A Fortnight in Religious Statistics

Here are ten religious statistical news stories which have come to BRIN’s attention during the past fortnight.

Religious affiliation: population census (1)

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has just launched a public consultation around its initial view of the content of the 2021 population census for England and Wales. Responses, which can be either from organizations or individuals, need to be submitted by 27 August 2015. They may cover the full range of consultation topics or just the one(s) of particular concern. With regard to religious affiliation, the intention of ONS is to include a question on a voluntary basis, as in 2001 and 2011. In the interests of comparability, it is reluctant to change the actual wording. The consultation document asks respondents how they currently use the census religion data and what the impact on their work would be if such data were no longer collected. It is hoped that BRIN users would wish to support, by responding to ONS, the continued inclusion of a religion question in the census. More details are available by clicking the ‘complete the survey’ link on the consultation website at: 


Religious affiliation: population census (2)

Higher education has often been assumed to have a secularizing effect, and the hypothesis is reasserted by James Lewis, ‘Education, Irreligion, and Non-Religion: Evidence from Select Anglophone Census Data’, Journal of Contemporary Religion, Vol. 30, No. 2, 2015, pp. 265-72. Utilizing religious affiliation data from the censuses of Australia in 2006, Canada in 2011, and England and Wales in 2011, he shows that college graduates have an above-average representation among people professing no religion and particularly among atheists, humanists, or agnostics. In England and Wales, for example, 18% of all adults were found to have a bachelor’s or higher degree, but the proportion was 24% for religious ‘nones’, rising to 40% for agnostics, 43% for humanists, and 44% for atheists (the last three categories being write-in replies). For Christians the figure was only 15%. Access options to the article are outlined at:  


Religious affiliation: British Social Attitudes

As reported by Dr Ben Clements in his BRIN research note of 3 June 2015, NatCen Social Research has recently updated its religious affiliation trend data from the British Social Attitudes (BSA) Surveys. Statistics are now available for every year between 1983, when BSA commenced, and 2014, except for 1988 and 1992. NatCen concludes that the Church of England’s market share has declined throughout this period and appears to have accelerated during the past decade, both relatively and absolutely. It now claims the allegiance of only 17% of British adults compared with 40% in 1983. Whereas there were 16.5 million adult Anglicans in 1983, there were just 8.6 million in 2014. Roman Catholic allegiance has been much steadier, at around one in ten of the population (or 4 million adults), while the number of non-Christians has quintupled. Those professing no religion have risen from one-third to one-half as a proportion, and, in figures, from 12.8 million in 1983 to 24.7 million in 2014. NatCen’s press release is at: 


Church growth

Towards a Theology of Church Growth, edited by David Goodhew (Farnham: Ashgate, 2015, ISBN 9781472414007, £19.99, paperback) comprises 12 chapters together with a foreword (by the Archbishop of Canterbury) and a conclusion (by the editor). Although numerical growth of the Church (especially of local congregations) is a constant presence in the book, and continues to be regarded as important, the volume is less concerned with statistics (which are remarkably thin on the ground) than with exploring a theology of church growth from the perspectives of the Bible, Christian doctrine, and church history. The historical section contains five essays, ranging from the early Church to Britain from 1750 to 1970, the author of the last (Dominic Erdozain) conceding the reality of church decline while simultaneously proposing ‘a more optimistic account of the Christian ecology of modern Britain’.  Further information can be found at: 


Religion and physician-assisted suicide

Thanks are due to Dr Ben Clements for drawing BRIN’s attention to some new research into religion and physician-assisted suicide: Andriy Danyliv and Ciaran O’Neill, ‘Attitudes towards Legalising Physician Provided Euthanasia in Britain: The Role of Religion over Time’, Social Science & Medicine, Vol. 128, March 2015, pp. 52-6. Utilizing evidence from the British Social Attitudes (BSA) Surveys for six data-points between 1983 and 2012, the authors demonstrate statistically significant increased support for the legalization of physician-assisted suicide (for patients suffering a painful and incurable disease) running parallel with growth in indicators of secularization. Multivariate analysis showed that religious affiliation and, more especially, frequency of attendance at religious services were the principal predictors of attitudes to physician-assisted suicide, with support for legalization being greatest among those with least religious commitment. Access options to the article are outlined at:  


Attitudes to religious groups

A plurality of Britons (40%) has a negative impression of Muslims, almost double the number regarding them positively (22%), with 37% neutral. This is according to a YouGov/Eurotrack seven-nation survey conducted between 20 and 27 May 2015, for which 1,667 Britons were interviewed online. The number viewing Muslims negatively was higher in Britain than in Germany, Norway, and Sweden, the same as in France, but lower than in Denmark and Finland (45%). 

Jews, by contrast, were regarded much more favourably, with 41% in Britain having a positive impression (a figure bettered only in Sweden), 50% being neutral and just 7% negative (the smallest number of any of the nations, Sweden excepted). In fact, Christians in Britain had a greater negative rating (11%) than Jews, albeit their positive score was also higher (45%), with 42% neutral to Christians. Danes (47%) held the most positive attitudes to Christians and Norwegians (38%) the least. 

A summary of the British data is tabulated below. Results for all seven nations, also covering opinions of five other groups (gypsies, gay people, black people, young people, and the elderly) can be found at: 


Attitudes to … (% down)




Very positive




Fairly positive








Neither positive nor negative




Fairly negative




Very negative








Don’t know




Religious diversity

Somewhat contrary to authorial expectations, practising (churchgoing) Christians are more interested in and more tolerant of other religious groups than nominal Christians or the religiously unaffiliated, according to new analysis of data from the ‘Young People’s Attitudes to Religious Diversity’ project at Warwick Religions and Education Research Unit: Leslie Francis, Alice Pyke, and Gemma Penny, ‘Christian Affiliation, Christian Practice, and Attitudes to Religious Diversity: A Quantitative Analysis among 13- to 15-Year-Old Female Students in the UK’, Journal of Contemporary Religion, Vol. 30, No. 2, 2015, pp. 249-63. The authors interpret their findings to mean that Church teaching and Christian practice are nurturing the development of the UK as a multi-cultural and multi-faith society. Access options to the article are outlined at: 


Evangelicals and poverty

Good News for the Poor? is the latest report from the Evangelical Alliance’s 21st Century Evangelicals series, which commenced in 2011. It is based upon replies by 1,607 self-identifying evangelical Christians to an online survey in November 2014. They were either members of the Alliance’s self-selecting research panel or recruited via open invitation on the Alliance’s website or social media networks; thus, they may not be representative of all evangelicals in the UK. The overwhelming majority of respondents (93%) was found to be in a financially comfortable position themselves (being either wealthy, having no financial worries, or getting by) and, relative to the general public, they tended to have higher than average expectations about ownership of material possessions (except when it came to television). Through their attitudes and actions (charitable giving and volunteering) they mostly recognized the importance of tackling poverty issues and expressed concern about the fall-out from Government welfare reforms. Nevertheless, 71% agreed that spiritual poverty is a bigger problem than material poverty, with 77% saying that, compared with some overseas countries, the UK is spiritually destitute and 66% that Churches in the UK are not very good at evangelizing and discipling the poorest sections of society. The report can be downloaded from: 


Sikhs and the general election

In our post of 25 May 2015, we reported on the results of the Survation/British Future poll of the voting of ethnic minorities at the 2015 general election, including breaks by religious groups. The reliability of this survey has subsequently been questioned in various quarters, not least by the Sikh Federation (UK) which has argued that Sikhs were seriously underrepresented in the sample and that the figures given by Survation for Sikh voting (49% Conservative, 41% Labour) were misleading. In an attempt to convey the ‘correct’ picture, the Federation has published the findings of its own post-election survey of the voting of 1,000 Sikh electors in 190 constituencies. This revealed that 50% voted Labour, 36% Conservative (up from 15% in 2010), and 15% for other parties. The Federation’s two press releases on the subject can be found at: 


British National Bibliography religion and theology data

Thanks are due to Dr Peter Webster for alerting BRIN to the recent release, by The British Library, of a subset of metadata from the British National Bibliography (BNB) for religion and theology (Dewey Decimal Classification 200-299). The dataset, covering 119,000 monographs and 4,200 serials published in Britain from 1950 to the present, is available for download and reuse on a Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication basis. It will permit analysis of trends in religious publishing since the Second World War and can be downloaded from: 



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