Religion in Western Europe and the USA

The latest report from the Pew Global Attitudes Project, on the values gap between America and Western Europe (including on three religious indicators), was published today, with the general headline of ‘American exceptionalism subsides’ (although this was less applicable to religion than other domains). The document can be found at:

http://www.pewglobal.org/files/2011/11/Pew-Global-Attitudes-Values-Report-FINAL-November-17-2011-10AM-EST.pdf

Today’s reported data cover only the USA, Britain, France, Germany and Spain but form part of the Spring 2011 Pew Global Attitudes Survey, carried out among 23 publics worldwide. In Britain 1,000 adults aged 18 and over were interviewed by telephone between 22 March and 13 April 2011.

Asked how important religion was in their life, 17% of Britons replied very important and 21% somewhat important. The combined figure of 38% was 24 points lower than in 2006 and about half the US total of 77% in 2011 (with Germany on 52%, Spain on 49%, and France on 36%). 21% of Britons said that religion was not too important to them and two-fifths not at all important (up from around one-third in most previous years).

78% of Britons denied that it was necessary to believe in God to be moral and have good values. This was a rise from 73% in 2002 and 75% in 2007. Only 20% said that such belief was integral to morality, somewhat more than in France (15%) and Spain (19%), but fewer than in Germany (33%) and the USA (53%, outnumbering the deniers there by 7%).

Of professing Christians, 21% in Britain considered themselves first and foremost as Christians and 63% as British citizens (24% and 59% respectively in 2006), with 10% saying both equally. This was a similar pattern to Germany and Spain but contrasted markedly with the USA where identical proportions (46%) regarded themselves as primarily Christians or primarily Americans.

Other results from the Spring 2011 Pew Global Attitudes Survey, concerning attitudes to Muslims, have already been noted by BRIN. See: http://www.brin.ac.uk/news/?p=1352


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2 Responses to Religion in Western Europe and the USA

  1. Pingback: Friday Question: Do you consider yourself firstly as Christian or as British? | eChurch Blog

  2. Clive Field says:

    Further insights into the Christian versus Briton dichotomy are contained in a new article on ‘Ethnic Nominalism and Civic Religiosity: Christianity and National Identity in Britain’, SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW, Vol. 59, No. 4, November 2011, pp. 828-46. This is written by Ingrid Storm, from the University of Manchester’s Institute for Social Change, where BRIN is based. The article utilizes data from the 2008 British Social Attitudes Survey and especially focuses on responses to a question on the importance of being Christian to being truly British. Overall, 24% of the sample said that it was very or fairly important to be Christian to be truly British, but this rose to 34% for both observant and nominal Christians and fell to 13% among non-Christians. Factor and multivariate analysis is the main methodology employed by Storm.

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