It is a little after the event, but there does appear to have been one opinion poll this Easter which took the pulse of religiosity. It was conducted online on 1-2 April by YouGov among a representative sample of 1,503 adult Britons aged 18 and over.
The poll was commissioned by the Sunday Times which included three religion-related questions in what was essentially a political omnibus study. The newspaper never actually reported on these particular questions in its print or online editions, but the relevant data tabulations have been posted by YouGov on its own website at:
Interviewees were first asked whether they had a religious faith or not. 43% replied that they did, 51% that they did not, with 6% uncertain. Men (40%) were somewhat less likely to believe than women (46%), and those aged 18-34 years significantly less (33%) than those aged 55 and over (51%).
Regionally, the lowest proportion of believers was in southern England outside London (40%), the capital itself returning 47% thanks to the greater concentration of immigrants there, who often incline to be religious. One of the most interesting breaks was by voting intention, 40% of Labour supporters having a faith as against 52% of Conservatives. Does this augur that religion will be a feature of the general election campaign?
People who declared that they had a faith were then asked a supplementary question about the religion to which they belonged. Of this 43% sub-sample, 54% stated that they were Church of England, 16% Roman Catholic, 17% some other Christian denomination and 11% of some other religion. The Anglican contingent was strongest among Conservative voters (67%) and residents of the Midlands and Wales (65%).
The full sample was finally asked whether they intended to go to any kind of religious service over the Easter weekend. 13% said that they did expect to go to a place of worship and 82% that they did not. These ‘churchgoers’ were disproportionately likely to be women, older persons and non-manual workers, albeit the demographic differences were not huge.
If 13% did actually attend a religious service, this would imply a total of more than 6,000,000 adults in the pews over the Easter weekend. This seems an implausibly high number, reinforcing past opinion poll experience that the path to salvation is paved with good intentions, with respondents consistently inflating their prospective or retrospective religious observance.
More objective data are hard to come by, the Church of England being one of the few Christian bodies to count its Easter worshippers. In 2008, the last reported year, all age Anglican attendance on Easter Eve and Easter Day was 1,415,800. This figure is actually lower than the highest attendance in an ‘ordinary’ week (1,667,000).