Re-examining religious and paranormal beliefs in mid-1970s Britain

A recent YouGov survey shed interesting light on levels of religious beliefs and other forms of belief in contemporary Britain. This BRIN post takes a historical turn by analysing one of the few available surveys enabling assessment of religious and paranormal beliefs in Britain the post-war period. The analysis is based on a Gallup opinion poll undertaken in May 1975, based on a sample of adults aged 16 and older in Britain. The dataset and accompanying documentation for this survey were obtained from the United Kingdom Data Service. Taken as a whole, post-war Gallup polling in Britain provides an important resource for studying change and continuity in popular religion (for more information see Field, 2015a).

This survey dataset is particularly useful because it allows analysis of the relationship between religious and paranormal beliefs in the British public, and the nature of the association between them. For example, was the relationship between religious and paranormal beliefs tending towards a mutually-exclusive one, in which the holding of the former tended to preclude affirmation of the latter? On the other hand, did individuals subscribe to a mixture of religious or paranormal beliefs and – perhaps – were those who held religious beliefs more likely – than those who did not – to believe in paranormal phenomena? Analysis of this survey can hopefully tell us something about the incidence, patterning and overlap of the two types of belief in mid-1970s Britain.

First, Table 1 shows the distribution of responses for religious and paranormal beliefs, based on the distinction between ‘traditional religious’ and ‘non-traditional religious beliefs’ set out in Gill et al. (1998) and Gill (2003).[i] Field uses a distinction between ‘orthodox’ and ‘heterodox’ beliefs in his recent book on religious change in Britain during the ‘long 1950s’, with the former set of beliefs coming within the ‘framework of traditional Christianity’ (2015b: 74). For each belief, Table 1 shows the proportions responding ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘don’t know’. The survey asked about five religious beliefs and eleven paranormal beliefs.

The most prevalent religious belief was in God (71%), followed by believing in heaven (50%). Three other religious beliefs were subscribed to by varying minorities (around a third for life after death, and one fifth for belief in the devil and in hell). Overall, expressed belief in paranormal phenomena varied markedly in British society in the mid-1970s, highest at 51% for being able to forecast (and 48% for thought transference) and lowest at 12% for black magic (and 13% for exchanging messages with the dead). The proportions saying they did not know also varied across the different belief items – highest at 22% for life after death (religious beliefs) and 20% for reincarnation (paranormal beliefs).

 

Table 1: Overall profile of religious and paranormal beliefs

  Yes

(%)

No

(%)

Don’t know (%)
Traditional religious beliefs
God 71 17 12
Heaven 50 36 14
Life after death 35 43 22
Devil 20 72 9
Hell 19 72 9
Classic paranormal beliefs
Being able to forecast 51 36 13
Thought transference 48 37 15
Faith healing 43 42 15
Hypnotism 41 48 10
Horoscopes 28 66 7
Reincarnation 23 58 20
UFOs 20 66 14
Lucky charms 20 75 5
Ghosts 18 72 10
Black magic 13 79 8
Exchanging messages 12 77 11

Source: Author’s analysis of Gallup opinion poll, May 1975.

Note: Percentages rounded and sum across the rows. Distinction amongst types of belief based on that used in Gill et al. (1998) and Gill (2003).

 

Beliefs and sociodemographic groups

The next step in the analysis is to move beyond profiling overall levels of belief and to look at levels of belief across different social groups. Table 2 reports the proportion within each sociodemographic group saying they believe in each religious belief.  Tables 3(a) and 3(b) do the same for the set of paranormal beliefs.

The more notable areas of difference for religious belief concern sex, age group and religious affiliation. Religious beliefs, in mid-1970s Britain, were always more common amongst women than men (82% and 60%, respectively, expressed belief in God; 59% and 39%, respectively, expressed belief in heaven). Some beliefs were generally more common amongst older, as compared to younger, age groups (God and heaven). Based on religious affiliation, unsurprisingly religious beliefs were much more likely to be subscribed to amongst those with some form of denominational allegiance  (highest amongst Catholics). Those with no religious affiliation exhibited some level of religious belief (a quarter said they believed in God and nearly a fifth believed in in life after death). There are somewhat variant results for levels of belief based on social grade, and the marked difference in belief in God and heaven based on age completed education needs to factor in the tendency for who finished at an earlier age being drawn from the older generations in society.

 

Table 2: Religious beliefs by socio-demographic group (percent saying ‘yes’)

God Heaven Hell Devil Life after death
Overall 71 50 19 20 35
Men 60 39 15 16 26
Women 82 59 23 23 44
Aged 16-24 66 41 21 21 33
Aged 25-34 60 43 16 19 31
Aged 35-44 69 47 18 20 30
Aged 45-54 74 49 17 16 33
Aged 55-64 81 58 20 23 37
Aged 65+ 83 65 23 20 46
*Education: 14 or under 80 59 19 18 38
Education: 15 66 43 17 18 30
Education: 16 71 51 20 23 31
Education: 17 66 48 26 26 44
Education: 18 or over 60 35 22 20 42
Social grade: AB 67 48 27 27 38
Social grade: C1 66 45 17 18 35
Social grade: C2 71 48 19 18 34
Social grade: DE 77 56 19 20 36
Church of England 76 52 17 16 34
Church of Scotland 80 57 10 10 40
Nonconformist 84 57 23 20 56
Catholic 87 78 43 44 40
Other religion 67 50 35 36 38
No religion 22 7 6 9 18

Source: Author’s analysis of Gallup opinion poll, May  1975.

*Refers to the age at which a respondent completed their full-time education.

Belief in paranormal phenomena also varied across social groups in Britain in the mid-1970s, as shown in Tables 3(a) and 3(b). As with religious beliefs, women were more likely than men to hold paranormal beliefs (most marked in relation to horoscopes; the exception being belief in UFOs).The patterns of age groups show that younger people were more predisposed to express belief in some paranormal phenomena, and the oldest age group (65 and over) were least likely to do so for some of these beliefs. These age-related differences are particularly evident for belief in black magic, ghosts, hypnotism and UFOs, with younger people expressing higher levels of belief than older people. On the other hand, belief in faith healing tended to be higher amongst older age groups.

Based on religious belonging, there is no consistent pattern for those with no affiliation to be clearly more likely to profess belief in the paranormal. For many beliefs, they are eclipsed by those belonging to particular Christian denominations (or affiliated with some other religious group). As with religious beliefs, there were no consistent differences for social grade. Paranormal belief did tend to be higher amongst those who completed their education later on.

 

Table 3(a): Paranormal beliefs by sociodemographic group (percent saying ‘yes’)

Reincarnation Hypnotism Black magic Horoscopes Thought Transference
Overall 23 41 13 28 48
Men 19 40 12 15 43
Women 26 42 14 39 52
Aged 16-24 25 50 23 31 48
Aged 25-34 20 54 17 26 53
Aged 35-44 16 48 11 23 44
Aged 45-54 21 40 12 31 50
Aged 55-64 26 33 9 28 52
Aged 65+ 27 20 6 27 40
*Education: 14 or under 25 28 7 30 45
Education: 15 17 42 12 24 39
Education: 16 21 52 16 29 55
Education: 17 34 62 30 22 50
Education: 18 or over 25 59 23 28 65
Social grade: AB 25 54 17 20 59
Social grade: C1 22 48 15 22 58
Social grade: C2 22 43 13 25 44
Social grade: DE 23 31 11 38 40
Church of England 24 42 13 29 49
Church of Scotland 25 35 7 42 35
Nonconformist 25 35 9 29 57
Catholic 24 35 10 21 46
Other religion 29 47 21 35 55
No religion 9 48 17 17 39

Source: Author’s analysis of Gallup opinion poll, May 1975.

*Refers to the age at which a respondent completed their full-time education.

 

Table 3(b): Paranormal beliefs by sociodemographic group (percent saying ‘yes’)

Ghosts UFOs Faith healing Being able to forecast Lucky charms Exchanging messages
Overall 18 20 43 51 20 12
Men 16 24 38 45 14 11
Women 20 16 47 56 26 13
Aged 16-24 28 28 38 57 25 15
Aged 25-34 22 24 38 58 18 12
Aged 35-44 14 20 35 49 13 7
Aged 45-54 23 22 51 44 25 16
Aged 55-64 12 12 51 52 23 10
Aged 65+ 7 10 45 45 16 10
*Education: 14 or under 12 13 46 46 23 13
Education: 15 18 20 38 52 18 10
Education: 16 19 25 39 55 17 9
Education 17 26 26 38 58 12 12
Education: 18 or over 33 31 50 58 19 20
Social grade: AB 16 23 44 50 16 12
Social grade: C1 22 23 50 57 14 13
Social grade: C2 19 20 38 49 19 10
Social grade: DE 15 17 42 49 27 13
Church of England 20 21 47 54 24 12
Church of Scotland 10 8 33 40 12 8
Nonconformist 16 13 49 56 11 9
Catholic 18 21 29 50 20 11
Other religion 21 26 53 59 26 22
No religion 15 22 32 34 7 10

Source: Author’s analysis of Gallup opinion poll, May 1975.

*Refers to the age at which a respondent completed their full-time education.

 

Table 4 sheds some light on the crossover of religious and paranormal beliefs amongst the British public in the mid-1970s by showing levels of paranormal belief based on responses to the religious belief questions. That is, we can compare levels of belief in the paranormal amongst those who did or who did not express belief in God, in heaven, and so on.The association between religious and paranormal beliefs

When individuals are grouped by belief in God, belief in the paranormal tended to be highest amongst those who expressed believed in God; not those who expressed disbelief in God. The same pattern is evident when individuals are grouped based on belief (or not) in heaven, in hell, in the devil and in life after death. In other words, there is no obvious basis for saying that religious and paranormal beliefs tended to be mutually exclusive belief systems amongst many individuals. In actual fact, those who held religious beliefs were more likely than those who did not to express belief in a range of paranormal phenomena. Of course, often significant proportions of those who did not subscribe to particular religious did affirm belief in paranormal phenomena, but usually they were outranked by those who did hold common religious beliefs.

 

Table 4: Paranormal beliefs by religious beliefs (percent saying ‘yes’)

  Hypnotism Black magic Horoscopes Thought transference Ghosts UFOs
God Yes 39 13 31 50 20 20
No 45 14 18 41 13 17
Heaven Yes 36 13 33 51 20 21
No 44 13 21 43 15 19
Hell Yes 45 22 36 61 32 29
No 39 10 25 45 14 18
Devil Yes 45 26 36 61 36 27
No 39 9 26 44 13 17
Life after death Yes 49 18 37 61 29 24
No 34 10 22 37 9 15
Faith healing Being able to forecast Lucky charms Exchanging messages Reincarnation
God Yes 48 52 23 14 29
No 28 50 12 5 8
Heaven Yes 50 55 26 15 36
No 32 47 14 8 9
Hell Yes 55 60 25 24 44
No 39 49 19 9 19
Devil Yes 56 61 28 26 39
No 39 48 19 8 19
Life after death Yes 58 63 25 22 43
No 31 44 18 7 10

Source: Author’s analysis of Gallup opinion poll, May 1975.

 

Table 5 looks at the association between these types of belief in reverse: that is, it shows levels of religious belief based on ‘yes’ and ‘no’ responses to the questions on paranormal belief. So, for example, of those who expressed a belief in hypnotism, 68% expressed belief in God, compared to 75% of those who did not believe in hypnotism (and so on).

 

Table 5: Religious beliefs by paranormal beliefs (percent saying ‘yes’)

  God Heaven Hell Devil Life after death
Hypnotism Yes 68 44 21 22 42
No 75 55 17 16 29
Black magic Yes 68 48 32 38 48
No 72 50 16 16 33
Horoscopes Yes 79 60 25 25 47
No 68 46 16 17 30
Thought transference Yes 75 53 25 25 45
No 70 47 13 13 25
Ghosts Yes 79 55 34 39 56
No 71 49 15 15 30
UFOs Yes 72 54 28 27 43
No 73 51 17 18 35
Faith healing Yes 79 58 25 26 47
No 65 45 15 14 25
Being able to forecast Yes 73 53 23 23 43
No 73 50 15 16 28
Lucky charms Yes 83 64 24 28 44
No 68 47 18 17 33
Exchanging messages Yes 82 63 38 42 66
No 71 49 17 17 31
Reincarnation Yes 92 79 37 34 67
  No 64 39 13 15 23

Source: Author’s analysis of Gallup opinion poll, May 1975.

 

A belief typology

Given Tables 4-5 presented the finely-grained detail of how paranormal beliefs are associated with religious beliefs and vice versa, it is helpful to try and distil the essence of this messy and complex association between different types of belief. As a final step in profiling the nature of belief in the British population in mid-1970s, belief indices for religious and paranormal beliefs were computed (based on all of the different beliefs utilised above), in order to arrive at an overall typology of belief. This was undertaken based on the procedures and category labels set out in Rice (2003: 103-104).[ii] Producing two separate belief indices and then looking at the association between them produces a four-fold typology of belief (‘sceptics’; ‘classic paranormal believers’; ‘traditional religious believers’; ‘full believers’), and allows us, in broad terms, to see the proportions contained within each belief type. The results of this analysis are shown in Table 6 (for all individuals) and in Tables 7-8 (respectively, for women and men).

 

Table 6: Belief typology (ALL)

Tend not to believe in traditional religious phenomena Tend to believe in traditional religious phenomena

 

Tend not to believe in classic paranormal Sceptics: 52% Traditional religious believers: 24%
Tend to believe in classic paranormal phenomena Classic paranormal believers: 10% Full believers: 14%

Source: Author’s analysis of Gallup opinion poll, May 1975.

Note: Based on the analytical procedures set out in Rice (2003: 103-104), and using the same category labels.

 

We can say that in the mid-1970s – and probably rather surprisingly – about half (52%) could be categorised as ‘sceptics’ – that is, they tended not to believe in traditional religious beliefs and paranormal beliefs, on the basis of the typology constructed based on Rice’s procedures (2003). One in ten (10%) tended to believe in only paranormal phenomena, outranked by the larger share who were ‘traditional religious believers’ (24%). When the belief typology is reproduced for women and men separately, we can see that women were more likely to have ‘full believers’ and ‘traditional religious believers’, and less likely to have been ‘sceptics’. There was no difference in the proportion of ‘classic paranormal believers’ amongst women and men. Again, it should be noted that this typology is based on a single snapshot of popular beliefs from a one post-war survey – of course the results could well be different if varied sets of religious and paranormal beliefs were used; and a more nuanced typology could be applied to the data.

 

Table 7: Belief typology (WOMEN)

Tend not to believe in traditional religious phenomena Tend to believe in traditional religious phenomena

 

Tend not to believe in classic paranormal Sceptics: 42% Traditional religious believers: 30%
Tend to believe in classic paranormal phenomena Classic paranormal believers: 10% Full believers: 19%

Source: Author’s analysis of Gallup opinion poll, May 1975.

Note: Based on the analytical procedures set out in Rice (2003: 103-104), and using the same category labels.

 

Table 8: Belief typology (MEN)

Tend not to believe in traditional religious phenomena Tend to believe in traditional religious phenomena

 

Tend not to believe in classic paranormal Sceptics: 64% Traditional religious believers: 18%
Tend to believe in classic paranormal phenomena Classic paranormal believers: 10% Full believers: 9%

Source: Author’s analysis of Gallup opinion poll, May 1975.

Note: Based on the analytical procedures set out in Rice (2003: 103-104), and using the same category labels.

 

Summary

The empirical results reported above showed that, overall, religious and paranormal beliefs were subscribed to by varying segments of the adult population in mid-1970s Britain. In terms of belief across different social groups, women were consistently more likely affirm belief in both religious tenets and paranormal phenomena. The results for the belief typology showed that, in more general terms, women were more likely to have been ‘full believers’ and ‘traditional religious believers’ than men.

Of course, analysing a single survey from the mid-1970s (and no claims are made here that this period is – or is not – of particular note for studying religious change in general or beliefs in particular in post-war Britain) provides a very limited window into the incidence, patterning and overlap of religious and paranormal beliefs within the British public in the post-war period. However, given the coverage of both types of belief in the survey – generally not available in other survey datasets available to academic researchers, certainly those held at the UKDS – the modest empirical findings presented and discussed here may offer some nuggets of interest to sociologists of religion and social historians focusing on the British context, however time-bound the analysis may be. Replicating this exercise using a contemporary sample survey of the British adult population, with suitable coverage of both religious and paranormal beliefs, may shed some light on areas of change in popular belief across the intervening decades.

 

References and further reading

Clements, B. (2016), Surveying Christian Beliefs and Religious Debates in Post-War Britain. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Field C. D. (2015a), Religion in Great Britain, 1939-99: A Compendium of Gallup Poll Data. BRIN Working Papers on Religious Statistics. Working Paper 2. February 2015. Available at: http://www.brin.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Religion-in-Great-Britain-1939-99-A-Compendium-of-Gallup-Poll-Data.pdf

Field, C. D. (2015b), Britain’s Last Religious Revival? Quantifying Belonging, Behaving, and Believing in the Long 1950s. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Gill, R. (2003), The Empty Church Revisited. London: Ashgate.

Gill, R., Kirk Hadaway, C. and Marler, P. L. (1998), ‘Is Religious Belief Declining in Britain?’, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 37(3): 507-516.

Rice, T. W. (2003), ‘Believe It Or Not: Religious and Other Paranormal Beliefs in the United States’, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 42(1): 95-106.

Social Surveys (Gallup Poll) Limited. Gallup Poll, May 1975. [data collection]. UK Data Service. SN: 1330, http://dx.doi.org/10.5255/UKDA-SN-1330-1.

[i] For ‘non-traditional religious beliefs’ Gill et al (1998) noted that: ‘These items reflect a heterodox collection of ideas with decidedly cultic and “pre-Christian’ connotations. They are often disparaged as “superstitious.” Such beliefs may also connect to more recent new religious or “new age” movements with antiinstitutional, nonmaterialistic, and nonrational features’ (512).

[ii] The religious belief index was created by adding up responses towards the five religious beliefs and the paranormal belief index was created by adding up responses towards the eleven paranormal beliefs. For each individual in the sample, a value of 1 was assigned for each phenomenon they did not believe in (‘yes’ responses) and a value of 2 for each phenomenon they did believe in (‘no responses’). ‘Don’t know’ responses were assigned a value of 1.5. The indices ranged from 5-10 for the religious beliefs and 11-22 for the paranormal beliefs. Both indices were then divided into two categories. For the religious belief index, scores of 5–7.5 were given the value of 1 and scores of 8-10 were given the value of 2. For the paranormal belief index, scores of 11-16.5 were given the value of 1 and scores of 17-22 were given the value of 2. For more information, and to see this analysis undertaken for beliefs in the United States, see Rice (2003: 103-104).

Posted in Historical studies, Measuring religion, Religious beliefs, Research note, Survey news, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The 1957 Youth Research Council Survey of Young People’s Religion and Lifestyles

It’s my pleasure to announce the publication online of a survey dataset, the 1957 Youth Research Council Survey of Young People’s Religion and Lifestyles (SN 7933). This is a project on which I’ve worked for some time, to digitise and make more widely available a large-scale survey of English youth fielded almost 60 years ago.

This project was originally of BRIN inspiration: Clive Field serves as a trustee on the Pastoral Research Centre Trust, a social research institute established and directed by the demographer and religious sociologist Tony Spencer. Clive suggested this project as one where digitisation would help preserve a valuable and high-quality data source both for wider use by sociologists of religion, and for the longer term. He summarised the data source as follows in his 1987 work on religious data sources:

‘[A] major study… conducted in January and February 1957 by the Roman Catholic Young Christian Worker movement with technical assistance from the [Newman Demographic Survey]. Interviews were held with 8,196 persons aged fifteen to twenty-four living in randomly selected streets of twenty-eight London boroughs and thirty English provincial towns and cities with a population in excess of forty thousand. The full questionnaire, which was given to all non-Anglican respondents and to thirty per cent of the five thousand Church of England adherents, covered socio-demographic characteristics, belief in god, Christ heaven and hell, attendance at Sunday school or catechism, public worship and Holy Communion, and confirmation. Proper weighting (to correct for the over-representation of Catholics and fifteen to nineteen year olds) and analysis of the data was never completed on account of shortages both of time and money, and the only significant publication to have arisen from the project was a special double issue of New Life’ (Field 1987: 263).

The survey was conducted jointly by the Young Christian Workers (YCW) and the Newman Demographic Survey (NDS) under a joint committee, namely the Youth Research Council. The YCW interest lay in gathering data for the YCW’s international congress in Rome. It had an activist mission: its motto then and now was ‘See, Judge, Act’. National associations were asked by the YCW headquarters in Brussels to report on young workers in their countries. Frank Lane (1926-1993), then a full-time organiser for the YCW and later to become its chief administrator in England, contacted the Newman Demographic Survey for advice.

Tony Spencer established both the Newman Demographic Survey, in 1953, and the PRC as a legacy organisation in 1964. Inconsistency of funding and programmatic independence caused difficulties for the NDS, as detailed on the PRC website. Spencer managed much of the work of the NDS and PRC alongside a civil service career, military service, and then an academic career at Queen’s University Belfast. He also gave service to the wider community as founder of Lagan College, the first integrated school in Belfast, established in 1981. More on the founding of Lagan College can be learned here.

The YRC 1957 study was a particularly attractive project for many reasons. Commercial polling had come to Britain in the 1930s via Gallup, and government surveys were in their early stages in the 1950s. Among academic studies, the Glass mobility study of 1949, the Family Expenditure Survey of 1961, and British Election Study from 1963 were the first major examples. So it hails from the earlier years of survey research in Britain, and having this dataset available to the scholarly community helps turn this period from one of historical interest to one of social scientific interest. What are apparently the ‘relics of history’ are amenable to standard analytic tools and arguably of contemporary interest.

Even in the US, where the quantitative study of religion is firmly established, the earliest survey data available on religion are Gallup polling data from 1939. Notable early US studies include Gerhard Lenski’s sample of 656 Detroit residents in 1958, reported in his 1961 classic, The Religious Factor, and the first large-scale surveys of American religiosity launched in 1963 by Charles Glock and Rodney Stark.

The detail it provides on young English Catholics is also important. It is now largely forgotten that Irish immigrants were once seen as a social and cultural threat, and it may be that analysis of these data will help shed light on the successful integration of a distinct religious minority.

Further, it is of good quality for a study of its time and comparable quality would be very expensive nowadays when young people are hard-to-reach by survey researchers. There is lots of evidence in the archives of care and thought given to sampling and questionnaire design, with further details in the survey’s Technical Report. Expert advice was sought from survey researchers in government and at Gallup, and also from the Director of Mass Observation. Of the towns and boroughs which were selected for the stratified sample, a 2 per cent sample was taken of those aged 15-24.

The survey was also fascinating in terms of how it was produced. There was almost no funding available – £200 provided by the YCW in 1956, worth about £4500 now. That had to cover the printing of questionnaires and tabulation of the responses for computer analysis as well as the analysis itself. The survey was fielded by volunteers from the Young Christian Workers, mostly young people in their teens and early 20s, with little free time outside work. The survey design, coding up of responses and analysis of the headline results depended very much on the NDS and its advisers working in an entirely voluntary capacity, in the interests of gathering data on youth religiosity and particularly Catholic religiosity at a time of high immigration from Ireland in particular. A similar study nowadays – face-to-face, aiming for good coverage of minority communities – would require funding of several hundreds of thousands of pounds, according to one reviewer of the project.

More importantly, the dataset provides an important insight into youth lifestyle and attitudes to religion in late industrial society. This period is now slipping farther back in British memory, and yet is still part of our present: the majority of that cohort is still alive. Accordingly, the survey is both history and social science, informing us of the youth of the Silent Generation, which is now enjoying retirement or still working, still volunteering and politically-active, and caring for dependents. The target population is now aged 74 to 83. Their social attitudes are borne of memories of wartime and post-war austerity, strong trade unions and a large manufacturing sector, almost full employment in their formative years, and for a lucky few, the provision of free university education. While the late 1950s are commonly thought of as the age of beatniks and rock’n’roll, there is actually little evidence of widespread cultural change – that apparently awaited the 1960s – although 1957 was arguably the first year when television dominated the radio. In providing additional data on what young people were doing on Sundays, and the societies and clubs they belonged to, the survey also tells us of youth leisure and civic life at the time.

For completion of the digitisation project, I was very lucky to be awarded what was, coincidentally, a similar amount of funding by the Nuffield Foundation to that originally provided by the YCW. The practical side was interesting in that there were not many exemplars; very helpful advice on data capture was provided by economists Andrew Newell and Tim Leunig.

On beginning the project, it also seemed that there was a certain amount of data loss – to damp and some boxes of forms were lost so that about half the London boroughs are not represented. The IBM punchcards were also lost over the years. 5832 responses survive.

An example of an original form is given below (click on the images for enlarged versions). Many written-in answers had been coded by the original coding team, notably one Mrs Jane Platts, whose work in coding occupations was stellar. The closed responses had also been ringed by the interviewer, and again back at the NDS offices where checks were made for consistency. The excellent Digital Divide Data took receipt of the set of scanned images and recorded responses in an Excel spreadsheet for further processing.

YCW-example-1 YCW-example-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This spreadsheet then required further cleaning and checking (and the written-in responses to religious questions remains to be done). The published dataset, available in both SPSS and Stata formats, includes the close-form variables; written-in responses to questions on how time was spent last Sunday, associational memberships and occupation; a number of derived variables; full variable labelling; and has the different types of missingness identified. The Technical Report explains further.

Finally, I created poststratification weights using 1951 Census data together with Spencer’s own estimates of the 15-24 Catholic population of England.

In further posts I will give some examples of individual responses to particular questions to help give a flavour of religious attitudes at the time. There is also the potential for interesting qualitative work drawing on the written-in responses, marginalia and survey paradata.

For now, thanks are due the Nuffield Foundation for funding digitisation costs (SGS/37651). Some of this work was also completed while I was Marston Research Fellow at the University of Manchester, supported by the Marston Family Trust, for which I am extremely grateful; this dataset will inform further work on youth socialisation. The UK Data Service, particularly Louise Bolger and Karen Dennison, were very helpful in advising on preparing the dataset for publication.

For their technical and practical help in digitising the survey, and agreement for granting of copyright clearance for publication online, thanks are also due to:

Phil Callaghan, National President, Young Christian Workers England and Wales

Chhuon Chipon, Digital Divide Data, Cambodia

Martin Cooney, Servicepoint UK, Manchester

James Duff, Conservation Team Leader, John Rylands University Library

Kate Duncan, Digital Divide Data, New York

Clive Field OBE, Director of British Religion in Numbers and Honorary Research Fellow of the Universities of Birmingham and Manchester

Anthony Heath, Professor of Sociology, University of Oxford

Michael Hornsby-Smith, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, University of Surrey

Johanna Juselius, former graduate student in Social Change, University of Manchester

Tim Leunig, then Associate Professor in Economic History, London School of Economics

Tessa Liburd, graduate student in Sociology, University of Manchester

Andrew Newell, Lecturer in Economics, University of Sussex

Paul Norman, Lecturer in Human Geography, University of Leeds

David Voas, Director of British Religion in Numbers and Head of Department of Social Science at UCL Institute of Education

Particular thanks are due to Tony Spencer, whose extraordinary efforts led to the fielding and then preservation of the survey. In turn, in the report of the survey’s headline results made in 1958, he paid tribute to the numerous volunteers who knocked on doors interviewing respondents:

‘to the National Organisers and Regional Leaders who spent weeks travelling the country, preparing street lists by day and briefing interviewers in the evenings: to the Y.C.W. Headquarters Staff who administered and maintained the momentum of the work: and above all to the many hundreds of members of the Y.C.W. and of the Legion of Mary, Knights of St. Columba, the Cell, the Children of Mary, youth clubs, teachers and training colleges and University students, who spent night after night and several week-ends, in wet or cold weather, calling at every house in a particular street, doing one or two interviews and then going on to the next listed street, perhaps some way away, and returning another day to call again at houses where everyone, or all of the young people of the household were found to be out’ (Spencer 1958: 8-9).

References

Barley, Lynda, Field, Clive D., Kosmin, Barry A., and Nielsen, Jorgen S (1987), Reviews of United Kingdom Statistical Sources XX: Religion (Pergamon Press, Oxford).

Spencer, A.E.C.W. (1958), ‘Youth and Religion’, New Life, Vol. 14, pp. 1-59.

The full technical report is available here:  http://doc.ukdataservice.ac.uk/doc/7933/mrdoc/pdf/7933uguide.pdf

In terms of papers analysing data from the survey:

Siobhan McAndrew and Lindsay Richards, ‘Nothing to Do in the Affluent Society’ (Working Paper) examines youth leisure and associational memberships in terms of religious affiliation. Further work is underway with Stephen Bullivant looking specifically at religious practice and belief.

Posted in Attitudes towards Religion, church attendance, Historical studies, Measuring religion, Religion and Social Capital | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

ComRes on Religion and Other News

 

ComRes on religion

Exactly half the whole population (and 71% of those professing no religion) now denies that religion is a force for good in the world, according to a ComRes poll for ITV News on 16-18 January 2015, for which 2,036 adults were interviewed online. Only 24% overall agreed with the proposition with 26% undecided. Christianity was viewed somewhat more positively, a plurality (39%) agreeing that it is a force for good in the world (peaking at 55% of over-65s and 63% of Christians), against 30% who disagreed (including 53% of religious nones) and 31% who did not know. However, although 44% judged that religious leaders in Britain should not get involved in political debates (compared with 34% who thought they should), in practice there was majority support for some specific recent interventions: 65% approved of the criticisms made by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York of the behaviour of shoppers in the Black Friday sales; 63% of their charge that Britain has become dominated by consumerism and selfishness; and 50% of religious leaders speaking out about economic inequality. Data tables are at:   

http://comres.co.uk/polls/ITV_News_Index_Religion_20th_January_2015.pdf

British Cohort Study

On 27 April 2014 BRIN included in one of its regular weekly round-ups of religious statistical news an item on ‘When we’re 42’. This contained a preliminary (topline) analysis of a short religion module which had formed part of the latest wave of the 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS), which has been following the lives of babies born in Britain one week in 1970. Information was gathered by TNS BMRB between May 2012 and April 2013 from 9,841 members of the cohort at the age of 42, by a combination of face-to-face interview and self-completion questionnaire, the religion questions appearing on the self-completion form.  

A much fuller (27-page) analysis of the module, incorporating various cross-tabulations, was published on 21 January 2015 as Centre for Longitudinal Studies Working Paper 2015/1: David Voas, The Mysteries of Religion and the Lifecourse. It will also appear in a forthcoming issue of the journal Longitudinal and Life Course Studies but meanwhile can be accessed via the link at: 

http://www.cls.ioe.ac.uk/page.aspx?&sitesectionid=939&sitesectiontitle=Recent+working+papers

The press release for the report led on the substantial gender differences which were found in the two religious beliefs which were enquired into, an emphasis which was then reflected in the media coverage, although the phenomenon is hardly novel and, as Voas comments, still lacks a clear resolution. Perhaps of greater interest are his methodological conclusions and observations arising from the research, with a plea to avoid over-reliance on single-item measures of religiosity. This is exemplified in the sevenfold religious typology proposed by the author in table 8, based on pooling BCS data about religious identity, religious attendance, and belief in God and life after death, and which demonstrates that religiosity is far from being a black and white matter. The table is reproduced below: 

Label Description

%

Non-religious Does not have a religion and believes in neither God nor life after death

28

Nominally religious Identifies with a religion but believes in neither God nor life after death

7

Unorthodox non-religious Does not have a religion or does not attend services, believes in God or life after death but not both

21

Unorthodox religious Has a religion and attends services at least occasionally, believes in God but not life after death (or vice versa)

5

Non-identifying believers Does not have a religion but believes in God and life after death

10

Non-practising religious Has a religion and believes in God and life after death but does not attend services

14

Actively religious Has a religion and believes in God and life after death and attends services

15

Religious affiliation

Lord Ashcroft’s latest themed political opinion poll was published on 14 January 2015, this time on public attitudes to the National Health Service. Fieldwork was conducted online between 14 and 24 November 2014 among adults aged 18 and over, and, as usual, there was a background question asked about religious affiliation: ‘which of the following religious groups do you consider yourself to be a member of?’ Summary weighted findings appear below, with comparisons from previous years, from which it will be seen that Christian disaffiliation and profession of no faith are proceeding relatively rapidly. The full results (with breaks by gender, age, social grade, region, employment sector, working status, educational attainment, and voting intention) can be found in table 149 of the data tables at: 

http://lordashcroftpolls.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/NHS-poll-Full-data-tables.pdf 

% down

11/2011 All

11/2012 All

11/2013 All

11/2014 All

11/2014 18-24

11/2014 65+

Christian

56.4

55.0

52.6

53.7

32.4

72.1

Non-Christian

6.6

6.5

7.4

7.0

13.3

3.2

No religion

35.2

36.3

37.7

37.0

49.4

23.4

Refused

1.8

2.2

2.3

2.4

4.9

1.3

N =

5,000

20,066

8,053

20,011

2,402

4,201

Rating Pope Francis

Pope Francis was quick to condemn the Islamist outrages in Paris, but he subsequently raised more than a few eyebrows when he told journalists that there were limits to freedom of expression and that the faith of others should not be insulted, even cracking a joke in the process about punching anybody who foul-mouthed his own mother. The majority of Britons (51%) disagreed with the Pope’s (unguarded) statement (Londoners and UKIP voters most strongly, on 59%), against 36% who supported it, according to an online poll by YouGov among 1,747 Britons on 18-19 January 2015. Reviewing his pontificate more generally, 51% thought that the Pope is doing a good job, up by 15 points over two YouGov surveys undertaken during his first year in office in 2013, and very few (7%) suggested he is doing a bad job, as many as 42% being undecided. Almost one-quarter (23%) claimed they had a more positive view of the Catholic Church as a result of Pope Francis, albeit the plurality who hold a negative view of the Church is still as large as ever (36%, the same as in November 2013), the over-60s being most negative (48%). Nearly two-fifths (39%, 8 points up on November 2013) anticipated that the Pope would make the Church more liberal, notwithstanding there is as yet little tangible evidence that its teachings are about to be ‘modernized’ in any substantive way. A blog about the survey was published on 20 January 2015, with a link to the data tables, at: 

https://yougov.co.uk/news/2015/01/20/pope-francis-approval-rise/

Immigration

A plurality (47%) of the British public believes that immigration has weakened Christian values in Britain, according to an online poll by Survation for the think-tank Bright Blue, for which 1,052 adults were interviewed between 12 and 16 September 2014 (although the results were only released on 19 January 2015). The proportion holding this view soared to 81% among UKIP voters and also constituted a majority for several other demographic sub-groups, including retired people (66%), the over-55s (62%), Conservative voters (56%), the lowest (DE) social grade (55%), men (54%), and married persons (53%). Just 19% of the whole sample disagreed with the proposition that immigration had weakened Christian values in Britain, while 25% neither agreed nor disagreed and 8% registered as don’t knows. On a related matter, and referring to a recent situation in real life, 66% of Britons favoured granting asylum in the UK to a woman from a strongly Muslim country who had been threatened with execution because of her Christian beliefs. Data tables are at: 

http://survation.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/GB-Population-tables.pdf

The same questions were also posed to a separate sample of 1,307 current Conservative voters between 12 and 30 September 2014, and these data tables are at: 

http://survation.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Conservative-Voters-tables.pdf

Anti-Semitism – Jewish perspectives

Anti-Semitism was again in the media spotlight during the past week, in the wake of the recent Islamist outrages in France, in one of which four Jews were murdered in an attack on a kosher supermarket. The heightened coverage of anti-Semitism is being underpinned by original empirical research. 

The Jewish Chronicle has published the second in its new series of Jewish topical issues polls, undertaken by Survation among a representative sample of 939 UK Jews (including secular and non-practising) aged 18 and over, who were interviewed by telephone on 19-20 January 2015. Notwithstanding greater efforts being made by the authorities to protect Jews, 58% claimed not to have noticed any increased police presence in their own areas during the past fortnight (against 40% who had), with Jewish over-55s most likely to have detected no improvement (70%). Asked whether the Government was doing all it could to combat anti-Semitism, only 33% answered in the affirmative, while 55% thought it should be doing more (rising to 61% of female Jews and 64% of under-35s). However, there was majority welcome (60%) from UK Jews for the letter which the Communities Minister had written to Muslim leaders calling for renewed efforts on their part to explain how Islam can be part of British identity. Data tables, with breaks by age, gender, and region, are at:  

http://survation.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Jewish-Issues-Poll-2.pdf

As well as summarizing the results of its own poll, the current issue of The Jewish Chronicle (23 January 2015, pp. 6-7, 35) also allocated space to continued discussion about the validity of the poll of Jews conducted online by the Campaign against Antisemitism (CAA) between 23 December 2014 and 11 January 2015, whose findings were rather alarmist (as featured in our last post on 18 January 2015). In The Jewish Chronicle, CAA chair Gideon Falter had an article strongly affirming the ‘bulletproof’ nature of his organization’s research, while distinguished academic (and Holocaust survivor) Michael Pinto-Duschinsky urged the newspaper’s readers ‘don’t trust these misleading figures’, backing up previous criticisms of them by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research. Meanwhile, Geoffrey Alderman, a regular columnist on The Jewish Chronicle, called for an end to ‘point-scoring’ about the CAA survey of Jews, although he was skating on somewhat thin ice himself since he had apparently made some use of the CAA data in an article he had written for The Spectator. 

Anti-Semitism – public opinion

A survey of public attitudes to Jews and the Holocaust was published by the European Jewish Congress on 21 January 2015. It was designed by 202 Strategies and undertaken by Survation among a sample of 504 UK adults aged 18-35 (48% of whom described themselves as not religious), who were interviewed online between 8 and 10 January 2015. A significant minority of respondents was found to have ambiguous, prejudiced, or ill-informed views on both topics, albeit some might consider a few of the questions to be a little leading. Although a majority (53%) acknowledged the existence of anti-Semitism in the UK, 23% denied it and 24% were undecided. Three-fifths had been taught about the Holocaust at school but fewer, 40%, regarded it as the most important event in European history over the last century, just 34% knew who Adolf Eichmann was, 31% underestimated the number of Jews who had perished in the Holocaust (with a further 21% unable to answer at all), and only 29% were aware of Holocaust Memorial Day. One in seven inclined to Holocaust denial in that they agreed ‘the evidence surrounding the Holocaust is not complete and I would need to see more proof to believe without a doubt that it occurred’. A similar proportion (15%) backed the introduction of a legal requirement for businesses owned by Jews to have a special form of identification (22% saying the same about Muslim businesses) and 15% wanted individual Jews to carry religious identification (13% wishing to see a similar obligation on Christians). One-quarter thought it very or somewhat likely that laws discriminating against Jews could be passed in Europe today, and 24% anticipated that another Holocaust might happen in Europe during their lifetime. Full data tables have not yet been released (and may not be, since 202 Strategies rather than Survation did the analysis), but a 16-page report is available at:   

http://www.eurojewcong.org/docs/UKpoll.pdf

The Conversation of 22 January 2015 contained a preliminary analysis by Tim Bale of a poll which he had commissioned from YouGov to gauge voter reactions to the prospect of a Jewish politician leading a political party and becoming Prime Minister. This is more than a distant scenario, given that Ed Miliband leads the Labour Party and might, after the May general election, become the first British Jewish Prime Minister since 1880, albeit – conceivably – at the head of a minority or coalition government. In fact, only one-third of all UK voters are aware of Miliband’s religious background, and even fewer of those intending to vote Labour than for the other parties. Even if they were aware, for the vast majority (83%) it would apparently make no difference to their electoral choice. However, 13% of UKIP voters would be less likely to vote for a party with a Jewish leader, twice the proportion of Conservative and LibDem voters who said this, and three times the number of Labour voters. UKIP voters were also least likely (48%) to see a Jewish prime minister as equally acceptable as one from another faith, compared with 62% of all voters and 72% of Labour voters. More generally, just 10% agreed that Jews have too much influence in the country, a reduction from 18% in 2004 (albeit UKIP supporters are still at 18%). Bale’s post, which is a spin-off from his forthcoming Oxford University Press book on the Labour Party under Miliband, can be read at: 

http://theconversation.com/british-voters-open-to-a-jewish-prime-minister-but-some-are-more-welcoming-than-others-36611

Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion

Among the 11 essays in the latest edition (Vol. 25, 2014) of Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion, an annual published by Brill, are a couple which might interest BRIN readers, details of which are given below: 

  • pp. 2-16, Leslie Francis and Mandy Robbins, ‘Religious Identity, Mystical Experience, and Psychopathology: A Study among Secular, Christian, and Muslim Youth in England and Wales’ – a survey of the incidence of mystical experience and its association with psychoticism and neuroticism among 203 Muslim, 477 Christian, and 378 religiously unaffiliated young people aged 14-18 attending 12 schools in England and Wales 
  • pp. 78-108, Andrew Kam-Tuck Yip and Sarah-Jane Page, ‘Religious Faith and Heterosexuality: A Multi-Faith Exploration of Young Adults’ – a survey of the sexual values, attitudes, and behaviour of 515 self-defined heterosexual religious young adults aged 18-25 living in the UK

 

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Quantiphobia and Other News

 

Quantiphobia

Quantiphobia – the fear or suspicion of statistics – surfaces among religious leaders from time to time, and, of course, has some biblical foundation in David’s alleged sin in numbering the Israelites (2 Sam. 24:1-25, 1 Chron. 21:1-30). It is particularly likely to manifest itself during periods when religious performance indicators are perceived as unhealthy, such as during the Edwardian era in Britain, when, according to one noted historian (Keith Robbins), there was ‘a crisis of Christendom’. Thus, Charles Booth, the pioneering religious sociologist, concluded his multi-volume assessment of religious forces in London in 1902 with the verdict: ‘Spiritual influences do not lend themselves readily to statistical treatment … The subject is one in which figures may easily be pressed too far, and if trusted too much are likely to be more than usually dangerous.’ And the Protestant leadership in the capital was so paranoid about declining church attendance in 1913 that it frustrated an attempt by the Daily News and Leader to replicate a census of churchgoing first taken in 1902-03, reminding the newspaper that: ‘The influence of the Church is often in inverse proportion to its numerical strength, as in the early days, under the Roman Emperors.’ (I have written up the story of this long forgotten episode as an article for forthcoming publication). 

Notwithstanding some pockets of church growth, few informed observers would deny that most branches of organized Christianity in Britain today are facing another crisis, with downturns in key metrics of religious belonging, behaving, and believing, and with the social significance of religion declining in the non-institutional arena, too, in a quantitatively measurable way. Statistics of the Churches, therefore, rarely present a good news story from their perspective these days, causing occasional voices to be raised against their use. The latest example is to be found in an article by Edward Dowler (Vicar of Clay Hill in the Diocese of London) on ‘Lies, Damned Lies, and the Gathering of Data’ which is published in the Church Times of 19/26 December 2014, p. 12 (only available online to subscribers). In it the author advises us to ‘be wary of an overemphasis on statistics at the expense of faithfulness to the gospel’. He is especially critical of the ‘data-driven approach’ which has characterized the Church of England in recent years, exemplified (he writes, in somewhat garbled fashion) by ‘the British Religion in Numbers project associated with Professor Linda Woodhead, and her surveys on the part played by religion in public life …’ In reality, the piece is a bit of a rant by Dowler against ‘the prevailing managerialist delusion of contemporary Western society’ and ‘a clear connection between collecting data and wielding economic power’. 

Of course, statistics should never be used in complete isolation, and they must be understood and interpreted within the context of relevant and rigorous qualitative evidence, where it exists, as well as against the historical background. And we should be on our guard against ‘bad statistics’, gathered in methodologically inadequate ways and presented without due regard to their limitations. But a plea for recourse solely to qualitative data (or none at all) can often degenerate into a reliance on the anecdotal and a tendency to generalize from the atypical, with the consequent potential to mislead. What is worse, it may result in self-delusion on the part of religious leaders, and being in denial of reality. Caution and moderation in the use of statistics would be wise counsel, yet Dowler goes beyond that, which is why, in the last resort, we are unpersuaded by his arguments. Doubtless his retort to BRIN would be, in the misquoted words of one of the principal characters in the Profumo scandal (who died last week), ‘well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?’      

Religion in the 2011 English and Welsh census

For some unexplained reason, the Office for National Statistics rereleased on 16 December 2014 Table QS210EW from the 2011 census of England and Wales, giving national totals for the six principal faith communities, as well as an analysis of the write-in answers for those who ticked the ‘other religion’ and ‘no religion’ boxes. The table will be found at: 

http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/census/2011-census/key-statistics-for-local-authorities-in-england-and-wales/sty-what-is-your-religion.html

Religion in colonial and Commonwealth censuses

Anthony Christopher explores ‘The “Religion” Question in British Colonial and Commonwealth Censuses, 1820s-2010s’ in Journal of Religious History, Vol. 38, No. 4, December 2014, pp. 579-96. The focus is on how investigation of religious affiliation in such censuses has developed, since being pioneered by the Australasian and North American colonies in the late 1820s, rather than on the presentation of results from them (which would have been difficult, given the diversity of approaches which are described). Nevertheless, drawing as it does on a range of primary and secondary sources, it is very useful to have all this information brought together in one place, seemingly for the first time, although its value would have been enhanced by inclusion of an appendix listing for each country or territory the dates for which religion data were collected. The article, which complements the author’s summary of the coverage of religion in the UK censuses (in Journal of Ecclesiastical History, Vol. 65, No. 3, July 2014, pp. 601-19), can be accessed at: 

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1467-9809.12107/abstract

News stories of 2014

For its end-of-year review, Opinium Research asked 2,001 members of its UK online panel on 9-12 December 2014 which of 30 events of 2014 they considered to be most memorable. Unsurprisingly, the Ebola outbreak (49%), the First World War poppy display at the Tower of London (44%), and the Scottish independence referendum (44%) occupied the top three spots. But Islamism had also made a big impression, with the rise of Islamic State in fourth place (41%) and the kidnapping of Nigerian schoolgirls by Boko Haram in eleventh (26%). The canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II, by contrast, was relegated to twenty-seventh position, being deemed memorable by just 5% of all adults (equivalent to about half the Catholic population), albeit the proportion rose to 14% in London (with its concentration of immigrants). Data tables are at: 

http://ourinsight.opinium.co.uk/sites/ourinsight.opinium.co.uk/files/op5096_lansons_end_of_year_-_predictions_memorable.pdf

Values

Asked to select their three most important personal values from a list of twelve, just 8% of 1,317 UK residents chose religion in the latest Eurobarometer (wave 82.3), undertaken by face-to-face interview by TNS UK between 8 and 17 November 2014. As the table below indicates, this was tenth in the UK’s value rankings, although not as bad as in the European Union (EU) as a whole (where religion came bottom of the list). Apart from Malta and the Republic of Cyprus (both on 17%), religion was not deemed an important personal value in most EU countries, falling to 2% in three instances. Even fewer (3% in both the UK and the EU) viewed religion as one of the three values best representing the EU, although 12% in the UK and 9% in the EU were willing to concede that religion helped create a feeling of community among EU citizens. These questions have been posed in previous Eurobarometers, with very similar results. Topline data for the latest wave are at: 

http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/eb/eb82/eb82_anx_en.pdf

Important personal values (%)

UK

EU

Respect for human life

37

34

Peace

34

44

Human rights

34

40

Equality

28

20

Individual freedom

21

25

Rule of law

19

15

Tolerance

18

17

Respect for other cultures

18

9

Democracy

17

25

Religion

8

6

Solidarity for others

6

18

Self-fulfilment

6

9

Christmas traditions

The Salvation Army’s UK Territory issued a series of five (one national and four regional) press releases between 4 and 8 December 2014, lamenting the disappearance of British Christmas traditions, both secular and religious, based on the evidence of a survey of the public which it had commissioned. Among the vanishing traditions was attendance at midnight Mass or the Christmas Eve church service, which just 7% reported plans to attend in 2014. Nativity plays and carolling were also investigated, apparently. The press releases did not present an especially coherent overview of the research and have attracted minimal media attention. BRIN’s efforts to obtain from the Salvation Army further details of the survey’s methodology and findings have gone unanswered thus far, but we will keep trying. The national press release is at:

http://news.salvationarmy.org.uk/dont-let-shopping-get-way-christmas-says-salvation-army

Church Commissioners

The Church Commissioners are the eighth largest charitable donor in the world, and the second in the UK (after the Wellcome Trust, in second place globally), according to City AM’s World Charity Index 2014, published on 18 December 2014. In their last reported year the Commissioners made £208 million of charitable donations to support the Church of England. More information about the Index can be found at: 

http://www.cityam.com/205869/city-ams-world-charity-index-2014-whos-made-list-top-givers

 

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Quality of Religious Research

 

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

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

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

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

%

3*/4*

4*

3*

2*

1*/U

Durham

85

50

35

14

1

Exeter

83

21

62

14

3

Leeds

82

33

49

18

0

Cambridge

80

34

46

19

1

Birmingham

79

51

28

17

4

University College London

78

37

41

22

0

Edinburgh

78

34

44

19

3

SOAS

78

29

49

20

2

King’s College London

76

39

37

18

6

Cardiff

76

33

43

21

3

Lancaster

75

42

33

23

2

Kent

75

38

37

23

2

Manchester

75

28

47

20

5

Nottingham

74

30

44

23

3

Oxford

72

34

38

24

4

Sheffield

72

21

51

28

0

Aberdeen

68

29

39

24

8

National average

68

28

40

27

5

Bristol

66

21

45

32

2

St Andrews

62

31

31

38

0

Heythrop College London

62

22

40

36

2

Wales Trinity St David

62

14

48

26

12

Glasgow

55

11

44

35

10

Open

53

18

35

47

0

Canterbury Christ Church

53

6

47

40

7

Liverpool Hope

46

9

37

38

16

Roehampton

43

16

27

45

12

Winchester

42

6

36

43

15

St Mary’s Twickenham

35

9

26

41

24

Chester

35

8

27

57

8

Leeds Trinity

34

0

34

32

34

Gloucestershire

33

3

30

52

15

Newman

26

0

26

28

46

York St John

25

2

23

57

18

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

 

 

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The British Election Study 2015: Religious affiliation and attitudes

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

 

Party support

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

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

 

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

Anglican (%)

Catholic (%)

Other Christian (%)

Other religion (%)

No religion (%)

2005
Con

42.8

28.7

31.2

29.0

26.2

Lab

36.4

48.1

38.0

47.0

41.1

Lib Dem

16.7

15.7

16.4

17.1

23.5

Other party

4.2

7.5

14.4

7.0

9.2

2010
Con

47.7

34.4

33.0

29.0

29.9

Lab

26.2

39.1

33.7

38.9

29.8

Lib Dem

21.9

19.3

19.2

24.1

32.0

Other party

4.3

7.2

14.1

8.0

8.2

Source: BES 2015 Panel Study – Wave 1.

 

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

 

Table 2: Current vote intention by religious affiliation

Anglican (%)

Catholic (%)

Other Christian (%)

Other religion (%)

No religion (%)

Con

39.3

29.5

31.1

25.0

26.7

Lab

32.1

45.3

35.6

49.6

39.7

Lib Dem

7.5

5.1

8.1

7.1

10.5

Other party

21.1

20.2

25.2

18.3

23.2

Source: BES 2015 Panel Study – Wave 1.

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Con

Lab

Lib Dem

UKIP

Other

party

Unweighted base

Anglican (%)

39.3

32.1

7.5

18.3

2.9

4,884

Roman Catholic (%)

29.5

45.3

5.1

12.9

7.3

1,535

Presbyterian/Church of Scotland (%)

24.5

34.9

5.3

7.7

27.7

1,032

Methodist (%)

40.5

34.8

10.5

10.0

4.1

423

Baptist (%)

32.3

36.7

9.7

15.9

5.3

255

United Reformed Church (%)

27.2

35.8

12.3

7.5

16.3

73

Free Presbyterian (%)

21.7

47.8

4.3

17.4

8.7

25

Brethren (%)

15.4

53.8

0.0

30.8

0.0

11

Judaism (%)

46.3

29.9

5.4

11.6

6.2

134

Hinduism (%)

30.9

57.7

3.1

6.2

2.1

65

Islam (%)

14.9

73.0

7.3

0.8

3.6

153

Sikhism (%)

15.4

63.5

5.8

5.9

7.8

34

Buddhism (%)

24.7

38.4

6.8

13.5

17.6

73

Other (%)

23.7

42.9

8.4

11.3

13.7

572

None (%)

26.7

39.6

10.5

12.4

10.8

7,357

Source: BES 2015 Panel Study – Wave 1.

Note: Percentages sum across the rows.

 

Social issues

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

 

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

Attempts to give equal opportunities to ethnic minorities.

Attempts to give equal opportunities to women.

Attempts to give equal opportunities to gays and lesbians.

 

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

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

 

Table 4: Attitudes towards equal opportunities by religious affiliation

Anglican (%)

Catholic (%)

Other Christian (%)

Other religion (%)

No religion (%)

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

10.3

15.1

13.9

26.4

19.5

About right

35.8

36.1

36.9

33.1

37.3

Gone too far or gone much too far

47.4

41.8

43.1

28.4

35.1

Don’t know

6.4

6.9

6.2

12.1

8.2

Women
Not gone nearly far enough or not gone far enough

34.8

36.6

36.0

34.2

37.9

About right

49.2

44.7

43.7

40.1

45.1

Gone too far or gone much too far

12.2

14.4

16.3

15.5

11.2

Don’t know

3.7

4.3

4.0

10.2

5.7

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

16.0

20.3

14.1

19.6

30.2

About right

42.4

40.5

39.3

32.9

43.0

Gone too far or gone much too far

35.3

32.2

39.9

32.3

19.6

Don’t know

6.2

7.0

6.6

15.2

7.2

Source: BES 2015 Panel Study – Wave 1.

 

Summary

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

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

 

Reference

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

Posted in Measuring religion, Religion and Politics, Religion in public debate, Research note, Survey news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The British Election Study 2015: Religious affiliation

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

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

 

Table 1: Religious affiliation

 

%

Church of England/Anglican/Episcopal

31.1

Roman Catholic

9.1

Presbyterian/Church of Scotland

3.1

Methodist

2.5

Baptist

1.3

United Reformed Church

0.5

Free Presbyterian

0.1

Brethren

0.1

Judaism

0.8

Hinduism

0.6

Islam

1.6

Sikhism

0.3

Buddhism

0.4

Other

3.7

None

44.7

Source: BES 2015 Panel Study – Wave 1.

 

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

 

Table 2: Religious affiliation, 1963-2015

1963 (%)

(Feb.) 1974 (%)

1987 (%)

2001 (%)

2015 (%)

Anglican

64.5

41.5

41.4

32.5

31.1

Roman Catholic

8.6

9.0

9.8

10.8

9.1

Other Christian

23.1

12.9

14.7

6.9

7.6

Other religion

0.6

2.7

2.4

7.7

7.5

None

3.2

33.8

31.8

42.1

44.7

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

 

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

 

Table 3: Religious affiliation by sex

Male (%)

Female (%)

Anglican

27.7

34.3

Roman Catholic

8.5

9.7

Other Christian

7.6

7.5

Other religion

7.5

7.5

None

48.6

41.0

Source: BES 2015 Panel Study – Wave 1.

 

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

 

Table 4: Religious affiliation by age group

18-24 (%)

25-34 (%)

35-44 (%)

45-54 (%)

55-64 (%)

65-74 (%)

75+

(%)

Anglican

14.2

19.4

23.6

32.8

39.4

46.4

52.1

Roman Catholic

8.5

8.7

9.4

9.6

9.8

8.6

7.4

Other Christian

4.0

5.6

5.3

6.7

9.4

11.6

10.4

Other religion

11.0

10.9

8.8

6.3

5.1

5.1

5.2

None

61.4

55.3

52.9

44.7

28.3

28.3

4.9

Source: BES 2015 Panel Study – Wave 1.

 

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

 

Table 5: Mean age by religious group

Mean age

Anglican

53.7

Roman Catholic

47.6

Other Christian

52.4

Other religion

42.2

None

43.3

Source: BES 2015 Panel Study – Wave 1.

 

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

 

Table 6: Religious affiliation by country

England

(%)

Wales

(%)

Scotland

(%)

Anglican

34.0

27.7

4.5

Roman Catholic

9.1

5.9

11.5

Other Christian

5.4

8.1

28.6

Other religion

7.8

6.5

4.7

None

43.7

51.8

50.6

Source: BES 2015 Panel Study – Wave 1.

 

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

 

Table 7: Religious affiliation by English region

Anglican

Catholic

Other Christian

Other religion

No religion

North East (%)

35.1

11.9

6.1

2.9

44.0

North West (%)

33.6

14.7

5.4

5.4

41.0

Yorkshire and the Humber (%)

37.5

6.5

6.4

5.8

43.8

East Midlands (%)

35.2

5.7

5.4

5.6

48.1

West Midlands (%)

35.2

6.7

5.4

8.1

44.6

East of England (%)

34.4

7.9

5.1

6.0

46.5

London (%)

24.7

13.8

4.8

21.4

35.3

South East (%)

35.3

7.1

5.4

5.0

47.2

South West (%)

39.7

5.4

5.3

4.1

45.5

Source: BES 2015 Panel Study – Wave 1.

Note: Percentages sum across the rows.

 

 

Summary

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

 

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

 

Reference

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

Posted in Measuring religion, Research note, Survey news | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Religious Self-Identification and Other News

 

Religious self-identification

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2021 census

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

Christians, sex, and marriage

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

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

Ex-Anglican Catholic Priests

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

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

Muslim heroes

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

Islamic terrorism

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

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

Anti-Semitic incidents

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

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

 

Posted in Historical studies, Measuring religion, News from religious organisations, Religion and Politics, Religious Census, Survey news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Changes in Attendance at Religious Services in Britain

This BRIN post takes a historical perspective on religious attendance in Britain, looking at nationally-representative survey data covering the past three decades. Attendance is a common indicator of what sociologists of religion term ‘behaving’, often analysed alongside religious ‘belonging’ and ‘believing’. Of course, attendance data based on sample surveys need to be treated with caution given well-established concerns over the ‘aspirational’ reporting of attendance by respondents involving exaggeration of how often they actually visit places of worship. Valuable data on religious attendance are also provided via statistics produced by some religious denominations (the most obvious being the Anglican, Methodist and Catholic churches) and by periodic church censuses (church attendance figures for England between 1979 and 2005 are available from BRIN here).

The analysis here is based on data from the two surveys which ‘book-end’ the British Social Attitudes (BSA) series – those conducted in 1983 and 2012 (the latter of which has already been the subject of analysis of religion and moral issues in a previous BRIN post). This post focuses on:

(1)   The extent of change over time in overall rates of attendance

(2)    An analysis of which social groups are more or less likely to report that they do not attend religious services.

Earlier studies of popular religion using sample survey data, such as Michael Argyle’s Religious Behaviour (1958, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul), found differences in levels of weekly church attendance in Britain based on social factors such as sex and class. Women and those in higher social classes were more likely to attend church on a weekly basis.

The BSA surveys have used the same question wording over time to ask respondents about religious attendance. The wording is as follows:

Apart from such special occasions as weddings, funerals and baptisms, how often nowadays do you attend services or meetings connected with your religion?

Once a week or more

Less often but at least once in two weeks

Less often but at least once a month

Less often but at least twice a year

Less often but at least once a year

Less often than once a year

Never or practically never

Varies too much to say

Don’t know

The full set of response options shown above has been collapsed into three groups: attends frequently (defined as once a month or more); attends infrequently (less often); and never attends. This excludes ‘don’t know’ responses. Table 1 reports the respective percentage distributions for the 1983 and 2012 surveys.  To provide some wider context for religious change, Table 1 also reports the over-time data for religious affiliation (or ‘belonging’).

The proportion with a religious affiliation has decreased from just over two-thirds in 1983 to just over a half in 2012. The data for attendance also show change over time –  and in the direction of less religious engagement – with the proportion who report attending religious services (whether frequently or infrequently) falling from 44.1% in 1983 to 34.3% in 2012. More specifically, there has been decline over recent decades in the proportions of both frequent-attenders and infrequent-attenders. The proportion never attending services (except for those special occasions mentioned above) has risen from over half to around two-thirds. Overall, frequent attendance at services was very much a minority activity in both 1983 and 2012 and similar proportions were classified as infrequent attenders. Non-attenders comprised the majority group in both 1983 and 2012, but a much clearer majority in the latter survey. 

Table 1: Religious affiliation and attendance at religious services

1983 (%)

2012 (%)

Affiliation
Has a religious affiliation

68.6

52.3

No religious affiliation

31.4

47.7

Attendance
Attends frequently: At least once a month or more

21.3

17.0

Attends infrequently: Less often than once a month

22.8

17.3

Total attends

44.1

34.3

Never attends

55.9

65.7

Source: compiled by the author from BSA surveys.

The second aspect of the religious attendance data examined here is variation across social groups and over time, again presenting data from both the 1983 and 2012 surveys. Table 2 reports the proportions in various social groups who, in 1983 and 2012, said they never attended religious services. There are some interesting variations in non-attendance. Looking at men and women, we can see that the latter are much less likely to report that they never attend services in the 1983 survey. This is also the case in 2012, but the gap between men and women has closed considerably. In 1983, 48.5% of women did not attend services, which had risen to 63.8% by 2012. There was much less change for men over time, increasing from 64.6% to 69.5%.

What about variation based on age group? We can see that a similar pattern is evident in both 1983 and 2012 in terms of the older age groups being less likely to report not attending services. In 1983, 73% of 18-24 year olds said they did not attend religious services, compared to 44.3% of those aged 65-74 years. In 2012, the gap between the age groups least and most likely to say they never attended was considerably reduced: at 71.9% for those aged 18-24 and 58.8% for those aged 75 and older. While the two youngest age groups show relatively little change between 1983 and 2012 in the proportions who never attend, the older age groups – with the exception of those aged 75 and over – show substantial increases in their levels of non-attendance.

Next, there are clear differences in levels of non-attendance based on the region where a respondent lives. In 1983, the proportions who did not attend services were considerably lower in Scotland (41.5%) and Wales (46.5%) than in England (58.3%) as a whole. Within England, there was noticeable variation across the nine standard regions, lowest at 51.1% in Greater London and highest at 69.3% in Yorkshire and Humberside. In 2012, however, Scotland and Wales do not stand apart in comparison with England as a whole. In fact, in Wales the proportion who report they do not attend religious services is the highest recorded in any area (at 78.5%). Moreover, Scotland’s level of non-attendance (68.8%) ranks on a par with the highest recorded for England regions (68.7% in the South West and 68.3% in Yorkshire and Humberside). Between 1983 and 2012, the increase in non-attendance is much greater for Scotland and Wales than it is for England.

Finally, levels of non-attendance are shown for several groups based on religious affiliation: Anglicans, Catholics, other Christian, and other religion. All three Christian groups show an increase in the proportion reporting that they do not attend services, but the same pattern is evident in both surveys. That is, Catholics are least likely to report not attending services, followed by other Christians, with Anglicans most likely to report they do not attend (which constitutes a bare majority of them in 2012). Interestingly, the proportion of other Christians who do not attend services nearly doubles between 1983 and 2012, but this group does include a greater proportion reporting no specific denominational affiliation in 2012, who may be less likely to take part in communal activity. Other survey-based research on churchgoing in the United Kingdom, conducted by Tearfund in 2007 showed that – compared to other Christian denominations – Anglicans were least likely to attend services, on either a weekly or monthly basis. The figures for the other religion group (which comprises adherents of non-Christian faiths) actually show a decrease in the level of non-attendance, but caution should be exercised here given that this group comprised a very small proportion of the samples in 1983 and 2012 (albeit one that has increased over time, from 2.0% to 6.0%).

Table 2: Per cent reporting that they never attend religious services, various socio-demographic factors

 

1983 (%)

2012 (%)

Sex Men

64.6

69.5

  Women

48.5

63.8

 
Age group 18-24

73.0

71.9

  25-34

65.9

68.8

  35-44

55.5

68.8

  45-54

48.9

66.3

  55-64

47.2

67.5

  65-74

44.3

59.4

  75+

55.7

58.8

 
Region England

58.3

65.6

      North East

56.4

72.7

      North West

61.5

65.6

      Yorkshire and       Humberside

69.3

68.3

      West Midlands

54.8

66.9

      East Midlands

65.1

70.7

      East Anglia / Eastern England

54.2

66.7

      South West

59.3

68.7

      South East

54.5

63.4

      Greater London

51.1

57.6

  Scotland

41.5

68.8

  Wales

46.5

78.5

 
Affiliation Anglican

43.3

50.8

  Catholic

25.0

35.0

  Other Christian

23.3

43.7

  Other religion

37.1

25.9

 

Source: Compiled by the author from BSA surveys.

Next, variations in attendance are examined based on two indicators of socio-economic status, education (Table 3) and social class (Table 4 and Table 5). A consistent measure of education is available for both surveys, based on a question asking at what age respondents completed their full-time education (also labelled terminal education age) or whether they were still in some form of education (for example, college or university). Table 3 shows that, in 1983, those who finished full-time education aged 19 or over were less likely to report never attending services (about two-fifths said this) compared to all other groups (highest for those who left aged 17 – at 61.1%). In 2012, there is a similar pattern of non-attendance – those who left-education aged 19 years or older are less likely to report not attending services (at 57.1%), closely followed by those still in education (55.6%). Even so, the proportion of those aged 19 and over who never-attended had clearly risen over the intervening three decades, as had the proportions in the other groups (with the exception of those still in education). Another way of measuring educational background is to look at the highest qualification held by respondents. Such a measure was not included on the 1983 survey, but the data from the 2012 survey show that those holding degree-level (or above) qualifications were less likely to report never attending services (55.7%) compared to those with lower-level qualifications (such as A-Levels or GCSEs)  or none at all (69.4%).

Table 3: Per cent reporting that they never attend religious services by age completed full-time education

 

1983 (%)

2012 (%)

15 or under

55.8

70.1

16

59.8

75.0

17

61.1

67.7

18

56.8

65.8

19 and over

41.5

57.1

Still in education

55.9

55.6

Source: Compiled by the author from BSA surveys.

Table 4 (1983) and Table 5 (2012) show levels of non-attendance based on measures of social class. The measures are not identical, reflecting changes in the way the BSA series has adapted to changes in official classifications in this area. In 1983, we can see that those within the higher grades (professional or intermediate) are less likely to report not attending religious services (46.3% and 50.9%, respectively). In 1983, the highest levels of non-attendance are found amongst those in partly-skilled or unskilled occupations (at 61.5% and 62.4%). In 2012, the differences are narrower across categories, with all groups reporting higher levels of non-attendance. Those within the salariat (i.e. in higher-level ‘white-collar’ occupations) are slightly less likely to report that they do not attend services (63.3%), with non-attendance highest amongst those in the foreman / technicians category (at 73.1%).

Table 4: Per cent reporting that they never attend religious services by social class, 1983 (Registrar General’s Social Class)

               

%

Professional

46.3

Intermediate

50.9

Skilled

61.5

Partly skilled

62.4

Unskilled

57.5

Look after home

46.5

Source: Compiled by the author from the BSA 1983 survey.

Table 5 Per cent reporting that they never attend religious services by social class, 2012 (NS-SEC analytic class)

               

%

Salariat

63.3

Clerical

69.2

Petty Bourgeois

69.0

Foreman / Technicians

73.1

Working class

67.9

Source: Compiled by the author from the BSA 2012 survey.

Summary

The evidence reviewed here from the BSA surveys has shown that sex, age, religious affiliation and, to a lesser extent, socio-economic status – particularly educational background – have been and still are sources of variation in religious attendance in Britain. That is, women and older age groups – traditionally groups more likely to exhibit religious identity and involvement – are less likely to report that they do not attend services. Catholics, other Christians and adherents of non-Christian faiths are less likely to not attend compared to Anglicans. The broader picture, however, shows that, even if these historical gaps are still evident, they have often narrowed in recent decades, as a greater proportion of the adult population reports that it does not attend services in 2012 compared with 1983. Based on the evidence shown here, religious ‘behaving’ – measured as attendance at services – has clearly declined alongside religious ‘belonging’ in recent decades.

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Christian affiliation in Britain

Prime Minister David Cameron’s recent pronouncements on the role and status of Christianity in Britain have stimulated public debate, quickly receiving both supporting and dissenting remarks from representatives of faith groups and secular organisations and from media commentators. Pollsters have been somewhat slower off the mark in gauging the reaction of the British public. However, data from a newly-released YouGov poll on this topic provide the following results:

  • 37% regard themselves as belonging to a Christian religion.
  • 23% say they are very or fairly religious.
  • 55% say they believe Britain is a Christian country.
  • 58% say they think Britain should be a Christian country.
  • When presented with an excerpt of text from David Cameron’s article in the Church Times (‘I believe we should be more confident about our status as a Christian country, more ambitious about expanding the role of faith-based organisations, and, frankly, more evangelical about a faith that compels us to get out there and make a difference to people’s lives.’), 50% agreed with its sentiments and 35% disagreed.

Full results from the poll, conducted online between 22 and 23 April 2014 and based on a sample of 2,143 adults in Britain, are available here. Some comparative data for these questions (except for the last one) are available from previous YouGov surveys undertaken in February 2012 and April 2012.

Given that it is commonplace in public debate for various statistics – from sample surveys or from the 2001 and 2011 censuses – to be cited regarding levels of Christian identity amongst the British population, it is perhaps worth revisiting some of the recurrent social surveys which have collected micro-level data on religious affiliation across recent decades. Figure 1 shows overall levels of identification with a Christian religion based on data from three nationally-representative survey series, which have sampled the adult population: the British Election Study (BES), the cross-national European Values Study (EVS) and British Social Attitudes (BSA). The data are taken from the earliest and the most recently-available surveys from each series. Note that the survey series span different time periods, with the BES starting in 1963 and the other two in the early-1980s.

Figure 1: Per cent reporting a Christian affiliation

Untitled

Source: Compiled by the author from BES, EVS and BSA surveys

The BES 1963 survey showed that that was near-universal affiliation with a Christian religion amongst the electorate at 96.2%. Similarly, the 1959 Civic Culture Study, where Britain was one of five nations where survey fieldwork was undertaken, showed that 94.3% claimed a Christian affiliation. In the 2010 BES, in contrast, this proportion had fallen to 44.8%. The EVS surveys also show a considerable drop in Christian affiliation between 1981 and 2008 (although the fieldwork for the British sample was actually conducted in 2009-10), from 84.4% to 46.1%. The BSA series shows a lower level of Christian affiliation in 1983 (at 66.6%) compared to that obtained by the EVS in 1981. The most recently-released BSA survey, from 2012, shows that 46.3% claimed some form of Christian affiliation. The most recent surveys from these three long-running series therefore show similar levels of identification with a Christian religion, albeit they are somewhat higher than the figure from the YouGov survey cited above. As a further comparison, data for Britain from the 2012 European Social Survey (which began undertaking biannual surveys in 2002) show that 40.5% reported having a Christian affiliation.

Of course, responses to such questions on affiliation can be influenced by question wording and the response options available for a particular survey as well as the social prestige or – at least historically – cultural norms in favour of religious identification, but the direction of travel over recent decades is evident across multiple survey sources.

 

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