Last Thursday (28 April) marked the virtual launch of YouGov@Cambridge, a new research forum representing a collaboration between online pollsters YouGov and the University of Cambridge’s Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS).
YouGov@Cambridge, directed by Dr Joel Faulkner Rogers, aims ‘to bring “headlights” to an increasingly complex world, where global trends are ever less about what superpowers and superbrands “do”, and ever more about “what the world thinks” – and how the two interact.’
Although the formal launch event, the YouGov Global Perspectives Conference, will not take place until 7-9 September 2011, in London and Cambridge, YouGov@Cambridge has already begun to release interim results from new surveys, a substantial archive of which can be viewed at:
Many of the data on the archive site derive from an online poll conducted among an unweighted sample of 19,104 Britons aged 18 and over between 13 and 22 April 2011, but most questions appear to have been put to sub-samples. The topics covered are wide-ranging, including various items of religious interest.
For instance, 77% of respondents thought that Britain had become less religious during the past thirty years, rising to 83% of men, 84% of the over-55s and 86% of Scots. Just 6% said that Britain had become more religious, with 9% seeing no difference and 8% expressing no opinion. 66% considered that the country had become less moral over the same period.
However, only 10% overall thought that shifts in attitudes towards religion had been the biggest single change since 1981, compared with 22% citing altered opinions of ethnic minorities, 19% of the environment, and 14% of women’s role in society. The principal exception was in Scotland, where (at 18%) religious change was in second place, after environment.
Looking ahead to events which might happen during the next forty years, a mere 1% anticipated that Jesus Christ would return to earth. Science fiction beliefs were slightly more popular, with 8% expecting evidence to be found of life elsewhere in the universe and 3% forecasting that contact would be made with aliens.
Curiously, despite the abolition in 2008 of the ancient common law offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel in England and Wales, 20% of adults stated that blasphemy is always morally wrong and an additional 26% usually so. The combined figure reached 60% for the over-55s. 28% found blasphemy to be morally acceptable, while 15% said that it depended upon the circumstances and 12% had no views.
An equally surprising 20% claimed that the Church of England was very important in defining Britishness and a further 29% said that it was fairly important in this respect. The aggregate of 49% was highest among women, the over-55s and in England (just 18% of Scots agreed that the Anglican establishment was a key facet of Britishness).
Among a list of ten potential embodiments of the British way of life, tolerance of all religious faiths came eighth (at 37%, rising to 47% in multicultural London) and St Paul’s Cathedral bottom (at 30%, predictably ranging from 10% of Scots to 45% of Londoners).
Staying with inter-faith matters, 71% of Britons agreed with the proposition that, after the 9/11 attacks, there is now a real clash of cultures between Islam and the West, which continues to cause trouble. This view was most strongly held by men (75%), the over-55s (82%) and residents of northern England (76%). 12% dismissed such a clash as a myth and 17% gave other or no answers.
Following on, 57% agreed that Islamic groups were more likely than other faiths to support violence on religious grounds, and this was especially true of men (66%) and the over-55s (69%). 15% disagreed and 19% were neutral. On the other hand, 68% accepted that all religious communities have some extremists who support violence against others, 15% dissenting.
Similarly, 62% identified Islamist extremism as a major international threat to Britain and a further 26% a minor threat. A mere 2% regarded it as no threat at all, including 5% of the 18-34s and 7% of Scots. 9% did not know what to think.
Doubtless from the same motivation, 46% were unwilling to contemplate an Afghan-Islamic state as a solution to the Afghanistan conflict, although the question-wording for this item might be described as somewhat leading. Just 18% backed the option, with 37% undecided.
In general, 77% contended that ‘religion was a private matter and had no place in politics’.
The YouGov@Cambridge archive site also contains data from a Royal Wedding poll, undertaken on 26 and 27 April 2011 among 2,666 adults aged 18 and over. This posed one question of interest to BRIN: should the monarch continue to be Supreme Governor of the Church of England?
47% argued that the monarch should remain as head of the Established Church, with 29% against and 25% undecided. There was a simple majority in favour of the status quo among all demographic sub-groups except for the Scots, who voted 35% to 30% for abolition of the Supreme Governorship.
This post is almost entirely derived from the full computer tabulations in the online archive. Some headlines, with commentary by YouGov, also appear in the Royal Wedding Special report, published on 28 April and available at: