks by standard demographics, are at:

Anti-Semitic remarks

Labour politician and former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone continues to be haunted by his 2005 indiscretion in likening a Jewish reporter to a concentration camp guard, compounded by his subsequent unwillingness to apologize for the comment. The affair resurfaced in a recent online poll by YouGov among 1,526 Britons on 26-27 October 2017, conducted in the wake of revelations about Jared O’Mara’s controversial statements about several groups prior to his election as a Labour MP. YouGov reminded its respondents of sundry politically incorrect incidents involving senior politicians in the past, one of which was the Livingstone outburst (albeit he was not actually named in the question). In two half-samples, 95% and 94% described the analogy with a concentration camp guard as inappropriate, with 63% and 55%, respectively, thinking the matter serious enough to warrant the politician’s resignation. Full data tables are available at:


Churches Together in England

A mixture of qualitative and quantitative research underpinned an external review of Churches Together in England, undertaken by Theos between September 2016 and June 2017, including evidence derived from 63 interviews and 44 questionnaires. It is reported in Natan Mladin, Rachel Fidler, and Ben Ryan, That They All May Be One: Insights into Churches Together in England and Contemporary Ecumenism (London: Theos, 2017, 61pp., ISBN: 978-0-9956543-1-0), which is freely available at:

What is mission?

During the summer of 2017 the Church Mission Society (CMS) conducted a survey about attitudes to mission among a self-selecting sample of British Christians attending Christian events or by means of a questionnaire on its website. Some 2,000 responses have been received to date (the survey is still open, at the time of writing). An article about the initial results appeared in Church of England Newspaper, 20 October 2017, p. 9 with a shorter digest available on the CMS website at:

Church of England mission statistics

The Church of England’s 51-page report on Statistics for Mission, 2016 has a rather familiar ring to it. The long-term and gradual decline in the Church’s constituency continues across a broad range of performance indicators, with few redeeming signs of even absolute (still less relative) growth. The figures for all-age Average Sunday Attendance and Usual Sunday Attendance (the most long-running churchgoing index) always attract a disproportionate amount of interest, both in the Church itself and among the media; in 2016, they fell to, respectively, 780,000 and 739,000 persons. The worshipping community, representing those who come to church once a month or more, numbered 1,139,000 (equivalent to a miniscule 2% of the population), one-fifth of whom were aged under 18. Christmas attendance reached 2,580,000, slightly up on 2015, an improvement which doubtless reflects the fact that Christmas Day fell on a Sunday in 2016 (a coincidence which always boosts congregations). The most striking feature of recent Anglican decline, however, is less to do with churchgoing than participation in the rites of passage, with Church of England infant baptisms in 2016 equating to just 10% of live births and funerals to 28% of deaths. The report, which includes a special one-off section on visitors to churches, is available at:

Church of England parish finances

An 18-page report on Parish Finance Statistics, 2015 has also been published by Church of England Research and Statistics. This reveals that between 2006 and 2015 the income of parishes increased by 24% and expenditure by 23%. Except for 2009-11, income exceeded expenditure each year, with a surplus of £54.4 million in 2015. Planned giving remains the main source of income but it has declined in real terms during recent years. The report is available at:

Church of England digital impact

On a more upbeat note, the Church of England has announced that it is steadily building capacity in cyberspace through its three-year digital transformation project (funded by the broader Renewal and Reform Programme). It claims that each month 1.2 million individuals are being reached on social media and 1.5 million via the Church’s various websites. The Church’s #JoyToTheWorld Christmas campaign in 2016 reached 1.5 million people and its #LiveLent campaign in 2017 2.5 million. These and other headline statistics can be found at:

West Midlands Anglicans

The Saint Peter’s Saltley Trust and Church Urban Fund have collaborated to fund a project and produce a 24-page report on Christians in Practice: Connecting Discipleship and Community Engagement (Saltley Faith & Learning Series, 3), with Simon Foster as lead author. It stems from research undertaken in the Church of England Dioceses of Birmingham and Lichfield, principally through questionnaires completed by 1,082 worshippers in a stratified random sample of 32 Anglican congregations, supplemented by 30 interviews in six churches. Allowing for constraints of time and health, a high level of personal involvement with the community was revealed, both short-term and long-term, formal and informal, past and present, and church-based or not. Respondents also mostly identified a broad connection between their community activities and their faith and felt the latter had been enriched by the former, albeit sharing faith with the community posed challenges to some. The report is at:

Welsh Nonconformity

The present state and missional approaches of evangelical Welsh Nonconformist churches (Baptist, Paedobaptist, Pentecostal, Conservative Evangelical, and New Church/Charismatic) are reviewed by David Ollerton in his A New Mission to Wales: Seeing Churches Prosper across Wales in the Twenty-First Century (Pwllheli: Cyhoeddiadau’r Gair, 2016, 278pp., ISBN: 9781859948187, paperback, £9.99). The data principally derive from a survey undertaken by Waleswide in 2012-15, particularly from questionnaires fully (283) or partially (103) completed in 2012 by 386 of the 588 Nonconformist ministers who were invited to take part. It is suggested that respondents probably came disproportionately from growing congregations. Factoring in that churches without ministerial oversight, as well as churches of other denominations, were not contacted, the questionnaires perhaps paint an over-optimistic picture of the condition of organized Christianity in Wales. They were supplemented by direct interviews (in 2013-14) and regional soundings (in 2015). The analysis in the text and the appendix of charts focuses on the differential effectiveness of six alternative approaches to mission, as revealed by the questionnaires and interviews and in the light of the religious, geographical, ethnic, linguistic/cultural, social, and political contexts of Wales. The research is more fully reported in Ollerton’s ‘Mission in a Welsh Context: Patterns of Nonconformist Mission in Wales and the Challenge of Contextualisation in the Twenty First Century’ (PhD thesis, University of Chester, 2015), which can be freely downloaded from:

Methodist decline

The Methodist Church Statistics for Mission Triennial Report, 2017, presented to the annual Methodist Conference (and featured in the June 2017 edition of Counting Religion in Britain), revealed a picture of ongoing net decline across a range of performance measures. The October meeting of the Methodist Council has now received: (a) the responses to the report made by District discussion groups at the Conference; and (b) a paper offering some corporate reflections on the responses. Districts were asked a series of questions arising from the statistics, including the perceived strengths and challenges of their own District, observations on the figures for another District, and suggestions for a way forward. The two papers can be found at:


Hate crimes

Police forces in England and Wales recorded 5,949 religious hate crimes in 2016/17, 35% more than in 2015/16 and about four times the number in 2011/12 and 2012/13. The increase in 2016/17 was particularly associated with the outcome of the June 2016 referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union and the March 2017 terror attack on Westminster Bridge. A report and data tables on the statistics of all forms of hate crime for 2016/17 can be found at:



In his latest book, Secular Beats Spiritual: The Westernization of the Easternization of the West (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017, xiii + 199pp., ISBN: 978-0-19-880568-7, hardback, £25), the prolific sociologist of religion Steve Bruce reasserts the secularization thesis through a critique of those who argue that religion has not really declined, it has simply changed in nature and form. His title is ‘a slightly tongue-in-cheek reference’ to Colin Campbell’s 2007 work The Easternization of the West. Bruce investigates, with special reference to Britain, the ‘popularity’ of the New Religious Movements and the New Age cultic milieu which have emerged since the late 1960s. He concludes that their appeal to indigenous populations has been numerically limited and nowhere near enough to fill the void left by the decline in conventional religions, notably Christianity. Moreover, the most enduring innovations have been the least ‘religious’ ones or survived only by becoming more ‘this-worldly’, while the influence of eastern religions and eastern religious themes has been significantly altered in a secular direction. Statistics are drawn upon, where available, and there is a 33-page chapter devoted to the issue of ‘counting the spiritual’, which estimates that less than 1% of people practice ‘novel expressions of religious or spiritual interest’. The book’s webpage is at:

Religion in public life

A new report by Grace Davie, Religion in Public Life: Levelling the Ground (London: Theos, 2017, 96pp., ISBN: 978-0-9956543-2-7), is based upon her Edward Cadbury Lectures delivered in the University of Birmingham in 2016. It examines the role of religion in public life from the perspective of three levels: local (comprising case studies of Exeter and the South-West, the author’s home, and London), national (focusing on the debates surrounding the Church of England’s report on Faith in the City and Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses), and global (deriving from Davie’s participation in the International Panel on Social Progress). A conclusion pulls together the cross-cutting themes which run through the report. Use of statistical evidence is relatively light, perhaps appropriately for an essay which is primarily conceived as a contribution to an ongoing conversation in the public square, and is at its strongest in the chapter on London. The report is available at:

Religious none

In the published version of her 2016 Paul Hanly Furfey Lecture, Linda Woodhead summarizes her YouGov-based research into the swift rise and demographic profile of religious nones in Britain and also makes what she describes as her ‘first serious attempt to explain this profound cultural transition’. She stresses that ‘no religion’ has an ambiguous status as at once like and unlike religion, religious nones largely rejecting the dogmatism of religion rather than religion tout court. She identifies the central commitment of ‘no religion’ as ‘each and every human being should be free to decide how best to live his or her own life even if it involves bad choices’. Democratization, cultural and religious diversity, and marketization and consumerization are among the social changes Woodhead believes help account for the growth of no religion. Access options to ‘The Rise of “No Religion”: Towards an Explanation’, Sociology of Religion, Vol. 78, No. 3, Autumn 2017, pp. 247-62 are outlined at:

Proximity effect of cathedrals

The presence of an Anglican or Catholic cathedral or cathedral-like parish or abbey church in an area seems to heighten the chance of individuals living in the vicinity self-identifying as Christian, after social demography is controlled for. So suggest Andrew Village and Judith Muskett in their analysis of religious affiliation data in the 2011 population census for 6,712 English wards situated within 30 km of 105 cathedrals or greater churches: ‘Flagships in a Sea of Unbelief? Christian Affiliation around Big Church Buildings in England’, Journal of Contemporary Religion, Vol. 32, No. 3, October 2017, pp. 479-93. However, the proximity effect was small, in the order of 1%, and the findings are open to several different interpretations. It is also conceded that census data constitute a ‘rather blunt instrument’ for measuring proximity effect. Access options to the article are outlined at:

Religious experience

The predisposition of certain psychological types to undergo and admit to religious experience is validated in a recent article by Leslie Francis and Andrew Village: ‘Psychological Type and Reported Religious Experience: An Empirical Enquiry among Anglican Clergy and Laity’, Mental Health, Religion, and Culture, Vol. 20, No. 4, 2017, pp. 367-83. Using data from a self-selecting sample of 4,421 practising Anglicans (disproportionately Anglo-Catholic or Broad Church) who responded to an online and postal questionnaire promoted in the Church Times in 2013, the authors revealed the perceiving process to be fundamental to individual differences in openness to religious experiences, which were more likely to be reported by intuitive types than sensing types. Their single-item measure of religious experience, rooted in a sociological tradition, thus accorded with previous research based on multi-item scales, and rooted in the psychological tradition. Access options to the article are outlined at:

Scotland’s Muslims

In Scotland’s Muslims: Society, Politics, and Identity (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2017, 304pp., ISBN: 9781474427234, hardback, £80), editor Peter Hopkins brings together a team of leading and emerging scholars from a range of disciplines who have undertaken research with Muslims in Scotland over the last decade. After his own introduction, there are twelve thematic chapters exploring, by means of quantitative and qualitative evidence, Muslim health, education, political participation, gender and migration, sexuality, young people, generational relations, heritage, multiculturalism, media, representation, and integration. The book’s webpage is at:

Youth and the Churches

In Young People and Church since 1900: Engagement and Exclusion (London: Routledge, 2018, ix + 196pp., ISBN: 978-1-4724-8978-4, hardback, £105), Naomi Thompson charts the transition from Sunday schools to Christian youth work in twentieth-century England, with particular reference to the history of the Birmingham Sunday School Union, and with a focus on three time periods: 1900-10, 1955-72, and the present day. This is a mixed methods work, which draws upon interviews, both oral history and contemporary. There is also a certain amount of statistical content, mainly extracted from the annual reports of the National Sunday School Union between 1898 and 1972, which is displayed in the form of graphs and tables. The webpage for the book (which is already available, notwithstanding the imprint year) is at:

First World War

The outbreak of the First World War seems to have led to a surge in the number of sermons preached from Old Testament texts, as ministers turned to the prophets and the history of Israel for inspiration and comfort in Britain’s own hour of danger and need. This is suggested by an analysis of the texts of contemporary sermons published in Christian World Pulpit over 60 years, tabulated on p. 71 of Stuart Bell’s Faith in Conflict: The Impact of the Great War on the Faith of the People of Britain (Solihull: Helion & Company, 2017, 240pp., ISBN: 978-1-911512-67-7, hardback, £25). Between July 1913 and June 1914, 36% of sermons took an Old Testament text, but the proportion rose to 47% in July-December 1914 before falling away throughout the war, standing at 29% in 1918 and 26% in January-June 1919. It climbed again, to 36%, during a challenging period in the Second World War, from July 1940 to June 1941. Otherwise, the book is relatively short on statistical content.


David John Bartholomew (1931-2017)

Emeritus Professor David Bartholomew, the eminent statistician, died at his home on 16 October 2017, aged 86 years. Educated at Bedford Modern School and University College London, he held academic appointments at, successively, the University of Keele, Aberystwyth University, the University of Kent, and the London School of Economics. He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1987 and was President of the Royal Statistical Society in 1993-95. An active Methodist (including as a local preacher for over 60 years), Professor Bartholomew was periodically engaged by the Methodist Church to prepare forecasts and analyses of ordained and lay ministry and membership. Among his extensive portfolio of publications were three books blending statistical theory with theology: God of Chance (SCM Press, 1984), Uncertain Belief: Is it Rational to be a Christian? (Clarendon Press, 1996), and God, Chance and Purpose (Cambridge University Press, 2008). A complete list of his writings is available at:

Please note: Counting Religion in Britain is © Clive D. Field, 2017


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Religion and the British Social Attitudes 2016 Survey

The British Social Attitudes (BSA) 2016 survey dataset has been released via the UKDS. This post updates the long-term religious data available from the BSA surveys.

Figure 1 charts the data on affiliation for the period 1983-2016. Key features include the long-term decline in the proportion identifying as Anglican (which stood at 40% in 1983 and had declined to 15% in 2016), increased identification with non-Christian faiths over recent decades (3% in 1983, 6% in 2016), broad stability in levels of Catholic affiliation (10% in 1983, 9% in 2016), and the increase in the proportion with no affiliation (32% in 1983 and 53% in 2016). The proportion of other Christians has also increased over time, from 15% in 1983 to 17% in 2016. However, the composition of this group has shifted. The proportion identifying as non-denominational Christians has risen over time, with a decreasing share professing a denominational affiliation – in particular, with the Nonconformist churches.

Figure 1: Religious affiliation in Britain, 1983-2016

Source: Author’s analysis of BSA surveys.


Figure 2 shows levels of religious attendance between 1983 and 2016. Attendance has been divided into three categories: attending once a month or more often (or frequent attendance); attending less often (infrequent attendance); not attending. The proportion reporting that they never attend religious services (beyond going for the traditional rites of passage – baptisms, marriages and funerals) increased from 56% in 1983 to 66% in 2016. There has been some decline in the levels of frequent and infrequent attending: attending once a month or more fell from 21% in 1983 to 18% in 2016. The proportion attending on an infrequent basis declined from 23% in 1983 to 16% in 2016.


Figure 2: Religious Attendance in Britain, 1983-2016

Source: Author’s analysis of BSA surveys.


Looking at patterns of attendance in more detail, Figure 3 charts, over time, the proportions of Anglicans, Catholics and other Christians attending church on a frequent basis. Clearly, Catholics and other Christian have consistently reported higher levels of regular churchgoing compared to Anglicans. In 1983, 55% of Catholics and 47% of other Christian reported attending church frequently. In 2016, the proportions had fallen to 43% of Catholics and 38% of other Christians. Anglicans actually show something of an increase in regular attendance, based on the full duration of the BSA data. It stood at 18% in 1983 and, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, increased to 24% in 2016 (the highest proportion recorded by the BSA), having previously stood at 18% in both 2014 and 2015. Overall, though, those belonging to non-Christian religions show the highest level of regular attendance at services. In nearly all recent surveys, a majority of this group has reported attending on a frequent basis (51% in 2016).


Figure 3: Regular attendance at religious services by Christian tradition, 1983-2016

Source: Author’s analysis of BSA surveys.


Table 1 provides a summary of religious data from the BSA surveys. The data on religion of upbringing show that the proportion saying they were raised within the Church of England has fallen from 55% in 1991 (when the question was first asked) to 28% in 2016. The proportion saying they were raised within a Catholic household was 14% in both years. The proportion raised within some other Christian tradition increased from 22% to 27%. The proportion raised within a non-Christian religion stood at 3% in 1991 and 6% in 2016. The proportion without a religious upbringing was 6% in 1991 and 25% in 2016.


Table 1: Summary of religion indicators

Affiliation 1983 (%) 2016 (%)
Church of England 40 15
Roman Catholic 10 9
Other Christian 15 17
Other religion 3 6
No religious affiliation 32 53
Religion of upbringing 1991 (%) 2016 (%)
Church of England 55 28
Roman Catholic 14 14
Other Christian 22 27
Other religion 3 6
No religion 6 25
Attendance 1983 (%) 2016 (%)
Once a month or more often 21 18
Less often than once a month 23 16
Never attends 56 66

Source: Author’s analysis of BSA 1983, 1991 and 2016 surveys.


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Counting Religion in Britain, September 2017

Counting Religion in Britain, No. 24, September 2017 features 26 new sources. It can be read in full below. Alternatively, you can download the PDF version: No 24 September 2017


Harmfulness of religion

More than twice as many Britons (68%) feel the world has been damaged by religion as say it has benefited from it (30%), according to a Populus poll for the Legatum Institute think-tank, for which 2,004 adults were interviewed online on 4-6 August 2017. Respondents were shown a list of eight social, cultural, and economic trends and asked to rate their impact on a scale running from minus 100 (denoting severe damage) to plus 100 (great benefit), religion receiving the lowest mean score of all (even worse than immigration). The proportion with a negative view of religion peaked at 79% among UKIP voters. Full data tables are available at:

Saliency of religion

Asked to choose three of twenty facets of life which were of greatest importance to them ‘right now’, only 5% of a sample of 1,003 UK young adults aged 16-22 (Generation Z) selected religion, their top priorities being family (44%), education (32%), money (29%), and friends or boyfriend/girlfriend/partner (25% each). Religion was of most significance to Londoners (10%) and black and minority ethnic young persons (19%, six times the figure for white people). The survey was conducted online by Ipsos MORI for BBC’s Newsbeat programme between 24 August and 4 September 2017. For comparative purposes, a sample of adults aged 23-65 (Generation Y, Generation X, and Baby Boomers) was invited to speculate what they thought the immediate concerns of Generation Z were. Data tables are available at:

Airbrushing religious symbols

German supermarket chain Lidl has incurred some negative publicity recently with the discovery that, throughout Europe, it has airbrushed out the Christian cross at the top of the blue dome of the Anastasi Church on the island of Santorini, images of which feature on its Greek food range, in order to remain ‘religiously neutral’. Three-quarters of Britons interviewed by YouGov in an app-based poll released on 7 September 2017 disapproved of Lidl’s action, with only 13% endorsing it and 12% undecided. Topline results are available at:


The eleventh (2017) edition of SunLife’s Cost of Dying Report contains a range of information about funerals, mostly based upon two UK-wide surveys undertaken by Critical Research in May 2017 among (a) 1,524 adults who were responsible for planning a funeral and administering an estate during the past four years (online interviews) and (b) 100 funeral directors (by telephone). One-quarter of funerals now involve burials and three-quarters cremations, with an increasing number of the latter (10% according to the funeral directors) being direct cremations, generally involving no funeral service whatsoever (albeit a small minority have some sort of post-cremation service). Two-thirds of the funeral directors returned a decrease in religious funerals, one-half of funerals also featuring modern songs, music, or anthems. Just 11% of those who had organized a funeral for a loved-one described the tone of the service as ‘religious’ and no more than 36% even knew whether the deceased would have preferred a religious or non-religious service. The report is at:

Online radicalization

Attitudes to extremist content online and the regulation of the internet more generally have been thoroughly investigated in an online poll by ICM Unlimited among 2,051 adult Britons on 14-18 July 2017, on behalf of Policy Exchange. Results for all questions were disaggregated by religious affiliation, albeit only the sub-samples of professing Christians and religious nones were large enough to yield statistically robust breaks. On many issues, the latter tended to adopt more liberal positions than the former, although this was probably largely a function of their different age profiles. Additionally, a couple of questions were posed which specifically focused on religion. The first asked whether extremist or hate speech at places of worship influenced people to commit terrorist acts; 63% thought it did so a lot, 25% a little, and only 3% not at all. The second question enquired whether it was acceptable in certain situations to publish online content that encourages violence against religious groups; just 13% agreed overall (but including 31% of under-25s and 45% of the 50 Muslims interviewed) while 72% disagreed and 12% were neutral. Data tables can be found at:

Workplace discrimination

The experience during the past five years of specific types of work-related discrimination or disadvantage by 1,003 black and minority ethnic (BME) workers in Britain was measured in an online poll by ICM Unlimited for the Trades Union Congress in January 2017. Breaks for several questions were given by religious affiliation, including for statistically viable sub-samples of Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and religious nones. Race/ethnicity or gender were more likely than religion/belief to be cited as the perceived cause of cases of harassment, verbal abuse, physical violence, or unfair treatment. Prejudice against wearing visible markers of religious identity was reported as having increased since the vote in 2016 on the UK’s membership of the European Union, 23% of BME respondents having experienced or witnessed it post-Brexit. Data tables are available at:

Trust in professions

Three-fifths of 2,612 secondary school pupils aged 11-16 in England and Wales trust clergy and priests to tell the truth, and just 14% distrust them, according to the 2017 Ipsos MORI Young People Omnibus, undertaken by self-completion questionnaire between 6 February and 17 May. With a net trust figure of +46%, clergy and priests were ranked fifth of eighteen professional groups for trustworthiness, after doctors (+83%), the police (+71%), judges (+64%), and scientists (+53%). This was about the same net trust figure for clergy and priests as in the 2016 Ipsos MORI Veracity Index for British adults (+43%), albeit the latter expressed both higher levels of trust (69%) and distrust (26%) for clergy and priests to tell the truth, mainly because there were fewer don’t knows than in the school pupil sample. Data tables for the Young People Omnibus are available at:

Viewing the Arab world

The Arab News has published a series of articles on British attitudes to the Arab world, derived from a YouGov poll which it commissioned in partnership with the Council for Arab-British Understanding, for which 2,142 adults were interviewed online on 16-17 August 2017. The full report and data tables have yet to be released, but the articles reveal a few findings which will be of interest to BRIN readers. Although 72% of respondents acknowledged that anti-Muslim hatred is a growing problem in the UK, 55% supported racial profiling of Arabs/Muslims for security reasons (with 24% disapproving). The majority (53%) endorsed the UK’s continued military operations against Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria, with 29% opposed and 19% neutral. On the Israel-Palestine question, 53% agreed that the UK should recognize Palestine as a state, and only 32% regarded the Balfour Declaration of 1917 (in favour of a Jewish national homeland in Palestine) as something to be proud of (albeit a plurality of 41% was undecided). At the same time, most (55%) did not feel the UK should take responsibility for sorting out the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Arab News coverage can be found at:


Mapping Christians

ComRes has completed a so-called ‘mapping’ study for the Church of England’s Evangelism Task Force, interviewing 8,150 adult Britons online between 17 and 31 March 2017, and identifying that 50% professed to be Christians, 7% non-Christians, and 42% religious nones (peaking at 57% of 18-24s). Christians (n = 4,190, 56% of them Anglican) and former Christians (n = 84) were then asked a series of questions to measure their commitment to the faith. Among Christians, just 28% regarded themselves as ‘an active Christian who follows Jesus’, 63% not, with 9% unsure. More specifically, 40% of Christians claimed to pray at least monthly and 29% never; 19% to attend church at least monthly and 33% never; and 18% to read or listen to the Bible at least monthly and 55% never. Across the whole sample, 6% of adults were categorized by ComRes as ‘practising Christians’, defined as people who satisfied the triple test of reading the Bible and praying at least weekly and attending church at least monthly. Almost certainly, these claims to religious practice were overstated by respondents. Full data tables, extending to 155 pages, can be found at:

Food poverty

The Church Urban Fund has recently released the results of an online poll about food poverty, which it commissioned ComRes to undertake among a sample of 2,048 adult Britons on 4-5 January 2017. The survey covered the incidence of particular financial and food anxieties and deprivations during the previous twelve months, which were generally found to be higher among non-Christians than for Christians or religious nones. Data tables are available at:

Church of England ministry statistics

The Church of England has released the latest annual reports on the number of its clergy and ordinands. The 25-page Ministry Statistics, 2016 shows a total of 19,550 active ordained ministers, 2% fewer than in 2015, 29% of whom are women and 40% stipendiary. The single-slide report on ordinands records 544 entering training in 2017, the highest figure for ten years; this represents an overall increase of 14% on 2015 but 19% more women and 39% more young ordinands. The documents can be accessed via links in the press release at:

Living Ministry

The Church of England’s Ministry Division has published the first results from its Living Ministry project: Liz Graveling and Olga Cara, Mapping the Wellbeing of Church of England Clergy and Ordinands: Panel Survey Wave 1 Report. The project is a longitudinal panel study involving a large-scale quantitative online survey every two years among four cohorts of clergy (those ordained deacon in 2006, 2011, and 2015 and those who commenced training in 2016) together with smaller-scale qualitative research. It will run from 2016 to 2026. There were 761 respondents to wave 1, equivalent to 38% of the cohort population. Overall, levels of wellbeing were found to be positive for each domain (financial and material; physical and mental; relationships; and ministerial). Gender was a less significant factor than age in explaining differences. The report is available at:

Coincidentally, King’s Business School at King’s College London has published a summative report on the Experiences of Ministry project, the forerunner of Living Ministry: Mike Clinton and Tim Ling, Effective Ministerial Presence and What It Looks Like in Practice: Insights from the Experiences of Ministry Project, 2011-17. This earlier project captured the views of 6,000 Church of England clergy through a series of national surveys, as well as conducting in-depth interviews and collecting week-long daily diaries. Like Living Ministry, it also addressed clergy wellbeing, revealing that it compared favourably with other occupational groups. A full-length book on the findings of Experiences of Ministry is promised for 2018. Meanwhile, the summative report is available at:

Church in Wales statistics

At its meeting in Lampeter on 14 September 2017, the Church in Wales Governing Body received the annual report on membership and finances for 2016. The overall picture was more negative than positive, with particular decline from 2015 in Easter communicants (down 6%), baptisms (down 8%), and confirmations (down 21%), as well as a fall (for the fifth year in succession) in planned direct giving (the principal source of parochial income). In terms of membership indicators, growth was confined to Christmas communicants (up 2%), average under-18 worship attendance (up 3%), and average over-18 weekday attendance (up 5%). Congregations at ‘additional services’ also rose (by 4%). There was a continuing surplus of income over expenditure, notwithstanding increased outlay in 2016 as new projects were started, which was said to reflect growing confidence at the grass roots. In the Governing Body’s debate on the report, Revd Richard Wood of Bangor observed his plea in 2016 for the Church to cut out its dead wood had been met with ‘a stony silence’, and he urged it to ‘stop giving time, effort, energy, and money to that which has failed’. The report is available at:

Faith schools

The Fair Admissions Campaign (FAC), which wants all state-funded schools in England and Wales to be open to all children regardless of religion or belief, has updated its digest of research about faith schools and religious selection of pupils. Sources date from 2001 to the present and are arranged in reverse chronological order. They comprise a mixture of official reports, academic studies, investigations by faith bodies, and opinion polls. The digest is preceded by an overview (pp. 2-9) from FAC, which concludes: ‘religious selection is not popular. High-performing schools are popular. And the socio-economic selection brought about by religious selection often leads religiously selective schools to be high-performing schools.’ The 100-page document can be accessed at:

Religious education

The National Association of Teachers of Religious Education (NATRE), the Religious Education Council of England and Wales (REC), and RE Today Services have published The State of the Nation: A Report on Religious Education Provision within Secondary Schools in England. It is based on three datasets: an online survey of 790 schools; the Department for Education’s School Workforce Census for 2010-15; and entries for GCSE Religious Studies for 2014-16. The headline-grabbing finding (from the School Workforce Census) is that 28% of schools give no dedicated curriculum time to religious education in Year 11, in contravention of their statutory duties, and affecting 800,000 pupils. Two shorter supplementary reports by NATRE were issued at the same time: GCSE Religious Studies, 2014-2016 and Levels of Provision of Religious Education in Schools where Different Legal Requirements Apply. All three documents can be accessed via the links in the press release at:

The REC has separately published the interim report of the Commission on Religious Education (CORE), entitled Religious Education for All, which offers a comparable overview of provision, drawing upon the written and oral evidence presented to it, including statistics. CORE was initiated by REC but is independent and has recommended that religious education should encompass the teaching of non-religious as well as religious worldviews. Its report can be found at:

Scottish religiosity

An online poll of 1,016 Scottish adults aged 16 and over, conducted by Survation on behalf of the Humanist Society Scotland (HSS) between 8 and 12 September 2017, has revealed that just 24% of Scots regard themselves as religious, 72% saying they are not, with 4% declining to answer. This represents a reduction in the number of avowedly religious people in Scotland since 2011, when a study by Progressive/YouGov returned it as 35% (against 56% not religious). Based on this evidence, HSS is questioning the ways in which the population census and other religious surveys are being carried out, arriving at higher figures of Scottish religious adherence. Data tables from the Survation poll can be found at:

Scottish social capital

The contribution of faith communities in Scotland to its national life was celebrated in a debate of a motion tabled by Kate Forbes MSP in the Scottish Parliament on 12 September 2017, commending the achievements of the Serve Scotland coalition of community organizations. The debate was informed by an estimate that voluntary work by Scottish faith groups through social projects produces an economic impact of almost £100 million each year in terms of time and resources. For a transcript of the debate, see:

For a press release from the Evangelical Alliance Scotland summarizing the background data, which derive from the Cinnamon Network, see:


What is claimed to be ‘the largest and most detailed survey of attitudes towards Jews and Israel ever conducted in Great Britain’ is reported in Daniel Staetsky, Antisemitism in Contemporary Great Britain: A Study of Attitudes towards Jews and Israel, published by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR). In partnership with the Community Security Trust, JPR commissioned Ipsos MORI to poll 5,466 Britons aged 16 and over by a combination of face-to-face and online interview between 28 October 2016 and 24 February 2017. The sample included boosts for Muslims, the far-left, and the far-right. Staetsky proposes an ‘elastic view’ of the extent of anti-Semitism in Britain, differentiating the counting of serious anti-Semites on the one hand (who number no more than 5% of the population) from the measurement of the diffusion of anti-Semitic ideas and attitudes (held to some extent by a further 25% of Britons) on the other, the latter not necessarily translating into open dislike of Jews. Hard-core negativity towards Israel was demonstrated by 12% of the population, with an additional 21% exhibiting softer negativity and a total of 56% holding at least one anti-Israel attitude (and 62% at least one anti-Israel and/or one anti-Semitic attitude). As a general rule, anti-Israel sentiments were not found to be anti-Semitic, but the stronger a person’s anti-Israel views, the more likely they were to hold anti-Semitic attitudes. Both anti-Semitic and anti-Israel attitudes were substantially higher among Muslims than in society at large. Somewhat counter-intuitively, despite current political discourses, this was not the case for left-wingers with regard to anti-Semitism (although it was for anti-Israelism). The 82-page report, incorporating a 16-page methodological section, is available at:

Jews and home help

Nine-tenths (91%) of 1,028 self-identifying British Jewish adults employ some kind of help around the home, according to a telephone poll by Survation in July 2017 on behalf of World Jewish Relief (WJR). The commonest form of domestic assistance was the cleaner, engaged by 65% of Jews, including 54% who have a cleaner in at least once a week and 20% several times a week. Other widespread types of help during the course of the year were window cleaners (59%), gardeners (51%), and handymen (41%). Least called on were chefs, au pairs, and carers. The majority (57%) of respondents said they would struggle without help in the home, lack of time being the principal reason given, especially by under-35s. Full data tables are not available, but WJR’s press release is at:


Sikh ethnicity and the 2021 census

The Times for 12 September 2017 (p. 19) ran a short news story about a Sikh campaign to secure recognition of ‘Sikh’ as an ethnic, as well as a religious, group at the 2021 census of the UK, noting that 113 MPs had signed a letter to the chief executive of the UK Statistics Authority requesting the change. At the 2011 census, more than 83,000 Sikhs refused to choose one of the listed options in the question on ethnicity, preferring to write in ‘Sikh’ in the space for ‘any other ethnic group’.

The story was followed up in several letters to the editor. On 13 September (p. 28), Malathy Sitaram, a retired schoolteacher from Swindon, wrote to express surprise that some UK Sikhs declined to be recognized as Indians, arguing that Hindu Punjabis and Sikh Punjabis speak the same language and frequently intermarry. In similar vein, on 14 September (p. 32), Randhir Singh Bains wrote from Gants Hill to deny that Sikhs were an ethnic group, as opposed to being Punjabis, and to suggest that the leaders of the campaign to designate Sikhs as such a group were Sikh separatists who wanted to carve a Sikh state out of India. But on 18 September (p. 28), Surinder Singh Bakhshi of Birmingham reminded the readers of The Times of Lord Templeton’s judgement in the House of Lords in the case of Mandla v. Dowell Lee in 1983, that Sikhs were an ethnic group and, indeed, almost a nation.

In the background, the Office for National Statistics ran a census test in Hounslow and Wolverhampton in 2017 on Sikhs as an ethnic group, the interim report on which suggested: ‘There is no indication from the findings that the religious affiliation and ethnic group questions are capturing different Sikh populations. All respondents who stated they were ethnically Sikh also stated their religious affiliation was Sikh.’ The report is available at:

Religious slaughter

The number of animals killed without pre-stunning has risen sharply since 2013, when European Union and UK legislation allowing an exemption from humane slaughter on religious grounds (to meet the requirements of Jews and Muslims) came into force. This is according to an analysis by the British Veterinary Association (BVA) of the Food Standards Agency’s report on animal welfare for the quarter April-June 2017, which revealed that 18% of poultry and 24% of sheep and goats are now slaughtered without pre-stunning. The BVA’s press release, including a link to the Agency’s report, is at:


Science and religion (1)

New data on public attitudes to evolution in the UK and Canada were released by the Science and Religion: Exploring the Spectrum project at the 2017 British Science Festival in Brighton. The UK fieldwork was conducted online by YouGov on behalf of Newman University among 2,129 adults aged 16 and over between 12 May and 6 June 2017.

The majority (71%) of all UK respondents, and even 62% of those identifying as religious or spiritual, accepted evolutionary (natural selection) or theistic (divinely guided) evolutionary accounts of the origin of species, including humans. Only 9% of the whole sample, and 16% of religious or spiritual, selected the creationist statement that ‘humans and other living things were created by God and have always existed in their current form’. Similarly, just 12% in the UK found it difficult to accept evolutionary science in relation to their personal beliefs, and no more than 19% of the religious or spiritual. Paradoxically, though, a bigger proportion (28%) in the UK agreed with the proposition that ‘animals evolve over time but evolutionary science cannot explain the origin of human beings’, suggesting a degree of confusion on the subject in some minds.

Various other facets of religion were illuminated by the study. Approximately half the UK interviewees were not religiously disposed: 52% professed to be neither religious nor spiritual (atheist, non-religious, agnostic, and freethinker being the commonest self-descriptions, in that order of priority); 50% expressed no real interest in religion or spirituality; and for 54% religion did not play an important part in shaping their identity and worldview. When it came to experts, theologians were perceived as reliable by 38% of the entire population and 49% of the religious or spiritual; they actually ranked bottom out of 15 professions in terms of reliability and were well beaten by evolutionary scientists (72%). A press release, with links to a (rather ‘busy’) summary report and full data tables, can be found at:

Science and religion (2)

The interaction between science and religion was further illuminated in another multinational survey by Ipsos MORI on behalf of the Scientific and Medical Network, and funded by the Salvia Foundation. Online interviews were conducted in November-December 2016 with samples of 1,000 science, engineering, medical, or technical research professionals in each of three countries – France, Germany, and the UK. In the UK, 45% of respondents were categorized as religious or spiritual, comprising 13% practising religious, 18% non-practising religious, and 14% self-describing as spiritual but not belonging to a religion; an equivalent number (46%) were atheist or agnostic. The proportion for whom religion or spirituality was important to the way they led their lives was smaller (35%) than the total of professing religious or spiritual, 14% saying very important and 21% fairly important. Religious observance was relatively low, attendance at religious services at least monthly being reported by 13% and prayer at least weekly by 17%. Asked about the relationship between science and religion, 44% of UK scientists thought the two fields were independent and could not be compared; 21% saw science and religion as complementary; and 25% viewed them as mutually exclusive, contradicting each other. The pattern of replies for the relationship between science and spirituality was not dissimilar, albeit the figure for mutually exclusive dropped to 16%. Partial data tables (with breaks within country by gender, age, marital status, and highest educational qualification) are available at:

British religion and the Second World War

Mass Observation, the independent social research organization established in 1937 to investigate the anthropology of everyday life in Britain, consciously set out to create an archive of life on the home front during the Second World War. Religion was not neglected, and its outputs in this area have been surveyed in a recent presentation by Clive Field: ‘British Religion and the Second World War: An Audit of Sources in the Mass Observation Archive’. Although best known for its qualitative and ethnographic research methods, Mass Observation did also deploy statistical techniques, especially to analyse replies from its self-selecting and demographically unrepresentative national panel of observers and from direct and indirect interviews with samples of the general population. The presentation is available at:


SN 8244: Annual Population Survey Three-Year Pooled Dataset, January 2014-December 2016

The Annual Population Survey is compiled by the Office for National Statistics in partnership with the devolved administrations in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. It incorporates a sub-set of key variables from the several Labour Force Surveys and is designed to be sufficiently robust and large-scale to produce reliable estimates at local authority level. The three-year merged dataset for 2014-16 is based on 543,298 face-to-face and telephone interviews with adults and young persons living away from the parental home. A question on religious affiliation is included: ‘what is your religion?’ in Britain and ‘what is your religious denomination?’ in Northern Ireland. A catalogue description of the dataset is available at:

SN 8252: British Social Attitudes Survey, 2016

The British Social Attitudes (BSA) Survey, 2016 was conducted between July and November of that year by NatCen Social Research on behalf of a consortium of Government departments and charitable funders. There were 2,942 respondents, who were interviewed face-to-face and by self-completion questionnaire. The standard background questions about religious affiliation (current and by upbringing) and attendance at religious services were included, which can be used as variables to analyse replies to all elements of the main questionnaire (covering politics, welfare, health, education, transport, official statistics, employment, trade unions, and retirement and pensions). An analysis by religion of the replies to the morality-related questions inserted by NatCen (especially attitudes to voluntary euthanasia, abortion, and capital punishment) is likely to prove rewarding. The only other specifically religious content will be found in the self-completion questionnaires for sub-samples A and C, which were asked about the influence of religious organizations and other bodies on government actions and their role in the provision of public services. A catalogue description of the dataset is available at:

Just before the release of this dataset at UKDA, NatCen published a press release about the religious affiliation question, showing that a record number of Britons (53%) professed to belong to no religion in 2016, rising to 71% among 18-24-year-olds (contrasting with just 27% of over-75s). The decline in religious affiliation has been relentless since BSA began in 1983, the Church of England having been particularly badly affected, with the Anglican market share now reduced to 15%, half the number in 2000. The press release, with a link to trend data tables, can be found at:

Please note: Counting Religion in Britain is © Clive D. Field, 2017


Posted in Attitudes towards Religion, church attendance, Historical studies, Ministry studies, News from religious organisations, Official data, Religion and Ethnicity, Religion and Social Capital, Religion in public debate, Religious beliefs, Religious Census, Religious prejudice, Rites of Passage, Survey news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Counting Religion in Britain, August 2017

Counting Religion in Britain, No. 23, August 2017 features 27 new sources. It can be read in full below. Alternatively, you can download the PDF version: No 23 August 2017


Personal values

Asked to select their three most important personal values from a list of twelve options, just 4% of UK citizens chose religion, bottom equal with self-fulfilment, and two points below the European Union (EU) average. The most highly favoured personal values in the UK were respect for human life (48%), peace (43%), and human rights (42%). Data derived from Wave 87.3 of Standard Eurobarometer, the UK fieldwork for which was undertaken by Kantar Public UK between 20 and 28 May 2017 through 1,365 face-to-face interviews. Questions were also posed about the values (including religion) which best represented the EU and the factors (again including religion) creating a feeling of community among EU citizens. Topline results were published in the annex at:

Religion at work

A director in the National Health Service, sacked for speaking out against adoption by same-sex parents, has claimed that political correctness is preventing Christians from holding public posts. The case prompted YouGov to ask, in an app-based survey reported on 1 August 2017, whether people who let their strong religious beliefs influence their attitudes at work should be allowed to hold high executive positions. The majority of Britons (59%) considered that they should not be permitted to do so, with 29% taking the contrary position and 12% uncertain. Topline data only are available at:

Religion and mental health

Religious nones are more likely to have had personal experience of mental health problems (including anxiety and depression) than people of faith, according to an online poll by Populus among 2,038 Britons on 9-10 November 2016, the results of which have recently been released by Mind, the survey sponsor. The disparity, 39% for nones against 29% for both Christians and non-Christians, is perhaps driven by the younger age profile of nones. By contrast, Christians are disproportionately numerous among the over-65s, a cohort whose declared personal experience of mental health problems falls to 18% nationally. Nones also report an above-average incidence of mental health problems among friends and family. Summary figures are shown below, and the raw data are available in table 68 of the dataset at:

Mental health problems (%)


Christians Non-Christians

No religion

Personal experience of problems


29 29


Friends or family experience of problems


36 42


Any experience of problems


56 56


Archbishop of Canterbury and politics

The Archbishop of Canterbury (Justin Welby), who is a member of the House of Lords, recently said that the chances of finalizing a Brexit deal with the European Union before the target date of March 2019 are ‘infinitesimally small’. His intervention annoyed some MPs who suggested that he should stay out of the discussions. But, in an app-based poll reported by YouGov on 2 August 2017, the British public mostly sprang to the Archbishop’s defence. Just 26% of respondents considered he should speak only about religious issues. Two-thirds defended his right to comment on politics, divided between: 49% who said the Archbishop should speak on behalf of the Anglican communion on all matters relevant to it, including Brexit; 2% who judged he should speak on a wide range of issues but excluding Brexit; and 14% who wanted him to restrict his political forays to the House of Lords. The remaining 9% were unsure. Topline data only are available at:

Bridging the Reformation divide

Five centuries after the Reformation, the Catholic-Protestant divide in Western Europe has faded, according to a new multinational survey by the Pew Research Center. With funding from the Pew Charitable Trusts and the John Templeton Foundation, telephone interviews were conducted by GfK with nationally representative samples of 15 Western European countries between April and August 2017, including in Great Britain (where there were 1,841 respondents, 54% of whom were nominally Protestant and 17% Catholic).

The extent of the Catholic-Protestant divide was measured by a series of attitudinal and religiosity indicators, the British results of which are tabulated below. Interestingly, in something of a theological role reversal, far more British Protestants than Catholics now hold to the traditional Catholic position that both faith and good works are necessary to get into heaven. Martin Luther’s teaching on salvation by faith alone is believed by only one-quarter of the Protestants (and one-third of Catholics). Likewise, whereas the majority of Protestants assess that the two communities are more religiously similar than different, a plurality of Catholics still say the opposite, even though there is not that much to separate them in terms of claimed levels of religious observance. However, such perceived differences do not stand in the way of social integration for, almost universally, members of each community know people from the other and are willing to accept them as family members and neighbours. A detailed report and topline for all the countries surveyed is available at:

A comparable, but more detailed, survey on Catholic-Protestant relations was also undertaken in the United States, the report on which can be found at:

% (Great Britain) Protestants Catholics
Both good deeds and faith in God necessary to get into heaven



Faith in God only thing necessary to get into heaven



Religion very or somewhat important in personal life



Private prayer at least weekly



Churchgoing at least monthly



Know a person of the other religion



Willingness to accept persons of the other religion as family members



Willingness to accept persons of the other religion as neighbours



Catholics and Protestants religiously more similar than different



Catholics and Protestants religiously more different than similar



Pew Global Attitudes Survey

Further findings have been released from the Spring 2017 wave of the Pew Global Attitudes Survey. British fieldwork was undertaken by Kantar Public UK between 6 March and 3 April 2017, 1,066 adults aged 18 and over being interviewed by telephone.

Asked whether they endorsed several of US President Donald Trump’s policies, 58% of Britons disapproved of proposed tighter restrictions on those entering the US from some majority-Muslim countries, four points below the global median and two points below the European median. Approval was expressed by 35% (compared with 36% in Europe as a whole and 32% in the world), rising to 52% of Britons on the political right (against 11% on the left). Disapproval in Britain of this particular Trump policy was identical to that of US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear weapons agreement but lower than opposition to US withdrawal from major trade agreements (72%), US withdrawal from international climate change agreements (80%), and building a wall on the US-Mexico border (83%). Topline data are available at:

Presented with a list of eight international threats to the UK, 70% of Britons ranked Islamic State (IS) the greatest major threat, increasing to 79% among over-50s. The next major threats to the UK were seen as cyberattacks from other countries (61%) and global climate change (59%). British concerns about IS were lower than in some other Western democracies, including France (88%), Spain (88%), Italy (85%), Greece (79%), Germany (77%), and United States (74%). They were also nine points less than they had been in Britain a year earlier, although it should be noted that the 2017 fieldwork was conducted before the Islamist attacks in Manchester and London in May and June, respectively, which caused numerous fatalities. Topline data are available at:

Communicating with the dead

A psychic has claimed recently that she has communicated with the late Princess Diana. However, just 10% of Britons think that psychics can genuinely communicate with the dead, according to an app-based poll by YouGov on 7 August 2017, for which 3,207 adults were interviewed. The proportion was higher for women than men and for manual workers than non-manuals, but it was highest of all among UKIP voters (17%). Almost three-quarters of the whole sample disbelieved in the ability of psychics to communicate with the dead, divided between 48% who said the psychics were knowingly lying to people and 25% who felt they really believed what they were doing. The remaining 17% of respondents were undecided. Full results by demographics are available at:


Just over one-quarter of British adults (28%) believe in omens, the highest proportions among women (37%) and UKIP voters (38%). One-half do not believe while 22% are undecided. The full results, which derive from an app-based YouGov survey on 31 August 2017 with 4,294 respondents, are at:


Community role of churches

The social role of churches is largely invisible to the general public, according to an online survey by OnePoll of 4,500 UK adults in February 2017 on behalf of Ecclesiastical Insurance Group, which has recently released a few results. Three-quarters of respondents could not name any of the activities which took place inside their local church other than religious services held regularly or at festivals. Residents of North-West England were amongst the least knowledgeable and rural dwellers the most. Prompted with a list of community activities offered by churches around the country, 54% were still unaware of those which their own local church provided, the proportion reaching 65% among over-55s and 83% of 18-25-year-olds. The full data have not been published, but Ecclesiastical’s press release (from which this report has been compiled, together with a few additional details in the Church of England Newspaper, 25 August 2017, p. 1), is available at:

Chaplaincy (1)

Theos think tank has published two local studies of chaplaincy, based on quantitative research (via an online survey) between October 2016 and March 2017. The statistics relate to chaplaincies which could be identified and responded to the survey, so the picture in both cases is unlikely to be complete. Copies of Mapping Chaplaincy in Norfolk: A Report and Mapping Chaplaincy in Cornwall: A Report can be found at, respectively:

Chaplaincy (2)

Meanwhile, Humanists UK (formerly the British Humanist Association) have published a third tranche of results from their online poll by YouGov on 28-29 July 2016, demonstrating (it is suggested) wide public demand for the Non-Religious Pastoral Support Network which Humanists UK have just launched. Of the 4,085 adults interviewed, 69% agreed that prisons, hospitals, and universities with chaplains on the establishment should also have a dedicated non-religious pastoral support provider, including 73% of religious nones and 66% of persons of faith. In the event of being unhappy, distressed, or concerned at some point in the future, 42% said they would be likely to avail themselves of the services of a non-religious pastoral support provider, compared with 36% who would consult a chaplain. Nones (73%) were particularly unlikely to want to see a chaplain under such hypothetical circumstances, significantly above the national average of 49%, and they were also far less likely than Christians to have done so in the past. Many Christians (39%) and non-Christians (46%) would not be averse to seeing a non-religious pastoral support worker. In creating its new Network, Humanists UK have consciously decided to avoid using the term humanist chaplain since Britons overwhelmingly (83%) equate chaplaincy with Christianity. A summary of this particular section of the poll’s findings, with a link to the full data tables, is available at:

Gender pay gap

In compliance with Government requirements for all large employers, the Church of England has published details of the gender pay gap among the 452 employees of its National Church Institutions (NCIs). Results were separately reported for the Church Commissioners investment team (where a performance-related pay scheme is in operation) and the rest (the overwhelming majority) of NCI staff. In the case of the latter, there was a 41% disparity of men over women for median salary, reflecting the concentration of women in the lowest quartile pay band (where they represented 74% of the staff, dropping to 36% in the uppermost quartile). The report is available at:

Scottish church census, 2016

Headline findings from the 2016 Scottish church census, the fourth in a series since 1984, were featured in the April 2016 edition of Counting Religion in Britain. A book painting a fuller picture of the results has now been published: Peter Brierley, Growth Amidst Decline: What the 2016 Scottish Church Census Revealed (Tonbridge: ADBC Publishers, 2017, 215pp., ISBN: 978-0-9957646-0-6, £9.99, paperback). The ten chapters profile churchgoers in 2016 by age, gender, ethnicity, geography, churchmanship, and other characteristics; and analyse church leadership, midweek attendance, the age of churches, and replies to various sponsored questions on the census form. As befits a project commissioned and overseen by a consortium of Scottish Churches, most chapters end with a section ‘so what does all this say?’ There is also a concluding ‘making sense of all this’, aimed at individual congregations. An appendix briefly considers the methodology of the census and presents additional tables, and even more will be included in the forthcoming 2018 edition of UK Church Statistics, also by Brierley. The webpage of Growth Amidst Decline, with details on ordering a copy, is at:


The August 2017 issue of FutureFirst, the bimonthly bulletin of Brierley Consultancy, contains the usual mix of short and long articles about social and religious statistics. The longer pieces of British religious interest this time cover: a slow-down in Pentecostal church growth; an overview of recent research on parents passing on faith to their children; estimates of Scottish churchgoers by age over time; estimates of religious and secular funerals since 1995; and Christmas attendance in the Church of England. Further details are available from A version of the funeral article also appeared as Brierley’s monthly column in Church of England Newspaper, 25 August 2017, p. 10.

Antisemitism Barometer

The Campaign against Antisemitism (CAA) has published results and analysis from online surveys which were conducted in 2016 and 2017 among samples of Britons and British Jews aged 18 and over. Britons were members of YouGov’s 800,000-strong panel, 1,660 being interviewed on 18-19 August 2016 and 1,614 on 2-3 August 2017. The two Jewish samples were self-selecting, recruited by CAA via Jewish seed organizations and online networks, which were then used to initiate a snowballing process. They thus constituted non-probability convenience samples, with 1,857 respondents between 17 August and 18 September 2016 and 2,025 between 19 July and 8 August 2017. Results were weighted according to the profile of the Jewish population in the 2011 census and the 2013 National Jewish Community Survey. Full details of methodology and data tables are contained in the 110-page Antisemitism Barometer, 2017, which is available at:

Britons were presented with a list of seven anti-Semitic stereotypes and asked which they considered definitely or probably true. Just over one-third (36%) agreed with one or more of the statements in 2017, down from 45% in 2015 and 39% in 2016. On this criterion, the most anti-Semitic groups in 2017 were: Roman Catholics (52%), readers of The Sun or The Star newspapers (47%), over-65s (46%), men (42%), and leave voters in the 2016 referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union (42%). No individual stereotype was subscribed to by more than 20% of the whole sample (this being that British Jews chase money more than other British people). Just 12% of interviewees had definitely not met a Jewish person but 34% were unsure whether they had or not.

One-third of the Jews in 2017 claimed to have considered leaving the UK during the previous two years on account of anti-Semitism, 21% disagreed that Jews had a long-term future in the country, and 17% felt unwelcome here. Just over one-third (37%) avoided showing visible signs of their Judaism when outside the home. Almost two-thirds (64%) disagreed that the authorities were doing enough to address and punish anti-Semitism, with 42% having no confidence that, if they reported an anti-Semitic hate crime, it would be prosecuted if there was sufficient evidence. Overwhelmingly (83%), Jews deemed that the Labour Party was too tolerant of anti-Semitism in its midst, although Islamist anti-Semitism (ranked first by 48%) was a rather greater concern than that from the far left (ranked first by 29%).

Coverage of the Antisemitism Barometer, 2017 in the Jewish media was quite brief and muted, and various reservations about the Jewish samples and the CAA’s overall approach to researching anti-Semitism were expressed by sociologist Keith Kahn-Harris in a column in the Jewish Chronicle for 25 August 2017 (p. 8), which can be read at:

A blazing row also erupted between the CAA and Simon Johnson, CEO of the Jewish Leadership Council, after the latter posted a video blog (since taken down) lambasting CAA’s survey of Jews as tantamount to scaremongering. The controversy was covered in the online edition of the Jewish News at:


Religion of prisoners

‘Catholic Inmates Outnumber Anglicans for the First Time’, proclaimed the headline in The Times for 14 August 2017 (p. 22), calling into question, the newspaper’s correspondent argued, the privileged role of the Church of England in the prison service, including its monopoly in holding the post of chaplain-general of the service. Underlying this news report was the latest collation of quarterly Offender Management Statistics, one of whose documents tabulated the religious affiliation of the prison population (85,863 persons) as at 30 June 2017. Headline results (excluding the small number of religion unrecorded) are shown below, but the full spreadsheet, with data disaggregated by gender (albeit not age), can be found via the link at:


% June 2017

% change since June 2016





Roman Catholic












Other Christian




Other non-Christian




Visitor attractions

The 62 places of worship included in VisitEngland’s 2016 survey of major visitor attractions did not have an especially good year. Visitor numbers at them were down by 8% on 2015 levels and by 12% for those charging for admission (perhaps in reaction to an average 18% hike in their ticket prices). This compared with an annual increase of 2% for all visitor attractions in England. The fall was driven by some of the larger places of worship, especially in London, notably Westminster Abbey (-28%), where a 2012 Olympic Games boost had worn off. Outside the capital, sharp reductions in visitors were reported by Leicester Cathedral (-29%), after a spike caused by the reinterment there of the remains of King Richard III, and Guildford Cathedral (-30%). Gross revenue at the places of worship likewise fell by 1% against a rise of 7% for all attractions. Visitor Attraction Trends in England, 2016: Full Report, prepared by BDRC Continental on behalf of VisitEngland, is available at:

Scottish marriages, 2016

Scotland’s Population: The Registrar General’s Annual Review of Demographic Trends, 2016 includes the number of marriages conducted in Scotland in 2016 by manner of solemnization. Of 29,229 marriages in all, 15,066 (51.5%) were civil ceremonies, 5,260 (18.0%) humanist, 3,675 (12.6%) Church of Scotland, and 1,346 (4.6%) Roman Catholic. For the full list, plus trend data, see Tables 7.05-7.07 at:

Religious Studies GCE A Levels

There were 26,086 entries for GCE A Level Religious Studies (RS) in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland in the June 2017 examinations, according to the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ). This represented a decrease of 3.5% on the 2016 total compared with a decrease of 1.0% for all subjects and of 1.7% in the 18-year-old population. The number of RS entries had previously risen steadily since the Millennium, there being only 9,532 in 2001. More than seven in ten candidates for RS in 2017 were female, 16 points more than the mean for all subjects. The proportion of RS examinees securing a pass at A* to C grade was 80.8%, against 77.4% for all subjects, although there were fewer than average RS successes at A*. Additionally, there were 19,027 entries for GCE AS Level RS, 50.6% less than in 2016, AS Levels generally rapidly losing ground in consequence of ongoing reform of the examination system. Full provisional tables for both A and AS Level, showing breaks by gender and grade within home nation, are available, together with an important note and press release outlining changes affecting comparability of results year-on-year, at:

Religious Studies GCSE O Levels

The results for GCSE O Level RS were released by the JCQ the week after the A Level data were published. There were 282,193 entries for the full course GCSE in RS in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland in June 2017, a decrease of 4.7% on 2016 (and the first fall in a decade) compared with an increase of 3.9% in entries for all subjects. A much smaller proportion of candidates for GCSE O Level RS was female (54.1%) than for GCE A Level RS. The cumulative number obtaining a pass between A* and C for the full course GCSE O Level RS was 71.3%, five points more than the average across all subjects. The short course in GCSE O Level RS (equivalent to half a GCSE) continued its steep decline, with 23.5% fewer candidates in June 2017 than in June 2016, in line with the progressive disappearance of short courses generally. Full tables, again with an important note and press release outlining changes in the examination system affecting year-on-year comparability, are available at:


Religion and voting

The latest blog by Ben Clements on the BRIN website concerns religious affiliation and party choice at the 2017 British general election. It is based on a cross-sectional analysis of the post-election wave (number 13) of the British Election Study (BES) Internet Panel, 2014-18, online fieldwork for which was conducted by YouGov between 9 and 23 June 2017. There was a wide variation in support for the two main political parties among the principal religious groups. For example, the Conservative Party secured the votes of 63% of Jews, 58% of Anglicans, 40% of Catholics, and just 11% of Muslims. The blog, which also includes trend data from previous BES surveys, is at:

In a separate exercise, on behalf of Clive Field (who is preparing a lecture and article on the electoral behaviour of British Methodists between 1832 and 2017), Clements has tabulated the self-reported voting of professing Methodists at the last four general elections, again using the BES Internet Panel. These statistics are shown below:

% down


2010 2015




40 39




31 33


Liberal Democrat


21 13




8 15


By way of footnote to this item, we should flag James Tilley’s ‘We Don’t Do God? Religion and Vote Choice in Britain’ in More Sex, Lies & the Ballot Box: Another 50 Things You Need to Know about Elections, edited by Philip Cowley and Robert Ford (London: Biteback Publishing, 2016, ISBN: 978-1-78590-090-7), pp. 25-9. Using British Social Attitudes Survey data for 1983-2014, Tilley contends that religion is still a good predictor of vote choices, even after controlling for demographic factors and value scales. The denominational patterns which he has detected (Anglicans predisposed to the Conservatives, Catholics to Labour, and so forth) mirror those found in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, electoral preferences being transmitted from one generation to the next. This brief chapter is distilled from a longer article by Tilley in the British Journal of Political Science in 2015, which has already been covered by BRIN.    

Human rights and equality laws

In Politics, Religion, and Ideology, Vol. 18, No. 1, 2017, pp. 73-88, Kingsley Purdam, Sariya Cheruvallil-Contractor, Nazila Ghanea, and Paul Weller continue their reporting of research into religious discrimination based on the replies of 499 religious organizations to a postal and online questionnaire in 2010-11: ‘Religious Organizations and the Impact of Human Rights and Equality Laws in England and Wales’. The core of the article comprises five tables which quantify responses from the larger faith traditions regarding: the perceived helpfulness of equality legislation and policies in reducing unfair treatment of religious people, facilitating the working of religious organizations, and advancing participation of religious people in British society; and support for exemptions from such legislation for religious organizations in relation to religion or belief. The authors found that ‘equality is variously understood and many religious organizations give only limited recognition to certain legally protected characteristics including gender, sexual orientation and also the identities of other religious organizations’. Access options to the article are outlined at:

Religious education and community cohesion

After controlling for contextual, psychological, and religious factors, researchers have found a small but statistically significant association between taking religious education as an examination subject and higher scores on the scale of attitudes towards religious diversity. Fieldwork was conducted in 2011-12 as part of the Young People’s Attitudes to Religious Diversity Project among 3,052 Year 9 and 10 students from state-maintained schools in England, Wales, and London who self-identified as either Christians or religious nones. A full report appears in Leslie Francis, Tania ap Siôn, Ursula McKenna, and Gemma Penny, ‘Does Religious Education as an Examination Subject Work to Promote Community Cohesion? An Empirical Enquiry among 14- to 15-Year-Old Adolescents in England and Wales’, British Journal of Religious Education, Vol. 39, No. 3, 2017, pp. 303-16. Access options to this article are outlined at:

Discrimination in Scotland

One-third of black and minority ethnic residents of Scotland feel they have experienced discrimination in the last two years, and 44% of this sub-group think that it was on the grounds of their religion. The full sample of 508 respondents, interviewed over the telephone by Survation between 12 June and 17 July 2017 on behalf of Nasar Meer of the University of Edinburgh, was asked a series of questions about their experience of and attitudes to discrimination in Scotland. Results were disaggregated by a range of variables including religious affiliation, although it should be noted that, Muslims apart (n = 257), cell sizes for individual faiths were small. Full data tables are available at:

Yearbook of International Religious Demography

The 2017 edition (Vol. 4) of the Yearbook of International Religious Demography has been published by Brill, edited by Brian Grim, Todd Johnson, Vegard Skirbekk, and Gina Zurlo (xxiv + 257pp., ISBN: 978-90-04-34627-7, €85, paperback). Its contents follow the usual format: global and continental religious data in part I (chapters 1-2); case studies and methodology in part II (chapters 3-9); and data sources in part III (chapter 10). Figures for world religions by country are given in an appendix (pp. 221-49). Although none of the case studies focuses on Britain alone, two relate to Europe more generally: Antonius Liedhegener and Anastas Odermatt on religious affiliation and religious plurality, which introduces the SMRE project, the ‘Swiss Metadatabase of Religious Affiliation in Europe’ (chapter 6); and Michaela Potančoková, Marcin Stonawski, and Anna Krysińska on the effect of increased numbers of asylum seekers on Muslim populations in 2010-15 (chapter 7). The book’s webpage is at:

More information about the SMRE project may be found at:

Victorian statistical rhetoric

Miriam Elizabeth Burstein offers an interesting case study of Victorian attitudes to religious statistics in her ‘“In Ten Years there is an Increase of 450 Priests of Antichrist”: Quantification, Anti-Catholicism, and The Bulwark’, Journal of British Studies, Vol. 56, No. 3, July 2017, pp. 580-604. The Bulwark, published continuously by the Scottish Reformation Society since 1851, was arguably the most influential anti-Catholic periodical of the second half of the nineteenth century, a reputation built on its self-proclaimed devotion to ‘facts’ in demonstrating, through its ‘weaponized statistical discourses’, the religious and social threat which Roman Catholicism posed to the nation. Protestants alone, and only Protestants of the proper theological orientation, were deemed by The Bulwark to speak authoritatively in matters of numbers. Some contextual information about more general ecclesiastical views on quantification is also provided by Burstein, including in connection with the 1851 religious census. Access options to the article are outlined at:

Qualifying secularization

Without denying ‘the steep decline in religious practice, belief, and commitment’, Daniel Loss argues for ‘The Institutional Afterlife of Christian England’ and the absence of a secular society during the second half of the twentieth century. He finds this persistent Christianity reflected in enduring links between the mainstream Churches and the government and public bodies on the one hand (especially over education and broadcasting) and in ‘popular interest in Christianity as a cultural resource’ on the other (Grace Davie’s model of ‘vicarious religion’ is invoked). Particular importance is attached to the role of the Church of England, which is characterized as tolerant, progressive, and inclusive, its image one of ‘bland inoffensiveness’ and ‘harmlessness’. As with much scholarly writing on secularization, whether from pessimistic or optimistic schools, the author tends to claim too much for the primary evidence (which, in this instance, peters out in the 1970s). He also fails to deploy sample surveys to demonstrate precisely how, ‘stripped of its denominational distinctiveness, English Christianity increasingly became a matter of cultural identity rather than orthodox belief or practice’. Access options to the article, published in Journal of Modern History (Vol. 89, No. 2, June 2017, pp. 282-313), are outlined at:

Please note: Counting Religion in Britain is © Clive D. Field, 2017


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Religious Affiliation and Party Choice at the 2017 General Election

This post looks at how religious groups voted in the June 2017 general election. As with previous BRIN posts on this topic, it uses data from the British Election Study. Specifically, it uses the 2017 post-election wave (number 13) of the British Election Study Internet Panel 2014-18. The fieldwork was conducted by YouGov between 9-23 June 2017. The survey has a sample size of 31,196. Theset data and accompanying documentation were obtained from the BES website. The data were weighted and analysed on a cross-sectional basis.

Figure 1 presents the breakdown of the vote at the June general election based on religious affiliation. It shows the proportions voting Conservative, Labour, or for other parties combined. The traditional support of Anglicans for the Conservative Party is reaffirmed (58% voted for the Tories compared to 28% for Labour). The distribution of the vote amongst Catholics further highlights the declining support they have given to Labour at recent general elections, given their historical tendency to vote for that party. In 2017, 42% of the Catholic vote went to Labour, just ahead of the 40% that went to the Conservative Party.

Amongst Methodists, Baptists and those who identified as Church of Scotland, pluralities supported the Conservative Party. Amongst other Christians, support for Labour eclipsed that for the Conservatives (42% versus 38%).

Muslims voted overwhelmingly for Labour, with 85% having preferred for Jeremy Corbyn’s party, and 11% supported the Conservatives. Majorities, albeit somewhat reduced, voted Labour at the 2005-2015 general elections. Amongst Jews, a strong majority expressed support for the Conservative Party (63%), with around a quarter (26%) saying they voted for Labour. This builds on the plurality support for the Conservative Party shown by Jewish voters at the 2005-2015 general elections. Labour also received a plurality of the vote amongst those belonging to other religions (48%) and those with no religious affiliation (47%). Amongst these two groups, the Conservative vote share was, respectively, 33% and 32%.


Figure 1 Voting at the 2017 general election by religious affiliation

Source: Author’s analysis of British Election Study Internet Panel 2014-2018, wave 13.


Putting the recent voting behaviour of Anglicans and Catholics in long-term perspective, Figure 2 and Figure 3 show the party vote shares amongst, respectively, Anglicans and Catholics between 1959 and 2017 (based on data from BES studies). Figure 2 shows the tendency of Anglicans to have expressed greater support for the Conservative Party at most post-war general elections.


Figure 2 Voting at general elections by Anglicans, 1959-2017Source: Author’s analysis of BES surveys.


Figure 3 shows the traditionally strong party-denominational links between the Catholic community and Labour. The higher levels of support amongst Catholics for Labour compared to the Conservatives (the exception is the 1979 election) are apparent, but support amongst has declined at recent elections. Support for the Conservatives has correspondingly increased at those elections.


Figure 3 Voting at general elections by Catholics, 1959-2017

Source: Author’s analysis of BES surveys.


Based on data from the BES and – where available – Scottish General Election Studies, Figure 4 shows that support for Labour has traditionally been considerably higher amongst Catholics in Scotland compared to those in England. However, in 2015, a ‘sea change’ general election in Scotland, there was a substantial drop in support for Labour amongst Catholics in Scotland. For the first time, in 2015, support for Labour amongst Catholics in England was slightly higher than that recorded in Scotland, and this was also the case in the 2017 general election (43% in England and 35% in Scotland). Though support for Labour was declining amongst Catholics in Scotland in the years prior to the 2015 election.


Figure 4 Vote share for Labour amongst Catholics in England and Scotland, 1970-2017

Source: Author’s analysis of BES and SGES surveys.

Fieldhouse, E., J. Green., G. Evans., H. Schmitt, C. van der Eijk, J. Mellon and C. Prosser (2017) British Election Study Internet Panel Wave 13. DOI: 10.15127/1.293723.

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Counting Religion in Britain, July 2017

Counting Religion in Britain, No. 22, July 2017 features 12 new sources. It can be read in full below. Alternatively, you can download the PDF version: No 22 July 2017


Trust in religious figures

Only a minority (22%) of 1,000 adult Britons interviewed online in February 2017 by nfpSynergy claimed to trust the views of senior religious figures when they commented on UK policy, placing them ninth out of fifteen professional groups. The corresponding statistic in 2016 was 19%. A plurality (47%) of the public in 2017 did not trust senior religious figures very much (29%) or at all (18%) while 32% were not sure what to think. The groups most trusted to comment on UK policy were healthcare professionals (66%), scientists (62%), and academics at universities (50%). The study was undertaken as part of the Charity Awareness Monitor and topline results can be downloaded from:

Extremist figures

The Evangelical Alliance recently commissioned ComRes to undertake a survey of British attitudes towards extremism, 2,004 adults being interviewed online on 7-9 July 2017. One of the questions asked respondents whether they regarded seven historical leaders and one contemporary leader as extreme. The list comprised a mix of secular and religious figures. The three individuals who topped the extremism list were secular leaders with a reputation for violent action. Of the remaining five, Jesus Christ was most regarded as extreme, by 28% of the whole sample, peaking at 34% of 18-24s. Three-fifths judged He was not extreme, compared with 72% who said the same about the Dalai Lama, who was viewed as extreme by just 13%. Summary results are tabulated below, with the full findings available at:

Regard as extreme, % across




Pol Pot








Che Guevara








Martin Luther King




Nelson Mandela








Dalai Lama




Welsh religious affiliation

It is not often that BRIN can report on a sample survey confined to Wales, but a question about religious affiliation was included in a recently-released ComRes poll for Be Reasonable (a group campaigning against Welsh Government plans to criminalize parents who smack their children). Online interviews were conducted with 1,019 adults in Wales between 13 and 25 January 2017. Overall, 54% of Welsh respondents professed to be Christian, rising to 71% of persons aged 55-64 and 75% of over-65s. Religious nones amounted to 39% but reached 51% for those aged 25-44, who were most likely to be bringing up children, thereby (presumably) negatively impacting the intergenerational transmission of faith. This was more than double the proportion of nones among over-55s (24%). Non-Christians numbered 6%. For additional demographic breakdown, see table 5/1 at:

Scottish religious affiliation

The number of Scots professing no religion stands at a record level, according to initial findings from the latest Scottish Social Attitudes (SSA) Survey, for which 1,237 adults were interviewed face-to-face by ScotCen Social Research between July and December 2016. In that year, 58% of the population of Scotland described themselves as having no religion, an increase of 18 points over 1999, when the first SSA was conducted, and surpassing the previous high of 54% in 2013. Among the under-35s, the proportion rose to 74% compared with 34% for the over-65s (albeit still 11 points more than in 1999). In terms of denominations and faiths, the Church of Scotland has lost most ground since 1999, from 35% to 18%, mirroring the scale of loss of market share experienced by the Church of England south of the border, as reflected in British Social Attitudes Surveys. Scottish adherents of Roman Catholicism (10% in 2016), other Christian faiths (11%), and non-Christian faiths (2%) have remained fairly stable over time. ScotCen’s press release and two tables of trend data can be found at:

Islam and British values

A plurality of Britons (44%) continues to believe there is a fundamental clash between Islam and the values of British society, the proportion peaking among over-65s (57%) and Conservatives (62%). Only 29% of the whole population contend that Islam is generally compatible with British values, Liberal Democrat voters being the most optimistic (50%), while 26% of Britons are undecided. Data derive from the latest YouGov@Cambridge tracker, for which 1,637 adults were interviewed online on 15-16 June 2017. Full breaks by demographics are available by clicking on the relevant link in the tracker summary at:

Anti-Semitic attitudes

The Anti-Defamation League has updated its global index of anti-Semitism by commissioning new public opinion research in Great Britain, France, and Germany, 500 adults aged 18 and over being interviewed in each country by telephone between 16 January and 27 February 2017. Anti-Semitism was defined as agreement with at least six of eleven negative stereotypes about Jews. One-tenth of Britons emerged as anti-Semitic on this criterion, compared with 11% in Germany and 14% in France. The British figure was higher than in 2014 (8%) and lower than in 2015 (12%), but it would be unwise to read too much into these trend data, given the relatively small sample sizes. Anti-Semitism in Britain was at its greatest among those who: were negative about their personal financial situation (13%); attended religious services weekly (15%); were unfavourable to Muslims (17%); had never met a Jewish person (18%); were significantly influenced by the actions of Israel in their opinions of Jews (29%); and knew a lot of people who felt negatively about Jews (31%). Individual stereotypes commanding the greatest support in Britain were that Jews are more loyal to Israel than their own country (held by 32% of the population) and Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust (20%). Four-fifths of Britons believed the treatment of Jews to be excellent or good, although 49% had concerns about violence directed at Jews and 26% detected more anti-Semitic rhetoric in politics recently. A report of the survey, which also included a few questions about attitudes towards Muslims, can be found at:

Perceptions of Israel

The Anti-Defamation League survey demonstrated that anti-Semitic attitudes are often inextricably linked with anti-Israel views. Confirmation of Israel’s relatively poor standing among Britons has also come in a country ratings study by GlobeScan and the University of Maryland for the BBC World Service. Fieldwork was undertaken in 19 nations between 26 December 2016 and 27 April 2017, including in Britain, where telephone interviews with 1,001 adults aged 18 and over were conducted by Populus between 27 January and 19 February 2017. Two-thirds of Britons said that Israel has a mainly negative influence in the world, 16 points more than the global mean, compared with just one-quarter viewing it positively, the same proportion as the global mean. This was a complete reversal of the position in the United States where 59% judged Israel’s influence to be mainly positive and 28% mainly negative. However, British opinions have softened somewhat since the previous study in 2014, when 72% took a mainly negative view of Israel’s influence and 19% a mainly positive one. Topline results for all the 16 countries rated (plus the European Union) can be found at:


Synagogue membership

There were 454 synagogues in the UK in 2016, supposedly the highest number on record, three-quarters of them in Greater London and the adjacent areas of South Hertfordshire and South-West Essex. However, household synagogue memberships have declined by 20% since 1990 and by 4% since 2010 (when the last census of synagogues was conducted). The decrease in memberships since 1990 was steepest among the Central Orthodox (-37%), contrasting with growth of 139% for the Strict Orthodox. An estimated 56% of households across the UK containing at least one Jew held synagogue membership in 2016, albeit the proportion was significantly lower in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. The overwhelming majority (96%) of synagogue members lived in England and half belonged to synagogues in just five areas: Barnet, Westminster, Hertsmere, Redbridge, and Stamford Hill. The census was undertaken by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research between April and September 2016 on behalf of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and full results can be found in the 43-page report by Donatella Casale Mashiah and Jonathan Boyd, Synagogue Membership in the United Kingdom in 2016, which is available at:

Boyd also wrote commentaries on the report for the Jewish News (6 July 2017, p. 4) and The Jewish Chronicle (7 July 2017, p. 41) at, respectively:

Coincidentally, The Jewish Chronicle (21 July 2017, p. 18) published the headline findings from a telephone poll of 783 professing Jews by Survation about the main reasons for belonging to a synagogue. The top reason was to pray, given by 29% overall, including 35% of men, 37% of under-35s, and 39% in the North-West. This was followed by joining a burial society and thus acquiring burial rights (25%), which was especially popular among over-55s (32%). The social aspect was in third place (19% for all respondents and 22% for women). Data tables are not yet available, but the newspaper’s coverage can be read at:

Anti-Semitic incidents

The Community Security Trust’s Antisemitic Incidents, January-June 2017 records 767 such incidents in the UK during this half-year, representing an increase of 30% on the corresponding total (589) for the same period in 2016, which was itself 18% up on January-June 2015. This is the highest figure which the Trust has ever registered for January-June in any year since it first started logging anti-Semitic incidents in 1984. From April 2016 there has now been a run of 15 months with more than 100 incidents each month. No single trigger event can be identified to explain the rise in incidents; rather, the Trust highlights the cumulative effect of various long-term factors. The impact of improved reporting of incidents is acknowledged but is not thought likely to account for the full extent of the increase. Eighty of the incidents involved assaults. Antisemitic Incidents, January-June 2017 is available at:


Civil service

Data on the religion or belief of Civil Service employees as at 31 March 2017 have revealed that 23.1% were Christians, 4.8% non-Christians, 14.1% religious nones, with 58.1% undeclared. Breaks were given by department and responsibility level (pay grade). Spreadsheets for 2017 and 2016 can be found at:

Anti-Semitic crimes

The volunteer-led charity Campaign against Antisemitism has published its second National Antisemitic Crime Audit, based on data for 2016 obtained under the Freedom of Information Act from all 49 police forces in the United Kingdom. The 73-page report (mostly comprising statistical tables) claims this was ‘the worst year on record’ for anti-Semitic crimes, with 1,078 logged, representing an increase of 15% on 2015 and 45% on 2014. About one in ten of these crimes in 2016 involved violence, a reduction on the number in the two preceding years. The proportion of all anti-Semitic crimes resulting in charges was 8% in 2016, down by one-third on 2014 and 2015, with one-half of all police forces not charging a single anti-Semitic crime. The number of crimes resulting in prosecution was just 15 in 2016. The report notes that the accurate recording of data about anti-Semitic crime, both by the police and the Crown Prosecution Service, still represents a work in progress. This would suggest some caution in deducing trends at this comparatively early stage of data collection and analysis, a caution which is not always exercised by the authors of the report. The document can be found at:


SN 8202: British Election Study, 2015: Internet Panel, Waves 1-6

The British Election Study is a long-running source of data about electoral behaviour and political attitudes. In recent general elections, an internet panel has supplemented the traditional face-to-face cross-section, and this has the advantage of enabling a very much larger sample to be recruited, incorporating a substantial panel component, with fieldwork taking place in successive waves before and after the general election concerned. The 2015 internet panel survey was undertaken (between 20 February 2014 and 26 May 2015) by YouGov on behalf of an academic team from the Universities of Manchester, Nottingham, and Oxford and with funding from the Economic and Social Research Council. There were approximately 30,000 respondents at each wave, including a national cross-section of around 21,000 electors. Religious affiliation is one of YouGov’s standard demographics, and, as sundry BRIN posts by Ben Clements have already demonstrated, it can be used as a variable for examining answers to the political questions. A catalogue description of the dataset is available at:

Please note: Counting Religion in Britain is © Clive D. Field, 2017

Posted in News from religious organisations, Official data, Religion and Politics, Religion in public debate, Religious prejudice, Survey news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Counting Religion in Britain, June 2017

Counting Religion in Britain, No. 21, June 2017 features 23 new sources. It can be read in full below. Alternatively, you can download the PDF version: No 21 June 2017


Religion and the general election

The actual political alignment of the principal religious groups at the general election held on 8 June 2017 was recorded by Lord Ashcroft in a poll of 14,384 electors who had voted by post or in person. Fieldwork was conducted in Britain (excluding Northern Ireland) on 6-9 June through a combination of telephone and online interviews. As the table below indicates, Christians were disproportionately likely to support the Conservatives, largely a function of the older age profile of Christians, while non-Christians and religious nones were inclined to favour Labour. The pro-Labour stance of non-Christians, which was far greater than in 2015, tracked the traditional pro-Labour allegiance of black and minority ethnic communities, albeit it was ten points less than the 2017 BME figure (as a consequence of the strongly pro-Conservative leanings of Jews). The pro-Labour stance of nones reflected their relative youth and Labour’s success in 2017 in reaching out to young people generally. The distribution of all votes is naturally affected by the collapse in UKIP support since 2015. A substantial minority of all the faith groups indicated that they had made up their minds about how to vote within a week of polling day: 33% of Christians, 38% of non-Christians, and 34% of nones. Data tables are available at:

% down

All voters

Christians Non-Christians

Religious Nones

2017 general election


51.5 27.7




31.2 56.8


Liberal Democrat


8.5 8.6




3.1 1.2


Another party


5.7 5.6


2015 general election(recalled vote)


44.9 30.2




26.3 42.6


Liberal Democrat


8.4 10.0




13.8 7.6


Another party


6.7 9.7


Meanwhile, two pre-election polls by Opinium Research had investigated the voting intentions and attitudes to political issues of members of the UK’s black and ethnic minorities. Online fieldwork was conducted between 2 and 7 May and between 30 May and 1 June with, respectively, 511 and 607 respondents. The answers to all questions were disaggregated by religious affiliation, with the sub-samples of Christians (29% averaged across the two surveys), Muslims (28%), and religious nones (28%) being sufficiently large to be statistically robust. Full data tables can be accessed via the links in the blog post at:

Personal religious beliefs of politicians

One casualty of the 2017 general election was Tim Farron. Although re-elected to Parliament, he stood down as leader of the Liberal Democrats immediately afterwards, citing the difficulty of reconciling his Christian beliefs with serving as a political leader, his views on whether or not homosexuality is a sin having become a focus of the initial stages of the election campaign. Asked more generically, in an online poll by YouGov on 15 June 2017, about politicians who found their party’s ideology at odds with their personal religious views, 46% of the 5,526 Britons questioned felt that politicians should stay true to their religious convictions compared with 20% wanting them to privilege the party ideology (the remaining 34% were undecided). Conservatives (59%) and over-65s (62%) particularly wanted politicians to put their religion first, whereas 18-24s (26%) and Liberal Democrats (27%) placed above-average emphasis on fidelity to party ideology. Results are available at:

Forces for good

Lord Ashcroft’s poll covered a range of other political issues, the results for which were disaggregated by the three principal religious groups. The following table shows the proportion of each ranking, on a scale running from 0 to 10, certain trends as a force for ill (0-4), a mixed blessing (5), or a force for good (6-10). The higher the mean score, the more positive the group was towards the trend concerned. Reflecting their relatively elderly profile, Christians emerged as the community with the least progressive views, their conservatism exemplified in their disproportionate enthusiasm for capitalism. The internet was seen as the most positive development by all groups, albeit nones were also especially attracted to the green movement.

Mean scores

All voters

Christians Non-Christians

Religious Nones



4.92 6.51


Social liberalism


5.16 6.29




6.01 6.39


Green movement


5.90 6.87




5.41 5.82




6.92 7.22




5.61 5.21




4.51 5.88


Religious affiliation

The most recent data on religious affiliation derive from an aggregate of five online Populus polls during May 2017 and the online component of Lord Ashcroft’s post-vote general election survey (noted above). The question was: ‘to which of the following religious groups do you consider yourself to be a member?’ Results are tabulated below.















Other non-Christian


No religion


Prefer not to say


N =



Marking its relaunch as Humanists UK, the British Humanist Association (BHA) has recently released the second tranche of findings from a survey it commissioned last year, for which 4,085 Britons aged 18 and over were interviewed online by YouGov on 28-29 July 2016. They revealed that 44% professed to belong to no religion, one-half being cradle nones and one-third raised as Anglicans. One-third of the whole sample met the BHA’s definition of being a humanist, as reflected in their selection of the humanist answer to three statement options (these answers were: ‘science and evidence provide the best way to understand the universe’; ‘what is right and wrong depends on the effects on people and the consequences for society and the world’; and ‘our empathy and compassion give an understanding of what is right and wrong’). The proportion meeting the definition varied significantly by age, from 46% of under-25s falling to 23% of over-55s. Of those fulfilling the criteria, 72% self-identified as humanists, 8% did not, with 19% uncertain. Interestingly, one-third of the sub-sample holding humanist beliefs actually claimed to belong to some religion, leading the BHA to conclude that 22% of the population are real humanists in (a) being non-religious and (b) subscribing to humanist beliefs. Full data tables can be accessed via the link in the press release at:


One-half of adults either believe in God (17%) or some form of god or spirit (33%), according to an app-based survey by YouGov published on 15 June 2017. The plurality (45%) believes there is no kind of god or spirit, only the material world, while 5% venture other replies. Topline results are available at:

The same proportion of the population as believe in God or a spirit, 50% of 5,526 Britons interviewed online by YouGov on 15 June 2017, still consider it appropriate that the national anthem includes references to God, just 22% saying it is wrong (with 28% uncertain). The greatest level of support for the divine appearance in the national anthem is recorded among UKIP voters (67%), Conservatives (68%), and over-65s (69%), while Labour voters (33%), Scots (36%), and Scottish Nationalists (46%) are most inclined to think it wrong for God to be invoked in the national anthem. Results, disaggregated by standard demographics, are at:

Faith-based schools

Government plans to abolish the present cap preventing new faith-based schools from recruiting more than half their pupils on religious grounds find little favour with the electorate, according to a Populus poll on behalf of the Accord Coalition, for which 2,033 Britons were interviewed online on 5-7 May 2017. Forced to choose, four-fifths of respondents supported the status quo, including majorities of adherents of the two denominations (Church of England and Roman Catholic Church) which have the most faith schools. Just 20% in both Britain and England agreed that new state-funded faith schools should be allowed to select up to 100% of their pupils on the basis of faith, albeit this option appealed to 33% of Catholics and even higher proportions of the rather small numbers of Muslims and Jews in the sample. Full data tables are available at:

Inter-faith relations

A majority (53%) of young people aged 18-24 sense that religious intolerance in Britain has increased during the past five years, according to an online poll of 1,002 of them undertaken by ICM Unlimited on behalf of Hope Not Hate and the National Union of Teachers between 30 May and 1 June 2017. Just 18% thought religious intolerance was decreasing, with 13% detecting no change and 16% undecided. Asked about relations between particular faith communities, 30% assessed that Christians and Muslims do not get along with each other, compared with 33% saying the same about people of no faith and Muslims, and 19% about people with no faith and people with faith. Data tables are available at:

Attitudes to Islam

In an eight-nation study for Handelsblatt, undertaken online by YouGov between 21 May and 6 June 2017, a plurality (47%) of the 1,974 Britons interviewed detected a fundamental clash between Islam and the values of their society. This was much the same proportion as in the United States (45%) and France (48%), albeit it fell short of the majorities recorded in Germany (53%), Sweden (56%), Denmark (59%), Norway (59%), and Finland (60%). Just under one-quarter (23%) of Britons perceived Islam as generally compatible with British values, while 15% agreed with neither option and 16% did not know what to think. Topline results are available on p. 23 of the data tables at:

Simultaneously, in YouGov’s app-based survey published on 21 June 2017, a majority of Britons acknowledged that British society was very (5%) or somewhat (54%) Islamophobic. A minority considered that it was not really (31%) or not at all (8%) Islamophobic. Topline results only are available at:

Islamist terrorism

In the wake of the deadly Islamist attacks in Manchester on 22 May and London on 3 June 2017, 52% of Britons thought most British Muslim leaders could be doing a lot more to stop British Muslims being radicalized and to combat terrorism. The proportion was especially high among over-65s and Conservatives (66% each) and UKIP voters (76%). Just under one-third (29%) of the 2,130 adults interviewed online by YouGov for The Times on 5-7 June 2017 believed the Muslim leadership was doing all it reasonably could while 19% were unable to express an opinion. In a supplementary question, 7% of respondents claimed to have had difficult or embarrassing conversations with Muslim friends or colleagues in recent years on the subject of extremism or terrorism, and this was especially likely to have been the case in London (12%). Full data tables are available at:

In a separate app-based poll by YouGov published on 6 June 2017, 75% of adults agreed that, in the light of recent terror attacks, Britain should be less tolerant of the rights of radical Islamists to express themselves. The topline result only is available at:

In the early hours of 19 June 2017, a van deliberately ploughed into worshippers who had just attended Ramadan prayers outside the Finsbury Park mosque in London, killing one person and injuring nine others. Eyewitness reports suggested that the van’s driver had vowed to kill Muslims. The authorities at the mosque criticized the media for initially failing to report the incident as terror-related. Quizzed online later the same day, 59% of 4,305 respondents to a YouGov app-based poll agreed that the attack outside the mosque could properly be described as an act of terrorism, with 23% dissenting and 18% uncertain. Results, with breaks by demographics, are available at:

Jewish opinions

In the May 2017 issue of Counting Religion in Britain, we reported on the initial results from a telephone poll of 515 self-identifying British Jews undertaken by Survation for the Jewish Chronicle on 21-26 May 2017. In its edition of 9 June 2017 (pp. 1-2), the newspaper headlined the findings from two additional questions. The first concerned the extent to which respondents were optimistic or pessimistic about the future of Jews in the UK; a plurality (47%) felt very or quite optimistic while 23% were pessimistic and 26% neutral on the subject. In the second question, the sample was asked whether they sensed that Israel was heading in the right or wrong direction under the leadership of its Prime Minister, Benjamin (‘Bibi’) Netanyahu; another plurality (41%) perceived the direction to be right against 33% saying it was wrong and 26% undecided. No data tables are in the public domain, as yet, but the newspaper’s coverage can be read at:


Methodist statistics for mission

Methodist membership in Britain has declined by 3.5% year-on-year during the decade to 31 October 2016, now standing at 188,398, according to the Methodist Church’s latest triennial Statistics for Mission report. Net losses over the triennium were split between recruitment losses (55%) and retention losses (45%). Average weekly (Sunday and weekday) attendances at services are 202,100, only 14% of whom are by young people, with an estimated 500,000 individuals present at non-service activities. The 22-page report is available at:

Christians against Poverty

Christians against Poverty (CAP)’s Client Report for 2016 draws upon the charity’s client databases and 1,217 responses to its annual debt help survey, undertaken by post and online between September and November 2016. Low income is the most frequently-cited cause of debt, followed by relationship breakdown and mental ill-health. The mean annual household income of CAP’s new clients in 2016 was £14,700, a real-terms decrease on the 2015 figure, compared with the national average of £26,300. The overwhelming majority (89%) of clients had income below the national average and 63% were living below the poverty line. By the time they had sought CAP’s help, they had amassed outstanding debt balances equivalent to 97% of their annual income. The report can be downloaded from:


Armed forces diversity statistics

The proportion of UK service personnel professing no religion is continuing to grow steadily and, as at 1 April 2017, the proportion stood at just under one-quarter for both the regular forces and the reserves. In the case of regular forces, the figure was highest for the Royal Navy (30%) and lowest for the Army (21%). Further information is available in the Ministry of Defence’s latest biannual diversity statistics report at:

Religiously aggravated offending in Scotland

The number of charges relating to religious prejudice brought in Scotland in 2016-17 under the two relevant statutes was 719, representing an increase of 12% on the 642 in 2015-16. Roman Catholicism was the religion most often the subject of reported abuse, with 384 charges in 2016-17, 28% more than the year before, albeit not as high as in previous years. Charges related to Protestantism amounted to 165, to Islam 113, and to Judaism 23. Glasgow had the biggest concentration of charges (30%). The majority (91%) of all charges involved male accused. Full details are contained in the 24-page report by Rebecca Foster and Katherine Myant, Religiously Aggravated Offending in Scotland, 2016-17, which can be downloaded from:


British Social Attitudes Survey

NatCen Social Research has published the report on British Social Attitudes Survey, 34, which took place between July and November 2016. Interviews were achieved with 2,942 adults aged 18 and over, with some questions put to the full sample and others to part (one-third or two-thirds) samples. The standard questions on religious affiliation and attendance at religious services were included, the former revealing that 53% of respondents professed to belong to no religion, with 15% being Anglicans, 9% Roman Catholics, 17% other Christians, and 6% non-Christians. Other questions on religion do not appear to have been asked. Media coverage of the report has focused disproportionately on the chapter by Kirby Swales and Eleanor Attar Taylor (pp. 85-126) dealing with moral issues, notably on the continued growth in social liberalism with regard to pre-marital sex, same-sex relationships, abortion, and pornography (attitudes to euthanasia remain largely unchanged). This greater liberalism has been increasingly embraced by Christians, notably in terms of same-sex relationships, although across all the topics examined people with a religion were still less likely to hold liberal views than those with no religion (to a significant extent, this probably tracks the social conservatism of older people, who are disproportionately religious). These differences would doubtless be accentuated if only practising religious were considered; however, as the dataset from the survey has not yet been made available, this level of analysis cannot be undertaken at present. The remaining chapters concern tax and benefit manipulation, the role of government, civil liberties, Brexit, and immigration but have no religious content. The published report can be found at:

European Social Survey

Since its inauguration in 2002, the European Social Survey (ESS) has proved a useful source of data on a limited range of religious topics across the twenty or so countries (including the United Kingdom) covered in each wave. Some of its potential in this regard is illustrated in three of the sixteen chapters in Values and Identities in Europe: Evidence from the European Social Survey, edited by Michael Breen (London: Routledge, 2017, xxv + 314 pp., ISBN: 978-1-138-22666-1, hardback, £110). One, by Ryan Cragun (pp. 17-35), is a case study of secularization in Ireland while the other two chapters focus on analyses at aggregate level of Round 6 of ESS (2012): Anna Kulkova, ‘Religiosity and Political Participation across Europe’ (pp. 36-57) and Caillin Reynolds, ‘Religion and Values in the ESS: Individual and Societal Effects’ (pp. 58-73). Few UK-specific statistics are cited. The book’s webpage is at:

Anglican church growth

In ‘Intentionality, Numerical Growth, and the Rural Church’ (Rural Theology, Vol. 15, No. 1, 2017, pp. 2-11), David Voas revisits a survey he conducted in 2013 as part of the Church of England’s Church Growth Research Programme. This found no strong connection between numerical growth and worship style or theological tradition, the crucial factor being that congregations engage in reflection and make intentional choices about their future direction. The quantitative and qualitative evidence for that conclusion is summarized in this article and implications explored for rural churches, which are often conservative in character. To the extent that congregations are inward-looking, follow inherited practice, and resist change, Voas contends, it may be difficult for them to avoid stagnation or decline. Thus, the revitalization of tradition is a challenge for rural clergy and parishioners. Access options to the article are outlined at:

Jewish vote

In two recent posts on his blog, University of Leicester academic Daniel Allington applies regression analysis to the results of the 2017 general election for the twenty British constituencies with the highest Jewish population at the 2011 census. He concludes that:

  • Many Jewish voters very probably turned away from the Labour Party between 2015 and 2017 (in the light of perceived anti-Semitism within the Party)
  • There is no indication that these lost voters switched to the Conservative Party in 2017
  • These voters seem rather more likely to have voted for the Liberal Democrats

The posts can be found at:

Roman Catholicism in the 1970s and 1980s

In a letter to The Tablet (10 June 2017, p. 17), sociologist of religion Mike Hornsby-Smith expressed concern about the long-term future of the archive of his quantitative and qualitative research into English Roman Catholicism in the 1970s and 1980s. This had led to countless published outputs, including two substantial books: Roman Catholics in England: Studies in Social Structure since the Second World War (1987) and Roman Catholic Beliefs in England: Customary Catholicism and Transformations of Religious Authority (1991). The archive had been deposited in the library of Heythrop College, part of the University of London. However, arising from financial challenges and following the failure of partnership discussions with, successively, St Mary’s University Twickenham and the University of Roehampton, the Jesuits in Britain have decided to close the College at the end of the 2017/18 academic year and have already sold the College buildings to a property developer. None of the College’s academic departments is relocating to another higher education institution and no firm plans are yet in place to secure the future of the College’s extensive and important library and archive, other than, in the short term, to pack it up and move it offsite somewhere. Hornsby-Smith has also deposited his own personal diaries, of a Catholic layman from the 1950s to the present, at the library.

Living by Numbers

The vital contribution which ideas of number, magnitude, and frequency make in shaping our everyday lives is rehearsed in Steven Connor, Living by Numbers: In Defence of Quantity (London: Reaktion Books, 2016, 296 pp., ISBN: 9781780236469, £15, hardback). The book’s webpage is at:


SN 8165: Active People Survey, 2015-2016

The Active People Survey, inaugurated in 2005-06, is commissioned by Sport England to gauge participation in sport and active recreation. Wave 10, conducted by TNS BMRB between 1 October 2015 and 30 September 2016, achieved 164,458 telephone interviews with adults aged 14 and over throughout England. The demographic questions asked of a random 50% of respondents included two on religion: ‘what is you religion, even if you are not currently practising?’ and ‘do you consider that you are actively practising your religion?’ A catalogue description of the dataset is at:

SN 8188: Scottish Social Attitudes Survey, 2015

The 2015 Scottish Social Attitudes Survey was undertaken by ScotCen Social Research, on behalf of the Scottish Government and other public sector funders, between July 2015 and January 2016. Face-to-face interviews and self-completion questionnaires were achieved with 1,288 adults aged 18 and over in Scotland. The survey instrument included a special module on discrimination and positive action, which had last been run in 2010, and which explored, among other things, opinions of religious groups in respect of long-term relationships, employment, and religious dress. Particular attention was paid to attitudes towards Muslims. Additionally, there were the standard background variables on religious affiliation and religion of upbringing and, for those with a religion, frequency of attendance at religious services or meetings other than for the rites of passage. A catalogue description of the dataset is at:

A report on the discrimination module – Scottish Social Attitudes, 2015: Attitudes to Discrimination and Positive Action – was published by the Scottish Government in September 2016. This is separately available at:

Please note: Counting Religion in Britain is © Clive D. Field, 2017


Posted in Attitudes towards Religion, Historical studies, News from religious organisations, Official data, Religion and Ethnicity, Religion and Politics, Religion and Social Capital, Religion in public debate, Religious beliefs, Religious prejudice, Survey news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Counting Religion in Britain, May 2017

Counting Religion in Britain, No. 20, May 2017 features 27 new sources. It can be read in full below. Alternatively, you can download the PDF version: No 20 May 2017


Global Trends, 2017

Results from the second wave of the Ipsos MORI Global Trends Survey (the first wave being in 2013) have recently been published, based on online interviews with 18,180 adults aged 16-64 across 23 countries between 12 September and 11 October 2016, including 1,000 in Great Britain. Abbreviated topline results for the three specifically religious questions are tabulated below, for Great Britain, the United States, and the all-country mean. They confirm the international relative irreligiosity of Britons. Britain ranked eighteenth on interest in having a more spiritual dimension in life and nineteenth on the importance attached to religion. Full topline data can be found at:

% down

Great Britain

United States

All countries

Religious affiliation
No religion




Spiritual but not religious












Interest in having more spiritual dimension in daily life








Neither/don’t know




Religion/faith very important








Neither/don’t know




Supernatural beliefs

The incidence of various supernatural beliefs has been gauged by BMG Research in an online poll of 1,630 Britons on 13-16 May 2017. Topline results are tabulated below, revealing a span of belief from 16% in astrology to 51% in karma. Disbelievers outnumbered believers with regard to astrology, ghosts/spirits, and life after death. Women were far more likely to believe than men, apart from in life on other planets, when the positions were reversed. In terms of age, and somewhat curiously, the greatest level of belief in life after death was actually among under-35s (39%), falling away through successive cohorts to reach 21% for the over-75s. A similar pattern obtained for belief in life on other planets, held by 55% of under-35s. Breaks were also given for social grade and past voting (in the general election and European Union Referendum). Data tables are at:

% across








Life on other planets












Life after death








Trust in the Church

The Church ranked seventeenth in nfpSynergy’s latest survey of public trust in 24 institutions. Of the 1,000 Britons aged 16 and over interviewed online in February 2017, 33% said they trusted the Church a great deal (9%) or quite a lot (24%) while 58% trusted it not much (28%) or very little (30%). The most trusted institutions were the National Health Service (71%) and the armed forces (70%), the least trusted multinational companies (18%) and political parties (12%). A report on the survey can be downloaded from:

Churches and communities

Despite their scepticism about the Church as a national institution, one-half of UK adults claim they would consider the closure of their nearest church a significant loss to their local community and one-third would campaign against its closure (the same proportion who said they would provide financial support if their local church experienced financial difficulties). This is according to research commissioned by Ecclesiastical Insurance from OnePoll, for which 4,500 UK adults were interviewed online in February 2017. Local churches were regarded as part of the history of their community by 51% of respondents and as part of the fabric of their community by 36%. Data tables are not available but Ecclesiastical’s press release will be found at:


Kate Woodthorpe’s Keeping the Faith surveys the role of religious beliefs in contemporary UK funerals. It was prepared for Royal London, which is the country’s largest mutual life, pensions, and investment company. Although the report is essentially qualitative, there are occasional glimpses into quantitative online research commissioned by Royal London from YouGov among three separate samples (cumulating to 3,240 individuals) who had been responsible for organizing a funeral in recent years. The report can be found at:

Talking Jesus

Insights into the religiosity of 2,000 English young people aged 11-18 are provided by a newly-released online ComRes survey undertaken between 7 and 19 December 2016 on behalf of HOPE and the Church of England. A majority (51%) was not religious in the sense of being disbelievers or uncertain believers in God, the remainder comprising 20% Anglicans, 11% Roman Catholics, 10% other Christians, and 8% non-Christians. Irreligiosity increased with age, being 48% among 11-13-year-olds, 51% for 14-16-year-olds, and 57% for 17-18-year-olds. A majority (54%) also doubted that Jesus Christ was a real person who had actually lived while 63% disbelieved in, or were unsure about, His Resurrection. Of the 825 Christians, 51% described themselves as an active follower of Jesus, with 47% claiming to read the Bible at least monthly, 65% to pray with the same frequency, 51% to attend church once a month or more, 40% to participate in church-related youth activities, and 41% to have talked about Jesus with a non-Christian within the past month. Full data tables, extending to 208 pages, are available at:

Papal power

United States President Donald Trump and Pope Francis recently held their first face-to-face meeting at the Vatican. Asked on 26 May 2017 which of these two world leaders has the more power, 49% of 7,134 YouGov British panellists replied the United States President and 16% the Pope, with 15% regarding them both as equally powerful and 20% undecided. Only in Scotland (22%) and among Scottish National Party voters (29%), both sub-samples with (in all likelihood) an above-average number of Catholics, did the Pope fare a little better. Data are available at:

Jewish vote

The overwhelming majority (77%) of Jews intend to vote for the Conservatives in the forthcoming general election (8 June 2017), 13% for Labour, 7% for the Liberal Democrats, and 2% for another political party. This is according to a telephone poll of 515 self-identifying British Jews undertaken by Survation on behalf of the Jewish Chronicle on 21-26 May 2017, once electors who were unlikely to vote or undecided or refused to say had been excluded from the calculation. There appeared to be two main reasons for the Jewish disinclination to support Labour. One was Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, with 44% of respondents agreeing they would be much or a little more likely to vote for the party were he not its leader. The other was the perceived level of anti-Semitism among Labour Party members and elected representatives, 39% rating it at the highest point on a five-point scale. Full data tables are available at:


Asked by BMG Research which religious group is served by Ramadan, 27% of 1,374 Britons interviewed online on 19-22 May 2017 were unable to say (15%) or gave an incorrect answer (12%). People of no religion (70%) were less inclined to know than Christians (76%) that Ramadan is associated with Islam and Muslims. The full data table is available via the link at:

Islam and intolerance

Two-fifths (41%) of Britons agreed with the statement ‘Islam is an intolerant religion’ in an app-based survey by YouGov reported on 11 May 2017 at:

Islam and extremism

Four-fifths of Britons are either very (43%) or somewhat (36%) concerned about extremism in the name of Islam, according to the Spring 2017 Pew Global Attitudes survey, for which 1,066 adults aged 18 and over were interviewed by Kantar Public UK by telephone between 6 March and 3 April. The combined figure of 79% was three points less than when the question was last asked in Britain in 2015 and also below the level of concern found in Italy (89%), Germany (82%), Spain (82%), and Hungary (80%), being identical to the median for 10 European Union countries. British results varied by age (from 61% of under-30s to 87% of over-50s) and by political alignment (from 61% of left-leaners to 86% of right-leaners). Remaining Britons were either not too concerned (15%) about extremism in the name of Islam or not at all concerned (5%). Pew’s press release can be found at:

On his recent visit to the Middle East, United States President Donald Trump described the world’s fight against Islamic State and Islamist extremism as a battle between ‘good and evil’. One-half of 7,420 Britons interviewed online by YouGov on 22 May 2017 agreed with this description, the proportion being especially high among Conservatives (63%), over-65s (67%), and UKIP voters (71%). The other half of the sample divided between those who rejected the terminology of good versus evil (24%) and don’t knows (26%). Full data are at:

Manchester bomb

On 22 May 2017, an Islamist suicide bomber detonated an explosive device outside the Manchester Arena, killing 22 people. It was the worst terrorist incident on British soil since the 7/7 bombings in London in 2005 and was hailed by Islamic State (IS). In the following days, YouGov ran several online surveys which touched on the event and its implications.

On 24-25 May, on behalf of The Times, 2,052 Britons were asked about the advisability of implementing specific new measures to combat terrorism in Britain. Among the options was encouraging imams in mosques in Britain to preach solely in English. Only 37% deemed this ‘the right thing to do’, including a majority of over-65s (55%) and UKIP voters (70%). A plurality (41%) was opposed, considering it would be an over-reaction, peaking at 60% of Liberal Democrats and 63% of under-25s. The remaining 22% were unsure. Thinking about how the rest of the world deals with the threat posed by IS, a plurality (46%) judged it likely to be solved by military force whereas 18% advocated dialogue with 37% uncertain. Two-thirds of interviewees viewed the threat of IS as arising wholly or partially from social, religious, and political issues in the Middle East. Data tables are at:

On 25 May, YouGov asked respondents to an app-based survey whether they thought religion-motivated terrorism could ever be stopped. The majority (68%) doubted that it could be while 23% thought it could be halted and 9% were unsure. Anger (71%), concern (57%), and shock (56%) were the commonest reactions to the Manchester outrage, although 71% said their personal confidence had been unaffected by it. Topline results are at:

On 25-26 May, on behalf of the Sunday Times, YouGov asked 2,003 Britons whether they approved of the Government’s counter-terrorism strategy of early identification of people in danger of being radicalized, including a requirement for schools and social projects to report extremist sympathies to the authorities. The overwhelming majority (73%) approved of this approach, but there was a minority of 10% who deemed it inappropriate, on the grounds that it intruded too much into the lives of those who had not committed any crime and risked alienating law-abiding British Muslims. The proportion rose to 14% for under-25s, 15% for Liberal Democrats, and 17% for Labour voters. The remaining 17% of the entire sample was undecided. For further details, see p. 11 of the data tables at:

On 26 May, YouGov asked respondents to an app-based survey whether terrorist attacks by IS should be considered as a criminal act or an act of war. The majority (58%) opted for the former description, 34% for the latter, with 8% undecided. Topline results are at:


Faith in Research

The Church of England’s annual Faith in Research Conference was held in Birmingham on 17 May 2017 and attended by 95 delegates. As usual, there was a mix of plenary sessions and parallel streams showcasing the most recent qualitative and quantitative research into faith matters, not exclusively Anglican-related. Highlights of the 17 presentations included first results from wave 1 of the longitudinal panel survey into ‘Living Ministry’ and from the ‘Talking Jesus’ study among 11-18-year-olds in England fielded by ComRes (noted above). Slides from the majority of the presentations are already available at:

Belonging to church

The Faith in Research Conference was chaired by David Walker, Bishop of Manchester, whose recent book is an example of the genre of empirical theology: God’s Belongers; How People Engage with God Today and How the Church Can Help (Abingdon: Bible Reading Fellowship, 2017, 158 pp., ISBN: 978-0-85746-467-5, £7.99, paperback). In it, Walker proposes a fourfold model of belonging to church, through relationship, place, events, and activities, replacing the traditional dichotomy between church members and non-members. His particular concern is with Anglican occasional churchgoers, investigated through his surveys of attenders at harvest festival services in the Diocese of Worcester in 2007 and at cathedral carol services at Worcester in 2009 and Lichfield in 2010. The detailed findings from these studies have been reported in a series of academic papers, listed in the bibliography on pp. 156-7, but, selectively and relatively unobtrusively, they are drawn upon to help sustain the argument in this book, whose purpose is essentially missional. The volume’s webpage can be found at:


In advance of special services to celebrate Godparents’ Sunday on 30 April 2017, the Church of England released a calculation that at least six million people have been godparents at a Church of England christening since the start of the new Millennium. This reflected that there were more than two million baptisms of infants and children between 2000 and 2015, with a minimum requirement of three godparents for each person baptised. The Church of England’s press release is at:

Church Commissioners

The Church Commissioners, who manage investable assets amounting to £7.9 billion and who contribute some 15% of the Church of England’s income, have presented to Parliament their annual report for 2016. The total return on investments for that year was 17.1%, compared with 8.2% for 2015, and well ahead of the target of inflation plus 5%. Indeed, the Commissioners notched up their strongest performance for more than three decades, with notable successes in global equities, timber, and indirect property. The report can be found at:

Ethnic churchgoers

In his latest monthly column for the Church of England Newspaper (12 May 2017, p. 9), reprinted in No. 51 (June 2017, p. 2) of his bimonthly magazine FutureFirst, Peter Brierley usefully collates the statistical evidence from church censuses about the proportion of BME churchgoers since 1998. Although the picture is mixed, Brierley contends that there has been especially rapid growth of Black Christians, both within White congregations and in Black churches. In England in 2017, Brierley estimates, 30% of all church attenders are BMEs (and 40% of evangelicals) while in London the majority (51%) are.

Youth culture

A parallel piece of research to the ‘Talking Jesus’ study, mentioned above, is Youth for Christ’s Gen Z: Rethinking Culture, based on a survey completed by 1,001 Britons aged 11-18 in November-December 2016. The questionnaire, covering four core areas (culture, influences, priorities, and religion and faith), was scripted, hosted, and managed by DJS Research while using the Youth for Christ online platform. Almost half (46%) of respondents professed no religion, 43% were Christian, and 7% non-Christian. With regard to beliefs, 32% said they believed in a God, 22% in ghosts and spirits, and 47% in neither. Among believers in God 59% considered themselves a follower of Jesus and the Christian faith but just 41% prayed (four-fifths of them at least once a week). The 44-page report can be downloaded from:


Religious nones

In Catholic Research Forum Reports, 3, published by the Benedict XVI Centre for Religion and Society at St Mary’s University Twickenham, Stephen Bullivant analyses The ‘No Religion’ Population of Britain: Recent Data from the British Social Attitudes Survey (2015) and the European Social Survey (2014). The British Social Attitudes Survey revealed that 49% of adults identified as belonging to no religion. They were predominantly white (95%) and male (55%), although among under-35s men and women were equally likely to be religious nones. Three-fifths had been brought up with a religious identity whereas fewer than one in ten of those reared nonreligiously currently subscribed to a religion. For every one person brought up with no religion who had become a Christian, 26 people brought up as Christians professed no religion at the time of interview. On the other hand, according to European Social Survey statistics, 15% of nones still rated themselves as religious and/or prayed monthly or more. The report is available at:

Religious affiliation and party political liking

In a blog on LSE’s Religion and the Public Sphere website, Siobhan McAndrew utilizes data from wave 10 of the 2015 British Election Study Internet Panel (with fieldwork conducted by YouGov between 24 November and 12 December 2016) to investigate the liking of adults for the main political parties. Scores, on a scale running from 0 to 10, were generally below 5, with the exception of a score of 5.6 by Anglicans towards the Conservative Party. The lowest score was 2.3, by non-Christians towards UKIP. Non-Christians and Catholics showed a stronger liking for Labour while there was little variation between religious groups when it came to the Liberal Democrats. Factoring in other demographic variables, identities, and values tended to attenuate these associations. The post can be found at:

Religious affiliation and Brexit

In his latest blog on the British Religion in Numbers website, Ben Clements offers an analysis of the voting of religious groups in the 2016 referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union (EU), based upon data from wave 9 of the 2015 British Election Study Internet Panel (with fieldwork conducted by YouGov between 24 June and 6 July 2016). The most pronounced findings were the predisposition of Anglicans to leave and of non-Christians and no religionists to remain in the EU. The post can be found at:

Catholic vote

In another blog for the LSE’s British Politics and Policy website, Ben Clements examines the party political preferences of Roman Catholics, mainly based on trend data from British Election Studies and British Social Attitudes Surveys. He shows that, historically, Catholics have disproportionately favoured the Labour Party, especially in Scotland, but that the link has become weaker in recent years, as expressed both in voting behaviour at general elections and overall party allegiance. Scotland apart, older and female Catholics have been most drawn to the Conservative Party. The post can be found at:

Muslim women

Muslim women’s civic and political involvement in Britain and France, with particular reference to Birmingham and Paris, is investigated by Danièle Joly and Khursheed Wadia in Muslim Women and Power: Political and Civic Engagement in West European Societies (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017, xviii + 322 pp., ISBN: 978-1-137-48061-3, hardback, £86). Harnessing Joly’s expertise as a sociologist and Wadia’s as a political scientist, it distils their and others’ secondary literature and reports on fresh empirical research, notably participant observation, interviews, focus groups, and a questionnaire completed by 119 Muslim women in Britain and 107 in France (the results from which are described as ‘reliable rather than statistically valid’). The demographic context is derived from census and other sources. The authors argue that Muslim women’s interest in and knowledge of politics and their participation in both institutional and informal politics is higher than expected. The book’s webpage is at:

Ministerial deployment

Despite their frequent assertions of a priority for the poor, religious groups distribute their active stipendiary ministers inversely to socio-economic deprivation (measured at household and neighbourhood levels) and (implicitly) to pastoral care needs, and it seems unlikely that this relationship has occurred by chance. So claims Michael Hirst in his analysis of data, aggregated to local authority areas, from the 2011 census of population in ‘Clergy in Place in England: Bias to the Poor or Inverse Care Law?’ which is published in the ‘early view’ edition of the journal Population, Space, and Place. Parallels are drawn by the author with the concept of inverse medical care law proposed by Julian Hart. By its very nature, the primary source deployed cannot differentiate between ministers who live in less deprived areas but who work in more deprived ones. It also necessarily excludes retired, self-supporting, and non-stipendiary ministers. Access options to the article are outlined at:

Comparative historical secularization

The seemingly greater religiosity of the United States over Western Europe has been a central element of investigation and debate in the scholarly literature of secularization. A comparative religious history of these two areas, noting both parallels and divergences, is now attempted in Secularization and Religious Innovation in the North Atlantic World, edited by David Hempton and Hugh McLeod (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017, xiv + 407 pp., ISBN: 978-0-19-879807-1, £75, hardback). It comprises an introduction by McLeod followed by nine pairs of chapters, eight pairs exploring particular themes (such as evangelicalism, gender, and popular culture) and the last offering a separate conclusion by each editor which, notwithstanding their different approaches and emphases, provides a degree of coherence to what might otherwise be quite a disparate volume of insightful case studies. Of the 17 individual contributors, the solitary sociologist of religion is Grace Davie; the rest are essentially religious historians. Although chronological coverage starts with the eighteenth century, there is a special focus on the second half of the twentieth century. Likewise, consideration of Western Europe is disproportionately about Britain. Descriptive statistics are referenced throughout the work but there are no tables, while several opportunities are missed for systematic comparative quantitative analysis, notably for the past half-century, which might simultaneously have provided some common criteria for measuring secularization. The volume’s webpage can be found at:

David Martin on secularization

David Martin is a notable absentee from the line-up of Hempton and McLeod’s book, notwithstanding he has written extensively about secularization, including about the comparative experience of Europe and America. In his Secularisation, Pentecostalism, and Violence: Receptions, Rediscoveries, and Rebuttals in the Sociology of Religion (London: Routledge, 2017, xi + 194 pp., ISBN: 978-0-415-78859-5, £115, hardback), Martin, who is now in his late 80s, offers an autobiographical cum bibliographical retrospect of the three core themes of his scholarship during the past half-century. The 10 chapters include one (pp. 57-85) which recapitulates the sociology of religion in Britain during the 1950s and 1960s and briefly considers the contribution of religious statistics, of which Martin was evidently initially quite sceptical, and specifically references British Religion in Numbers. The book’s webpage can be found at:


SN 8168: Scottish Household Survey, 2015

The Scottish Household Survey, initiated in 1999, is undertaken on behalf of the Scottish Government by a polling consortium led by Ipsos MORI. Information is collected about the composition, characteristics, attitudes, and behaviour of private households and individuals in Scotland; and about the physical condition of their homes. For the 2015 survey (January 2015-March 2016) data were gathered on 10,330 households and 9,410 adults. The specifically religious content of the questionnaire covered: religion belonged to; experience of discrimination or harassment on religious grounds; and incidence of volunteering for religious and other groups. A catalogue description for the dataset is available at:


Please note: Counting Religion in Britain is © Clive D. Field, 2017


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How religious groups voted in the 2016 referendum on Britain’s EU membership

Recent research has shed light on the voting preferences of the British electorate at last year’s Brexit referendum, looking at how support for remain or leave was distributed across a range of socio-demographic groups, as well as showing how it varied based on party support, policy preferences and ideological beliefs. How did religious groups in wider society vote? Were some more likely than others to have voted to leave the EU or vice versa? Data from wave 9 of the British Election Study Internet Panel Study, undertaken after the referendum (with fieldwork conducted by YouGov between 24 June-6 July 2016), allow a comparison of voting behaviour based on religious affiliation. The core sample for wave 9 is used, which enables cross-sectional analysis of the data.

The figure below shows the proportions voting remain and leave within different religious groups. Some groups showed an even split between the two options on the ballot (Methodists and Baptists) and some showed a slight preference for one side or the other (Catholics and Church of Scotland / Presbyterian for remain; Jews and other Christian for leave); but more distinct voting patterns are also evident. Those who identify themselves as Anglican or Church of England were clearly in the leave camp – 60% backed Britain leaving the EU and 40% supported staying. Muslims were clearly in the remain camp, with 69% choosing this option and 31% in favour of leaving the EU. Those with no religion (a group with a younger age profile) were in the ‘remain camp’, by 57% to 43%, as were those belonging to other non-Christian faiths (55% to 45%) and those who preferred not to disclose their religious affiliation (55% to 45%).










Source: Author’s analysis of BES Internet Panel Study 2014-2018, wave 9 (core sample).


Fieldhouse, E., J. Green., G. Evans., H. Schmitt, C. van der Eijk, J. Mellon & C. Prosser (2016) British Election Study Internet Panel Waves 1-9.

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

Counting Religion in Britain, April 2017

Counting Religion in Britain, No. 19, April 2017 features 27 new sources. It can be read in full below. Alternatively, you can download the PDF version: No 19 April 2017


Lenten abstinence and Easter activities

Just under one-fifth (18%) of a sample of 1,552 Britons claimed to have given something up for Lent this year, when questioned online by BMG Research between 31 March and 4 April 2017. The proportion was greatest for professing Christians (24%) and people who regarded religion as important to them (36%) but it was also curiously high among non-Christians (23%); it was lowest for religious nones (10%). Of those who abstained, the most common forfeits were chocolate (17%), alcohol (12%), and takeaways (10%).

One-third of respondents did not celebrate Easter at all, including 38% of religious nones and 55% of non-Christians. Of the remainder, its religious aspect was only the third most significant part of the festival (12%), way behind spending time with friends and family (58%) and also surpassed by being off work (13%). Even for Christians, the religious dimension was no more than 22% and for those considering religion important 34%. One in ten (11%) observers of Easter anticipated attending church on the day, disproportionately women (13%), over-65s (15%), Christians (22%), and persons for whom religion was of importance (34%). Full data tables are available at:

Easter associations

A majority (55%) of 2,670 adult Britons interviewed by YouGov via mobile phone app on 13 April 2017 associated Jesus Christ with Easter, rising to two-thirds among over-50s and Conservative and Liberal Democrat voters. Nevertheless, rather more respondents identified Easter with chocolate eggs (76%), a bank holiday (67%), and hot cross buns (62%). Least associated with Easter was Simnel cake (14%), the festival’s traditional speciality, although it still held fond memories for 26% of over-65s. Full data tables can be accessed via the link in the blog at:

Eastertide beliefs

One-half the whole population and two-thirds of under-25s do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, according to a poll commissioned by BBC local radio and released on Palm Sunday, for which 2,010 Britons were interviewed by telephone on 2-12 February 2017. These disbelievers included 23% of professing Christians and 5% of active (regular churchgoing) Christians. Believers numbered 44%, among them 9% of religious nones, and peaking at 59% of over-65s; the majority of them did not subscribe to the literal Biblical account of the Resurrection.

Belief in life after death stood at 46% and has been remarkably stable since Gallup first enquired into the subject in 1939; it was highest for Christians (61%), non-Christians (69%), and active Christians (85%). Asked about the nature of the afterlife, 65% selected another life where your soul lives on (such as heaven or hell) and 32% reincarnation. Disbelief in life after death also stood at 46% overall, reaching 73% with religious nones.

Other topics covered were religious affiliation (51% Christian, 9% non-Christian, and 37% none) and claimed attendance at religious services other than for rites of passage (20% weekly, 11% monthly, 31% less often, and 37% never). Full data tables are available at:

There is a BBC press release at:

Eastertide traditions

Almost one-third of Britons do not know the origins of Easter, including 10% who think it commemorates the birth (rather than the death and resurrection) of Jesus Christ, according to a poll of 2,000 adults commissioned by the cleaning brand Oven Pride. Just 12% claim to attend church over the festival while 23% believe its date is set by the government and 9% by the European Union. One-third cannot explain the significance of Ash Wednesday, although 21% say they have given up alcohol during Lent and 6% social media. Easter continues to be valued as a secular break, with 66% planning to spend the bank holiday weekend with family, friends, and good food. A traditional roast dinner on Easter Sunday is enjoyed by 70%, even if Simnel cake will only be consumed by 3%. Oven Pride has failed to respond to enquiries about the poll, so the principal public domain report of the survey is a somewhat garbled article in the Daily Mail at:

Easter eggs

Prime Minister Theresa May, a practising Anglican and member of the National Trust, waded into the public row about the omission of the word Easter from advertising for an Easter egg hunt sponsored by chocolate manufacturer Cadbury and held on National Trust properties. She criticized the decision as ‘absolutely ridiculous’. The event had previously been branded as an Easter egg trail. A plurality (43%) of 2,866 Britons interviewed online by YouGov on 5 April 2017 considered it appropriate for May to have commented on this sort of issue, peaking at 59% of over-60s and 69% of UKIP supporters. But 39% disagreed with her intervention, including majorities of Labour, Liberal Democrat, and Scottish National Party voters. The remaining 18% had no clear view on the matter. Full results are available at:

Religion and identity

Ethnic minorities remain more likely than white Britons to select religion as the principal component of their identity, according to an Opinium Research report on Multicultural Britain in the 21st Century: What People Think, Feel, and Do, written by James Crouch and Priya Minhas, and based upon online fieldwork undertaken since the 2016 referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union (EU). However, even for the 616 ethnic minority persons in the sample, religion was a lesser aspect of their identity (19%) than ethnicity (36%) or nationality (30%), and it was accorded a still lower priority (16%) by the second and subsequent generations born in the UK. This is partially explained by the fact that 29% of ethnic minorities declared they had no religion. For the 1,762 white Britons interviewed, religion was the main element of identity for just 7%, compared with 59% choosing nationality, 15% local community, and 7% ethnicity. Other topics in the survey included attitudes to toleration and integration in the UK, with the replies from ethnic minorities disaggregated by religious group. Muslims were especially likely (59%) to feel Britain had become less tolerant since the EU referendum. Data tables have not been released, but the report can be found at:

Brexit and identity

Trevor Phillips had an interesting article (‘To Understand Leavers, Look to Anglicans’) in the Daily Telegraph for 14 April 2017 (p. 20). It reported an analysis he had conducted with Richard Webber of a new opinion poll by YouGov among 6,000 voters living in England and focusing on their attitudes to the European Union (EU). In terms of voting at the 2016 referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU, the sample divided between Leavers on 53% and Remainers on 47%, reflecting the actual outcome of the referendum. But there were some notable differences according to religious affiliation. The two extremes were religious nones, who opted to remain by 52% to 48%, and Anglicans, who overwhelmingly wanted to leave (62% versus 38%). Further investigation revealed that the Anglican predisposition to leave the EU could only be partially explained by the fact that many of them were also Conservatives, three-fifths of the latter being Leavers. Another key variable appeared to be Englishness, with Anglicans identifying as English rather than British by a margin of 28% (compared with, for example, only 9% for Catholics). In their voting at the referendum, therefore, Anglicans seemingly exemplified the desire for a reassertion of English national identity. As Phillips concluded, ‘Attitudes to the EU are driven at least as much by identity – including religious affiliation – as by economics.’ There is no public domain version of the article, but it can be accessed via a paywall at:

Religious affiliation

The latest large-scale political poll commissioned by Lord Ashcroft, and conducted online among 10,153 electors on 21-28 March 2017, included the standard background question about religion: ‘which of the following religious groups do you consider yourself to be a member of?’ It revealed that the religious profile of Britain is currently 50% Christian, 6% non-Christian, 41% no religion, and 2% prefer not to say. The proportion of professing Christians was greatest among over-55s (68%). It has fallen to just 27% of under-25s, 57% of whom are religious nones and 12% non-Christians (more than half of them Muslims). Differences by social grade and region were much less marked than for age but there was some correlation between religion and voting in the 2015 general election and the 2016 referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union, albeit these effects were also at least partly the function of age. Conservative and UKIP voters in 2015 and ‘leavers’ in the referendum were most likely to be Christian, with the majority of Scottish National Party and Green voters claiming no religion. More details can be found in table 100 at:

Religious freedom

The Pew Research Center’s latest annual report about global restrictions on religion revealed that, across the 198 countries surveyed, government restrictions on religion and social hostilities involving religion increased in 2015 for the first time in three years, including particularly in Europe. The report is available at:

Pew’s research prompted YouGov to ask 2,670 adult Britons via mobile phone app on 13 April 2017 whether, in the UK context, they would prefer to see fewer or greater government restrictions on religion in terms of laws, policies, and other actions. One-third of the sample was unable to answer, but there was more support (28%) for greater restrictions than for fewer restrictions (16%), with 23% wishing to see no change. Men (34%) and UKIP voters (38%) were the groups most endorsing greater restrictions while 18-24s (27%) were most inclined to favour fewer. Full data tables are available at:

Another YouGov poll on the same subject, reported on 13 April 2017, used slightly different question-wording, which had the effect of polarizing opinion more sharply. In this survey, 38% opted for ‘more control over religions’ in the UK and 12% for ‘more religious freedom’, with 39% wanting no change and 11% undecided. These topline results, which seem to add credence to Linda Woodhead’s claim that religion is becoming a toxic concept, are at:

General election issues (1): Tim Farron on homosexuality

The unexpected 2017 UK general election campaign had hardly begun before religion reared its head, in the guise of the initial refusal of Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron (a practising Evangelical Christian) to say whether he believed that homosexuality is a sin.

The controversy prompted YouGov to ask 3,800 adult Britons via mobile phone app on 19 April 2017 whether they preferred politicians to be open about their religious views or to keep them private. The public was divided on the subject, 36% wanting politicians to be transparent about their religious opinions and 44% to keep them to themselves. The remaining fifth of voters was undecided. There were few major differences by demographic groups apart from 53% of Liberal Democrat and Scottish National Party supporters and 52% of over-65s preferring politicians to keep their religious views private. Full data tables are available at:

YouGov returned to the topic on 25-26 April 2017, when it interviewed online a more conventional sample of 1,590 adults on behalf of The Times. By this stage, after several further evasions, Farron had clarified that he did not regard gay sex as sinful. A plurality of Britons (41%) thought he had the right to keep his personal religious views private, the proportion reaching 51% among professing Christians and 65% of Liberal Democrat voters. One-third (34%) replied that Farron ought to have answered the question about gay sex sooner, since his religious views were relevant to his political opinions; religious nones (43%) were especially of this mind. The remaining one-quarter of adults was uncertain what to think. More generally, just 12% of respondents believed that gay sex is sinful, and no more than 16% even of Christians; 74% of all Britons were emphatic it is not a sin, among them 87% of religious nones. For this second YouGov poll, see page 12 of the data tables which can be accessed via the link in the blog at:

The Christian Institute entered the fray from a different perspective, arguing that Farron had been bullied in public for holding traditional views about homosexuality. The Institute commissioned ComRes to undertake a telephone poll of 1,001 Britons between 20 and 24 April 2017, asking whether a politician who believes gay sex to be a sin should be free to express such an opinion. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of respondents upheld that freedom, peaking at 71% of skilled manual workers and 73% of men, with 32% denying a politician the liberty to proclaim the sinfulness of gay sex. A similar proportion (67%) agreed that a politician believing gay sex to be sinful but keeping that view private should still be allowed to hold office, 25% dissenting and 8% uncertain. Full data tables are available at:

General election issues (2): UKIP and the burka

Early on in the general election campaign, Paul Nuttall, leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), indicated he would be pushing for a ban on the burka and Sharia courts, while denying he was trying to reinvent UKIP as an anti-Islam party.

On behalf of The Observer, Opinium Research asked an online sample of 2,007 UK adults on 25-28 April 2017 whether they had heard of a policy proposal to ban the burka in public places and, if so, with which party they associated that plan. Three-fifths of interviewees were aware of the policy (and not many more, 65%, among UKIP voters), of whom four in five correctly identified it as a UKIP proposal. The remaining 40% either had definitely not heard of the mooted burka ban (18%) or were unsure whether they had done so (22%). The full data can be accessed via the link in the blog at:

The matter was also addressed in YouGov’s second poll on the Farron affair, noted above, which fielded on 25-26 April 2017. YouGov, however, was more interested in knowing what the public actually thought about a legal ban on the wearing of burkas and niquabs (in other words, a full body and face veil). Almost half the electorate (48%) favoured such a ban, the number being particularly high for Christians (56%), manual workers (58%), Conservatives (63%), over-65s (68%), Leave voters in the 2016 EU referendum (70%), and UKIP followers (85%). Slightly fewer, 42%, held that people should be free to decide for themselves what to wear, including a majority of Londoners (54%), under-25s (60%), Labourites (61%), Remain voters in the EU Referendum (62%), and Liberal Democrats (67%). YouGov’s blog on the issue, containing a link to the full data, is at:

The same YouGov survey likewise tested general election voting intentions, which showed that the Conservative Party had a strong lead over Labour among Christians at that point, 55% versus 20%, while religious nones divided 36% to 34%, respectively.

Academic research

ComRes have completed a major study for Research Councils UK and the Natural Environment Research Council, interviewing online and by telephone (between 20 and 31 January 2017) a sample of 3,000 adult Britons on their engagement with publicly-funded research into science and other academic subjects. The data tables, which run to 604 pages, include breaks for every question by a range of background variables, one of which concerned active membership of a religious group (‘active’ being defined as ‘regularly’ reading/listening to a religious text, praying, or attending religious services other than for rites of passage). According to this definition, 50% of the population self-classified as active members (42% Christian and 8% non-Christian) and 49% as not (comprising 39% with no religion and 10% who considered themselves religious but not active members of a religious group). In general, active membership of a religious group (or not) only had a marginal impact on the answers to the mainstream questions about academic research. For instance, active members were 4% more supportive of publicly-funded research than inactive members and religious nones and 5% more likely to have engaged with four or more research areas during the month prior to interview. At the same time, active members of a religious group were 7% less comfortable with the pace of change in the world and they were 6% less civically engaged although they were 12% more likely to have donated money to charity within the past half-year. The data tables are at:

Syrian refugees

The UK Government has been accused, by former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, of being institutionally biased against Christian refugees from Syria, who are underrepresented among those being moved to the UK under a flagship resettlement scheme. However, a majority (54%) of Britons surveyed by YouGov, in an app-based poll reported on 18 April 2017, thought religion should not be a criterion for the UK accepting refugees. One-third favoured taking a greater number of Christian refugees or only Christian refugees, while a hardline 11% opposed accepting any refugees at all. Topline results only are available at:


Scottish church census, 2016

The number of Scots attending church on an average weekend has slumped from 853,700 in 1984 to 389,500 in 2016, falling – relative to population – from 16.6% to 7.2% over the same period. This is the headline finding from the initial report on the fourth (2016) Scottish church census which appears as a special eight-page edition (No. 50, April 2017) of FutureFirst, the bimonthly magazine of Brierley Consultancy. The census was undertaken by Peter Brierley, at the behest of a consortium of Scottish Churches and Christian organizations, by means of postal and online returns of attendance on 7-8 May 2016. Of Scotland’s 3,689 congregations, 40% responded, missing data being estimated, taking account of variations by denomination, churchmanship, and area. Decline was experienced across most denominations, the Pentecostals alone significantly bucking the trend, albeit many immigrant churches and so-called Messy Churches had also been started. Three-fifths of worshippers were women and 42% were aged 65 and over (double the national average), peaking at 56% in the Church of Scotland. East Lothian had the lowest churchgoing rate (4%) and the Western Isles the highest (45%). Aberdeenshire was the only area to register absolute growth between 2002 (when the third church census was held) and 2016, largely attributed to the establishment of 25 new Roman Catholic congregations for Poles working in the oil industry. Despite claims of greater irregularity in attendance, as many as 80% of weekend churchgoers were recorded as attending weekly, 9% going fortnightly, 7% monthly, and 4% less often. Mid-week activities attracted an additional 234,500 people, 58% of whom did not frequent church at the weekend, giving a total reach by the Churches of 10% of the Scottish population at some stage during the week. A full report on the census, provisionally entitled Growth Amidst Decline, will be released by ADBC Publishers towards the middle of 2017; meanwhile, various outputs from the census (including the special edition of FutureFirst) are being assembled at:

Brierley also wrote a full-page article about the census, entitled ‘Church Life in Scotland’, for the Church of England Newspaper (21 April 2017, p. 8).

The Church of Scotland has issued a press release about the census results at:,000_christians_regularly_attend_church

Family faith

Newly published by the two Christian charities Hope and Care for the Family is Faith in Our Families: How Do Parents Nurture Their Children’s Faith at Home? What Does the Church Do to Support and Equip Them in This? A Research Report. It is based upon an online qualitative and quantitative study undertaken with the help of 9dot-research, the statistical component comprising a UK-wide survey of 983 parents (all practising Christians with at least one child aged 3-11 and committed to nurturing faith in the home), 175 church leaders, and 479 church children’s workers recruited via the Care for the Family database or Facebook. As the report itself acknowledges, the methodology adopted inevitably resulted in a skewed sample, ‘a snapshot of the more motivated and engaged parents and churches’, with, for instance, 84% of respondents being women and just 3% Roman Catholics. However, even among these active religious parents, 95% of whom conceded it was largely their responsibility to teach their children about Christianity, 92% admitted they should be doing more, with only 37% always or often looking for opportunities to nurture their child’s faith. The degree of parental confidence about passing on their faith had a significant effect on what they currently did at home to do so. Lack of time was seen as the principal barrier to the transmission of faith in the family, followed by lack of knowledge. Just 12% of leaders felt their church put a lot of effort into supporting parents to nurture faith in the home, very much less than for six other church activities, and 94% agreed they should be helping more in this regard. The 32-page report is available at:

Church of England attendance

Mark Hart wrote about ‘The C of E’s Unsung Success Story’ in the Church Times for 31 March 2017 (p. 13). Revisiting the Church’s attendance statistics on the basis of various (potentially contestable) assumptions, he tentatively identified a significant, but hidden, area of growth – among the over-65s, notwithstanding rising Anglican death rates and absolute and relative decline in churchgoing levels. His article can be read at:

Hart’s article drew a response from BRIN’s co-director, David Voas, in the next issue of Church Times (7 April 2017, p. 18). In a letter to its editor, Voas pointed out that the missing factor in Hart’s calculations was almost certainly immigration, with a net annual inflow of a quarter of a million people for more than a decade, the majority from Christian countries, from which the Church of England has presumably benefited to some extent. There is no public domain version of this letter.

Faith in Research

The Church of England’s next annual Faith in Research conference takes place at the Novotel, Broad Street, Birmingham on Wednesday, 17 May 2017 and will be chaired by the Bishop of Manchester, David Walker. The plenary speakers include Clive Field from BRIN, who will give a brief presentation on ‘Has the Church of England Lost the English People? Some Quantitative Tests’, based on his recent article in Theology. Programme and registration details can be found at:

Methodist Statistics for Mission

At its latest quarterly meeting, on 1-3 April 2017, the Methodist Council received an update on the compilation of the full Statistics for Mission Report, 2017, which will be presented to the Methodist Conference in the summer. Methodist membership in Britain on 31 October 2016 was returned as 188,400 (excluding ministers), representing a decline of 3.3% on 2015, 9.7% on 2013, an annual average of 3.6% over the triennium 2013-16, and an annual average of 3.5% over the preceding decade (2006-16). Methodist membership now stands at just 22% of its peak at the beginning of the twentieth century. The mean number of weekly attendances at worship services was 202,100 in October 2016, an average decrease of 3.4% annually both over the triennium and the decade. In addition, an estimated 500,000 attendances are registered weekly at non-worship activities and events, attracting a wide spread of ages, in marked contrast to the heavy skew towards an older demographic which characterizes both members and worshippers. The paper, which also moots several changes in statistics gathering and reporting, is available at:

The Methodist Recorder found the update to Methodist Council so salutary yet so depressing that it ran a full-column comment, entitled ‘Confronting the Realities of Decline’, in its edition of 21 April 2017 (p. 6). The editorial warned that there was a real prospect of the Methodist Church in Great Britain ‘ceasing to meet’ (to borrow the Methodist parlance), at least in its present form, and urged its leadership to contemplate, and develop a strategy to manage, such a possibility.

Jewish students

The National Union of Students (NUS) has published a 50-page internal research report on The Experience of Jewish Students in 2016-17, as revealed by an online survey of 485 self-defining Jewish students (out of a total universe of 8,500 Jewish students in higher education in the country) between 28 November 2016 and 10 February 2017. The vast majority of respondents were in full-time education, aged 17-24, studying at undergraduate level, and UK citizens. Significant numbers expressed disquiet about the provision of specific facilities and services by their institutions (such as affordable kosher food and timetabling of classes and events in relation to the Sabbath); about the attitudes of academics and other students to issues relating to Jews, Judaism, and Israel/Palestine; and about their confidence in engaging with the NUS and individual student unions, and their faith in the ability of the national and local unions to represent the interests of Jewish students. Their experience or fear of being victims of harassment, abuse, and hatred was also recorded. Sundry recommendations were made to address these concerns, principally directed to the NUS itself but some to the wider higher education sector and campus student unions. The report is available at:


God and Mammon

Individuals are less likely to attend religious services regularly if their income rises, according to a paper delivered by Ingrid Storm at the recent British Sociological Association (BSA) annual conference in Manchester. Analysing longitudinal data from the British and UK Household Panel Surveys for 1991-2012, she found that a rise in income of about £10,000 a year reduced by 6% the likelihood of attending religious services monthly. However, a fall in income had no effect on worship patterns. Storm hypothesized that adults turned away from religious services when their income increased because they had less need for the social support found in religious communities. ‘Religious participation is most appealing to people who have available time, but less available financial resources … when their income rose, the extra money could increase access to other forms of social activities and entertainment, and these take up time and attention that could otherwise have been spent on religious practice.’ BSA’s press release is at:

Changing religious landscape

There were 450,000 fewer births than deaths among the UK Christian population between 2010 and 2015, according to the Pew Research Center’s latest projections of the global religious landscape. By contrast, the natural increase in the UK Muslim population over the same period was 340,000 and among the religiously unaffiliated it was 880,000, reflecting (in both cases) their younger age profiles (and thus greater fertility) than Christians. A similar pattern was found across Europe as a whole. Globally, Muslim births are predicted to outnumber Christian ones by 2035. Estimates were derived from a range of census and sample survey data. The full report is available at:

Secularization in Scotland

Principally drawing upon the series of Scottish Social Attitudes (SSA) Surveys for 1999-2014, augmented by the Scottish Election Surveys of 1992 and 1997, Ben Clements has investigated ‘Religious Change and Secularisation in Scotland: An Analysis of Affiliation and Attendance’, Scottish Affairs, Vol. 26, No. 2, May 2017, pp. 133-62. Over-time decline was charted on both these religious indicators, with the Church of Scotland suffering heavy losses in terms of adherence. Approximately half the Scottish population now profess no religion and three-fifths never attend religious services. Comparisons with British Social Attitudes Surveys revealed a converging pattern of secularity in both Scotland and England. In-depth examination of the socio-demographic correlates of religious affiliation and attendance in the 2014 SSA highlighted the importance of gender and, most notably, age differences and substantiated Steve Bruce’s characterization of older women as one of the primary carriers of religion in Scotland. The article is currently available on an open access basis at:

Clements has also written a blog summarizing the article at:

As is customary with sample surveys, there is a significant mismatch between claimed attendance at religious services in SSA and actual attendance on an average Saturday/Sunday as recorded by the 2016 Scottish church census (reported above).

Sectarian disadvantage in Scotland (1)

The extent to which sectarian disadvantage persists in Scotland has been a hotly contested topic over the years, and the public and academic debate may well be reignited by a large-scale longitudinal study reported in the May 2017 ‘in progress’ volume of Health & Place: David Wright, Michael Rosato, Gillian Raab, Chris Dibben, Paul Boyle, and Dermot O’Reilly, ‘Does Equality Legislation Reduce Intergroup Differences? Religious Affiliation, Socio-Economic Status, and Mortality in Scotland and Northern Ireland: A Cohort Study of 400,000 People’. The authors conclude that Catholics in Scotland remained at greater socio-economic disadvantage relative to Protestants than in Northern Ireland and were also at a mortality disadvantage (which Northern Irish Catholics were not). It is suggested that this differential may be due to the lack in Scotland of the raft of explicit equality legislation which has diminished religion-based inequality in Northern Ireland during recent decades. Access options to the article are outlined at:

Sectarian disadvantage in Scotland (2)

Coincidental with the appearance of the preceding item, and similarly drawing upon a very large dataset, Steve Bruce and Tony Glendinning offer a far more optimistic assessment of sectarian disadvantage in Scotland: ‘Sectarianism in the Scottish Labour Market: What the 2011 Census Shows’, Scottish Affairs, Vol. 26, No. 2, May 2017, pp. 163-75. Analysing census data on religion, social class, education, gender, and region for persons who were born in Scotland, and estimating the likelihood of Scots of different backgrounds attaining middle class occupations given their educational qualifications, the authors found no sectarian association between religion and social class among people at the peak age (35-54 years) of their labour market involvement. Indeed, the class profile for Roman Catholics was pretty much the same as for other Christians, thereby implying a lack of sectarian discrimination against Catholics, for which Bruce and Glendinning suggest possible explanations. The two clear outliers in the study were both from the ‘other religions’ group, ill-educated other religion men doing better than expected in reaching a middle class occupation and well-educated other religion women achieving less well. Access options to the article are outlined at:

Catholic schools

The relative inclusivity of Catholic schools in England and Wales is often questioned on the basis of statistics of pupil eligibility for free school meals (FSM). In The Take-Up of Free School Meals in Catholic Schools in England and Wales (Benedict XVI Centre for Religion and Society, St Mary’s University Twickenham, 2017, 17pp.), Francesca Montemaggi, Stephen Bullivant, and Maureen Glackin challenge over-dependence on FSM data as an indicator of socio-economic deprivation. They make four substantive points: there is a widespread tendency to conflate receipt of FSM with eligibility, thereby ignoring eligible families who may not take up their entitlement; other Government measures suggest Catholic schools disproportionately recruit from the lowest socio-economic brackets and ethnic minorities; FSM uptake is affected by cultural and demographic factors, with the ethnic profile of Catholic schools resulting in low FSM uptake; and FSM ineligibility does not imply that families are affluent. These conclusions, informed by a literature review and fresh empirical research (in the form of small-scale surveys, interviews, and focus groups), will naturally prove convenient for Catholic interests but a Department for Education spokesperson (quoted in The Tablet for 8 April 2017, p. 29) defended its use of FSM figures, stating that being eligible for and claiming FSM is a suitable proxy for deprivation. The Benedict XVI Centre’s report is at:

Young British Muslims

The statistical content of Young British Muslims: Between Rhetoric and Realities, edited by Sadek Hamid (London: Routledge, 2017, ix + 180pp., ISBN: 978-1-4724-7555-8, £95, hardback) is minimal and mainly contextual. The volume comprises nine theoretically-informed and qualitative case studies which cumulatively challenge the dominant negative external representation of British Muslim youth by focusing on their everyday lived experiences. This is an important alternative perspective, enriching our knowledge of contemporary Muslims. The editorial introduction (p. 3) estimates that approximately four-fifths of these young people are, in reality, ‘cultural Muslims’, practising their faith in a limited way. This is a point which would have been worth addressing more systematically and comparatively (in relation, say, to ‘cultural Christians’ or ‘ethnic Jews’), as well as underpinning by some quantitative evidence. The book’s webpage is at:

Social correlates of non-religion

An online YouGov poll from February 2015 has been used by Ben Clements for the purposes of ‘Examining Non-Religious Groups in Britain: Theistic Belief and Social Correlates’, Journal of Contemporary Religion, Vol. 32, No. 2, May 2017, pp. 315-24. Three non-religious groups were separately investigated (atheists, agnostics, and other non-religion) in comparison with those professing a religious affiliation. Multivariate analysis demonstrated that age and ethnicity were the strongest differentiators between religion and non-religion, but gender had less than the expected impact (except in relation to atheism) while educational attainment, social grade, and region had negligible significance as variables. Access options to the article are outlined at:


Please note: Counting Religion in Britain is © Clive D. Field, 2017

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