The Sunday Times took advantage of the expected announcement of the appointment of Justin Welby as the next Archbishop of Canterbury (eventually confirmed on 9 November) to include several questions on religion in the latest weekly omnibus poll which YouGov conducts on the newspaper’s behalf.
Online interviews were undertaken on 8 and 9 November 2012 with a representative sample of 1,642 Britons aged 18 and over, of whom 546 considered themselves to belong to the Church of England (even if not practising).
According to the study, rather more than one-third (37%) of all adults claim to believe in God, peaking among Anglicans (49%), those regarding themselves as richer than most people (47%), the over-60s (46%), women (43%), and Conservative voters (43%). One-fifth (21%) say they do not believe in God but do believe in some sort of spiritual higher power. Disbelievers in either God or a higher power number 29% and are particularly to be found among the 18-24s (39%) and men (37%). The remaining 13% do not know what to think about God.
Regular attendance (once a month or more) at a place of worship, other than for the rites of passage, is reported by 12% of Britons, rising to 17% in London, 18% for the self-designating rich, 19% of Scots, and 27% for believers in God. One-third are very occasional churchgoers (including 46% of Anglicans, 42% of Conservative voters, and 40% of the over-60s), while 53% admit that they never worship (with 59% among those aged 25-39, 62% of those considering themselves as poorer than most, and 84% of disbelievers in God).
Turning to the Church of England, YouGov asked how well it had been led in recent years. Not unexpectedly, 36% found it hard to make an assessment (including 49% of Scots, 45% of under-40s, and 45% of disbelievers in God). Of the rest, just 28% think the Church has been well-led, Liberal Democrats and Anglicans being most positive, both on 42%, and 37% badly-led (with 46% of Conservatives, 46% of the over-60s, and 44% of men).
Naming names, the sample was then invited to rate the leadership of Rowan Williams, the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury. Again, 39% could offer no view, with slightly more arguing he has done a good job (36%) than a bad job (25%). Most critical of Williams are Conservatives (39%), the over-60s (37%), and those perceiving themselves to be richer than most people (36%). More Anglicans assess that Williams has done a good job (49%) than the contrary (25%). A ComRes survey in England in August-September this year recorded a much higher approval rating (53%) for Williams’s leadership.
The majority (52%) found the next question completely beyond them, being unable to rank Williams against his predecessor Archbishops of Canterbury. Of those who ventured an answer (probably not well-informed in many cases), 4% judge Williams to be the best Archbishop of Canterbury of recent times, 7% one of the best Archbishops but not the very best, 17% a good Archbishop but not one of the very best, 11% a poor Archbishop but not one of the very worst, 4% one of the worst Archbishops of recent times but not the very worst, and 4% the worst Archbishop of recent times. Two-fifths of Anglicans describe Williams as the best, one of the best or a good Archbishop, compared with 28% of all Britons.
Two issues which are currently at the top of the Anglican in-tray are women bishops and same-sex marriage. Informed that Welby favours the former, respondents were asked whether the Church of England should permit women to become bishops. An overwhelming majority (77%) agree it should, including 89% of Liberal Democrat voters and 89% of the 18-24s, albeit just 69% of believers in God (and 80% of Anglicans). Only 9% of Britons are opposed (among them 16% of believers in God, 15% of Conservatives, and 13% of the over-60s and self-classifying rich), with 14% undecided.
Told that Welby does not endorse legalization of same-sex marriage, 51% of the sample went on to support a change in the law to enable such marriages to take place, the 18-24s (71%) and disbelievers in God (66%) being the strongest backers. Opponents numbered 38%, including 61% of the over-60s, 53% of believers in God, 52% of Conservatives, and 47% of Anglicans. 12% express no opinion.
In addition to these religious topics, replies to the political questions were all disaggregated by belief/disbelief in God and for the sub-group of Anglicans. The analysis reinforces some traditional stereotypes in that professing Anglicans are still more likely to vote Conservative than the norm (39% against 32%), while disbelievers in God or a spiritual higher power are more likely to be Labour voters than average (52% against 44%). On the other hand, the differences were only marginal when it came to the sample’s support for Barack Obama or Mitt Romney in the recent American presidential elections.
None of these findings is published in today’s print edition of The Sunday Times. However, the full data tables from this poll are freely available at: