Archbishop of Canterbury and the Coalition Government

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, recently publicly criticized the Coalition Government’s plans to make the long-term unemployed take part in compulsory work placements, with those who refused at risk of having their jobseeker’s allowance stopped.

The Archbishop said that it would be wrong to put further pressure on the unemployed, thereby pushing them into a ‘downward spiral of uncertainty, even despair’. His intervention prompted memories of the Church of England’s conflicts with the Thatcher government in the 1980s.

On behalf of The Sun, which appears not to have reported the findings, YouGov asked a representative sample of 1,936 adult Britons aged 18 and over whether they agreed with the Archbishop’s remarks. Interviews were conducted online on 8 and 9 November.

Only 23% of the sample sided with Williams, against 64% who disagreed with him and 13% who expressed no opinion. Those who agreed were somewhat more likely to be men, aged 40-59, manual workers (C2DEs), Londoners and Scots.

However, the widest variation was by voting intention. Just 5% of Conservatives and 14% of Liberal Democrats (the two parties in government) shared the Archbishop’s opinion, compared with 47% of Labour supporters. 88% of Conservatives and 76% of Liberal Democrats disagreed with him.

Regardless of their views on this particular issue, respondents were also asked whether it was right or wrong for senior clergy to comment on political matters. A slight majority (54%) wanted the Church to keep out of the political arena, including two-thirds of Conservatives.

By contrast, 34% of the whole sample (45% of Labourites and 41% of Londoners) considered that the Church has an important moral contribution to make in the political world, with 12% undecided (including 23% of those aged 18-24).   

The full data table may be consulted at:

British Religion in Numbers: All the material published on this website is subject to copyright. We explain further here.

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