Women in the Church and Other News

 

Women in the Church

Prompted by the recent debate (and decisive vote) about women bishops in the Church of England’s General Synod, Opinium Research resolved to test public opinion about several facets of the role of women in the Church. Questions were put to an online sample of 2,003 UK adults on 11-14 July 2014, with the results being published on 15 July. Key data are tabulated below for meaningfully-sized demographic sub-groups (unfortunately, some sub-groups, including regular churchgoers, had too few cases to be statistically reliable).

Q1.0 Women should be allowed to become bishops in the Church of England

% across

Agree

Disagree

Neither/

don’t know

All

56

7

37

Men

52

8

41

Women

60

6

34

18-34

52

4

43

35-54

57

7

37

55+

58

9

33

Anglican

62

7

31

Catholic

42

15

42

No religion

58

3

39

Q1.1 Women should be allowed to become clergy in the Roman Catholic Church 

% across

Agree

Disagree

Neither/

don’t know

All

53

8

40

Men

49

9

42

Women

56

6

37

18-34

51

7

42

35-54

56

7

37

55+

51

9

40

Anglican

56

6

38

Catholic

48

24

28

No religion

54

4

43

Q1.2 The ordination of women is not consistent with Christian teaching

% across

Agree

Disagree

Neither/

don’t know

All

21

30

49

Men

25

25

50

Women

18

35

47

18-34

27

19

54

35-54

22

30

48

55+

15

40

45

Anglican

20

36

44

Catholic

36

24

41

No religion

15

30

55

Q1.3 Gender equality in religious organisations should be enforced by law

% across

Agree

Disagree

Neither/

don’t know

All

38

20

42

Men

35

22

42

Women

40

18

42

18-34

41

14

45

35-54

41

17

42

55+

32

28

40

Anglican

40

20

40

Catholic

27

35

37

No religion

40

13

46

Q1.4 Whether or not women are allowed to become priests or bishops is an important issue for the 21st century  

% across

Agree

Disagree

Neither/

don’t know

All

46

14

40

Men

40

17

43

Women

52

10

37

18-34

43

11

46

35-54

45

14

41

55+

50

15

34

Anglican

55

10

34

Catholic

49

23

29

No religion

39

16

45

Q1.5 Whether or not women should be ordained as clergy is entirely a matter for each Christian denomination to decide

% across

Agree

Disagree

Neither/

don’t know

All

44

15

40

Men

46

12

41

Women

43

18

40

18-34

35

17

49

35-54

44

16

40

55+

53

13

34

Anglican

53

11

36

Catholic

58

18

25

No religion

32

21

48

At first sight, these results may seem a little surprising. Given the legislative and other strides taken toward gender equality in Britain, otherwise reflected in strong support in public opinion polling, the fact that, at best, only a slim majority appears to favour a greater role for women in the Church strikes one as odd. But the solution to the puzzle lies in the very substantial numbers unable to express a view on the matters surveyed (Q1.2 being a particular case in point), often, one imagines, because they considered themselves insufficiently well-informed to make a judgment or because they were indifferent to the issue. This is a phenomenon characteristic of a lot of polling on religion (see, also, the item on disestablishment, below).

Beyond that, females tended to endorse a stronger role for women in the Church than males, but the effect of age was less consistent save the disproportionate tendency of the 18-34s not to take sides. Anglicans were generally more favourable than Catholics to women assuming more responsibility in Church life, albeit almost half the latter endorsed women priests. People of no religion were only marginally more likely to take a gender diversity stance than the average, and they were disproportionately to be found among those registering as neutral or don’t know.

The full data are available at:

http://news.opinium.co.uk/sites/news.opinium.co.uk/files/op4677_opinium_pr_women_bishops_external.pdf

British values

The so-called ‘Trojan Horse’ plot in Birmingham schools recently triggered a political debate about the need to instil ‘British values’ in our children and citizens more generally. In BRIN’s post of 28 June 2014 we noted an initial attempt by ComRes on 11-13 June to define those values, by offering a representative sample of Britons a list of twelve candidate values, from which they were asked to select the most important. They included religious freedom (which was actually ranked tenth in significance).

Subsequently, on 25-27 June 2014, ICM Research (on behalf of British Future) proposed an alternative list of ten items to its online sample of 2,030 adults aged 18 and over. On this occasion, respondents were not specifically asked to rank them but to identify any which they deemed a ‘British value’. Respect for other people’s religion and beliefs was so regarded by 52% (with highs of 67% among the over-65s and 62% for the top AB social group), placing it in seventh position. The most prized British value was respect for the law (69%) and the least respect for MPs and others in elected office (18%). Data tables are at:

http://www.icmresearch.com/data/media/pdf/British%20Future-British-Values-June%202014-V2.pdf

Disestablishment

Only one-third of Britons think the official link between the Church of England and the state is good for Britain, according to a survey by ComRes for ITV News on 27-29 June 2014, for which 2,049 adults aged 18 and over were interviewed online. Support was greatest among the over-65s (41%), the top (AB) social group (40%), and retired people with a private pension (42%); it was least in Scotland (19%). The link was considered bad by 29% overall, peaking at 35% for men and in Wales and at 42% in Scotland. The remaining 38% of respondents were unable to express any view on the matter, rising to 46% in the case of the 18-24s and lowest (DE) social group, thereby reinforcing the impression from other polls that indifference and ignorance effectively help to shore up the current establishment of the Church. Full data tables can be found at:

http://www.comres.co.uk/polls/ITV_News_Index_EU__30th_June_2014.pdf

Gay cake row

The Christian Institute has taken up the case of the Christian family-run bakery in Belfast (Ashers Baking Company) which has been threatened with prosecution by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland for its refusal to decorate a cake promoting same-sex marriage (which is not legal in the province). This followed a complaint against the business lodged by a gay activist. In pursuit of its campaign, the Institute commissioned ComRes to pose several questions to an online sample of 2,007 Britons on 16-17 July 2014, the results being published on 23 July.

Three-fifths of respondents thought the Commission had acted in a disproportionately heavy-handed way, with just 14% dissenting. A plurality (45%) agreed with the suggestion that ‘Christian-run businesses appear to be being singled out unfairly by gay activists in order to make an example of them’, and this was especially felt by men (54%), Conservatives (55%), the over-65s (62%), and UKIP voters (66%). One-quarter disagreed with the proposition (including one-third of under-35s and of Labourites and Liberal Democrats and 38% of Scots), while 30% voiced no opinion. Full results can be located at:

http://www.comres.co.uk/polls/CI_Bakery_Poll_July_2014.pdf

 


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2 Responses to Women in the Church and Other News

  1. I wonder whether the category “neither/don’t know” is adequate for some of these questions. For example, my response to the question as to whether or not women should be allowed to become clergy in the Roman Catholic Church would be (not being a Roman Catholic) “none of my business” – which is not quite the same thing as “neither” or “don’t know”. I wouldn’t dream of expressing a view on another denomination’s internal affairs – and I’m surely not alone in that.

  2. Pingback: Public attitudes towards women bishops | British Religion in Numbers

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