Hello again: I am back in Manchester after some time away for a round of conferences. This post is just to flag up an interesting survey not yet in the database, and related tools.
The Taking Part in England survey is a large survey of cultural and leisure participation in England, sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. The first was fielded in July 2005 and it has been run annually since then. The current collection agency is BMRB Social Research, which operates the survey via face-to-face interview.
Traditionally, the DCMS (or its predecessor departments) had flimsy evidence on audiences and the population at large, on which to base their bids for government funding. Data on the financial needs of arts organisations were more plentiful, but it was not always clear whether organisations which clearly needed money were having much ‘impact’. This led to the commissioning of a large continuous survey – namely Taking Part.
Surveys are expensive and the challenge for DCMS is the need to cover a wide variety of cultural practices, many of which are of minority appeal, but highly valued by those who engage in them. Acccordingly, the Taking Part surveys employ very large sample sizes: about 28,000 adults aged 16 and over. The surveys cover a wide variety of cultural and leisure forms in depth, and both personal participation (for example, whether the respondent is a singer, plays a musical instrument, practises a craft, or many other arts and crafts) and attendance as a spectator or audience-member (at dance performances, concerts, exhibitions, and many other events).
A large variety of socio-demographic information is also included, and of particular interest to researchers in religion is that a question on religious adherence has been asked each year (the question code is RELIGION):
What is your religion?
Respondents were offered the following options:
No religion; Christian (including Church of England, Catholic, Protestant, and all other Christian denominations); Buddhist; Hindu; Jewish; Muslim; Sikh; Other (specify).
The dataset also identifies whether the respondent spontaneously identified themselves as Atheist/Agnostic, whether they refused, or whether they said that they didn’t know.
In 2007/08, a question was added on religious practice (RELPRAC):
Are you currently practising this religion?
A more expansive question relates to how participants use their free time (FreTim):
I would now like to ask you about the things you do in any free time you have. Please look at this list and tell me the number next to each of the things you do in your free time.
In 2007/08 this question offered 35 different options, of which number 34 is ‘religious activities, going to place of worship, prayer’. (Note however that this was not offered as an option in the earlier surveys.)
Another potentially useful question is TVPROG: Thinking about when you watch television, what type of programmes do you watch nowadays? This includes religious programmes as a response option.
The focus of the survey is secular recreation or leisure, and religious participation is not the main focus. However, the questions regarding lack of engagement with the arts or other leisure practices include ‘against my religion/beliefs’ as a response, which may give researchers into religion useful information. In addition, the focus of the survey is on activity with secular artistic content, so that the survey seeks to capture participation in religious festivals where ‘these may be primarily religious events, but include considerable artistic content’ (Technical Report to 2007/08 survey, p. 273).
Of particular note is that the large sample size allows researchers to look at religious identification at a fairly fine geographical area, down to about middle super-output area level (roughly equivalent to an area containing, on average, 7200 people). Ideally, the question on practice would have been included every year, but perhaps it will be included again in future.
Outside the Census and the Labour Force Survey, this may be one of the largest recurrent general social surveys which includes a religion question.
Furthermore, DCMS also provide users with the ability to look at frequencies and cross-tabulations for 2007/08 data using NETQuest, a handy online analysis tool, without having to download the dataset from the UK Data Archive and using statistical software.
This tool allows users to see with ease how identification and current practise vary with age, sex, income, geographic region, and ethnicity. Users have to register and access it by logging in, but the tool is very intuitive and visually appealing, comparing well with Nesstar.
I’m including a bar chart of religious identification here, using the NETQuest tool to look at 2007/08 data. It’s interesting to note that practically exactly two-thirds report that they are Christian (66.6%) and 24.8% report that they are of no religion. Of those who indicated that they did have a religion, 39.5% reported that they did currently practise their religion, and 60.4% reported that they did not. The remaining 0.1% refused.
For those wanting the full microdata, the following surveys are available at the UK Data Archive:
Additionally, here is a selection of useful links:
DCMS pages on the Taking Part survey:
Taking Part via NetQuest: http://www.culture.gov.uk/reference_library/research_and_statistics/6762.aspx
Arts Council England research and analysis using Taking Part data:
Good luck with your research in this area, and let us know what you find!