Attitudes to Immigration and Other News

Today’s post features seven stories which have landed on BRIN’s desk during the past fortnight. Please use the contact tab on our homepage to alert us to any significant news items which we appear to have missed.

Attitudes to immigration and religious affiliation

Lord Ashcroft published the latest of his large-scale opinion polls on 1 September 2013, this time exploring attitudes to immigration. The sample comprised 20,062 Britons aged 18 and over interviewed online, presumably by Populus, between 17 and 29 May 2013. As usual, Ashcroft included a question about religious affiliation: ‘which of the following religious groups do you consider yourself to be a member of?’ As in the census of population for England and Wales, Christian denominations are not differentiated in the response codes. The results of this question appear on pp. 384-92 of the data tables which can be found at:

In these tables religious affiliation is broken down by the following variables: gender, age, age within gender, social grade, social grade within gender, region, region within gender, educational attainment, educational attainment within gender, working status, employment sector, current voting intention, voting at the 2010 general election, and attitudes to immigration clusters. The clusters are the result of a segmentation analysis by which ‘seven pillars of opinion’, as Ashcroft describes them, have been distilled from the answers given to the various immigration questions. The clusters range from ‘universal hostility’ at one end of the spectrum to ‘militantly multicultural’ at the other, denoting the extremes of antipathy to and acceptance of immigration. These clusters are fully explained on pp. 10-15 of the report on the survey at:

A table mapping the clusters to religious affiliation is set out below. Although the findings are not fully consistent, it will be seen that professing Christians (a majority of whom will be white British) tend to be disproportionately uncomfortable about immigration and non-Christians, many of whom will be first- or second-generation immigrants, disproportionately favourable to it. As for people of no religion, the major discovery is that they constitute a majority (51%) of the ‘militantly multicultural’ cluster, 15% more than their presence in the population as a whole, whereas Christians are 17% less numerous in this cluster than in the country.




No religion

No answer






Universal hostility





Cultural concerns





Competing for jobs





Fight for entitlements





Comfortable pragmatists





Urban harmony





Militantly multicultural





If the religious affiliation data from this poll are merged with those from other published Populus surveys conducted during the first half of 2013, then we have information about 60,358 Britons. Their religious profile is as follows: 55.2% Christian, 7.2% non-Christian, 35.2% no religion, and 2.3% not stated. It should be noted that these statistics are not directly comparable with those from the 2011 census because: a) they relate to Great Britain, whereas census data are just available for England and Wales at present; b) they are confined to adults while the census covers all ages; and c) the questions differ. In particular, Populus uses a ‘belonging’ form of religious affiliation, which is known to drive up the numbers professing no religion.

Is the Church of England out of touch?

In her column in the latest issue (1 September 2013, freely available online) of The Independent on Sunday, Janet Street-Porter lambasts the Church of England for being out of touch. She was responding to a recent speech by the Archbishop of Canterbury in which he called upon Christians to ‘repent’ for their past homophobic attitudes. ‘The Church is run by a bunch of grey men in fancy costumes’, Street-Porter continued, who ‘fail to represent modern Britain in any meaningful way.’ But does the great British public agree with her view that the Church of England is out of touch with contemporary society (not least in relation to the Church’s struggles with gender and sexual orientation equality issues during the past couple of decades or so)?

The answer appears to be an emphatic yes. The question has been directly addressed in online polling by YouGov on four occasions during 2012-13, with a substantial majority arguing that the Church of England is out of touch with the public mood: 65% on 26-27 January 2012 (in the wake of episcopal opposition in the House of Lords to the Government’s benefits cap); 76% on 22-23 November 2012 (following General Synod’s failure to pass legislation to enable women bishops); 61% on 14-15 March 2013; and 69% on 27-28 March 2013 (the last two surveys being conducted when the same-sex marriage Bill was a live issue). Demographic variations in these results, including by age, are surprisingly small.

Nevertheless, there is some limited comfort in the polls for the Church of England: a) even more Britons (77% on 14-15 March last) think the Roman Catholic Church is out of touch; b) relatively few (14% on 5-13 June 2013, in an as yet unpublished YouGov poll commissioned by Professor Linda Woodhead) go so far as to say that the Church of England is a negative force in society (albeit only 18% deem it a positive force); and c) a plurality (42% in YouGov’s study of 16-17 February 2012) still concedes that the Church of England performs a valuable role in Britain. And, despite occasional sabre-rattling in the public square to threaten disestablishment, there exists no strong public clamour to separate Church from State (see my article in Implicit Religion, Vol. 14, No. 3, September 2011, pp. 319-41).

Catholic trends

‘Catholic weekly Mass attendance figures vary a lot around England and, like house prices, show a sharp north/south divide with smaller numbers up north – according to the latest diocesan accounts on the Charity Commission website.’ So writes layman Kenn Winter of Huddersfield in a letter to the editor of the Catholic weekly The Universe, published in its edition of 1 September 2013 (p. 20). Whereas in the Diocese of Westminster he finds that, on average, 700 Catholics per parish attend Mass weekly, in the Archdiocese of Liverpool it is only 250. Winter also notes the big discrepancy between Catholic population and weekly Massgoers, citing the Diocese of Salford as an example, with 330,000 Catholics and 58,000 weekly attenders at Mass. ‘Most Catholics do not go to Mass – especially schoolchildren, yet Catholic schools’ numbers are burgeoning …’ He concludes that, with more children in Catholic schools than attenders at weekly Mass, and often with more Catholic schools than parishes, there appears to be a move away from parish life and the centrality of the parish priest. He ponders: ‘is the Catholic Church in England changing its mission?’

Faith schools

Further to our post of 9 June 2013, the Fair Admissions Campaign released new top-level data for England and Wales on 30 August 2013 to support its claim that ‘faith-based admissions criteria cause schools to be socio-economically unrepresentative of their local areas’. As a proxy for deprivation, the Campaign mapped, for Middle Super Output Areas (MSOAs), pupil eligibility for free school meals (FSMs) in the neighbourhood and in state schools. Nationally, 18.1% of primary and 15.2% of secondary school students are considered eligible for FSMs, but the proportion is significantly lower in Roman Catholic schools (virtually all of which are said to have fully religiously selective admissions criteria): 7.1% fewer in Catholic primaries and 4.7% less in secondaries. Admissions criteria vary in Church of England schools. Overall, their FSM numbers are 0.2% below the norm in primaries and 1.9% in secondaries, falling to 3.9% under in the case of Anglican secondaries applying religious admissions criteria. For Jewish schools the FSM undershoot is even worse, 13.4% in primaries and 14.4% in secondaries, while even Muslim secondary schools are 9.4% below average in terms of FSM pupils. At the other end of the spectrum, schools with no religious character are 1.3% above the FSM norm at primary and 0.9% at secondary level. The contention is that religious admissions criteria benefit middle-class parents who have the time to participate in activities required to fulfil the criteria and to plan ahead. The Campaign’s press release can be found at:

More generally, the British public clearly entertains reservations about faith schools, according to the latest (as yet unpublished) polling evidence, from YouGov on behalf of Professor Linda Woodhead, 4,018 adults aged 18 and over being interviewed online between 5 and 13 June 2013. Three-quarters (59%) say they would be unlikely to send their own child to a faith school. Almost two-fifths (38%) find it unacceptable that faith schools are allowed to give preference in their admissions policies to children and families who profess or practice the relevant religion, while 23% contend that all faith schools should have to admit a proportion of students from a different religion or no faith at all.

GCSE results

Provisional GCSE results for the United Kingdom (excluding Scotland) for the summer 2013 round of examinations were published by the Joint Council for Qualifications on 22 August 2013. For Religious Studies (RS) there were 263,988 entrants for the full course, 24,865 or 10.4% up on the previous year, more than twice the increase in candidates for all subjects (4.2%). The ten-year growth for RS is 99.5%, so it could be said to have been a boom decade for the study of religion, even though belief in and practice of it among adolescents and youth have generally reduced on most performance indicators. A majority (54.2%) of RS students in 2013 was female, 3.1% more than for all subjects, but well below the 68.5% for A Level RS. The pass rate for GCSE RS full course was 98.3%, down by 0.2% from 2012, the same decline as for all subjects. ‘Good’ grades of A*, A, B, or C were obtained by 72.4% of RS full course entrants, reduced from 73.7% last year (compared with, respectively, 68.1% and 69.4% for all subjects); the differential might suggest that either RS attracts better students than other subjects and/or that it is a somewhat easier discipline than some.

Besides full course GCSE RS, there is a separate short course (equivalent to half a GCSE), which fared less well, attracting 174,364 candidates this summer, a drop of 61,552 or 26.1% since last year, and mirroring the 26.2% fall in all short course subjects (unsurprisingly, given that 63.6% of all short course entries are for RS). This decline reflects the fact that short courses generally are no longer used as a benchmark of school performance and thus are no longer as attractive to either schools or pupils. Although full and short course RS entrants combined were 36,687 or 7.7% fewer in summer 2013 than in summer 2012, at 438,352 they were still 23.1% more than in summer 2003. Nevertheless, the reversal of the upward trend for RS since 1995 has been seized on by some commentators on the GCSE results as a direct consequence of the Government’s introduction of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc), which excludes RS. The full examination results can be studied at:


The British public is normally fairly suspicious of, if not antipathetic toward, Islamism, but current political events in Egypt are leaving it a little confused. Asked whether they would prefer to see Egypt ruled by an elected Islamist government (such as existed until very recently under President Morsi) or an unelected non-Islamist regime (such as the present military-led government), 53% in an online YouGov poll on 18-19 August 2013 were undecided. The balance of the sample of 1,729 adults was divided between 24% in favour of an elected Islamist administration (ranging from 16% of UKIP voters to 30% of Scots) and 23% for an unelected non-Islamist one (with a low of 15% among Liberal Democrats and a high of 40% for UKIP supporters). These findings exemplify how, in the words of YouGov’s own commentary on the poll, ‘recent developments in Egypt have pitted one of the world’s strongest values, democracy, against one of its biggest fears, Islamist government’. The data table, released on 20 August, is at:

Muslims in the 2011 census

On 21 August 2013 the Runnymede Trust published The New Muslims, a collection of 13 short papers edited by Claire Alexander, Victoria Redclift, and Ajmal Hussain, the outcome of a workshop and a panel debate held at the University of Manchester in March. One of the contributions (pp. 16-19) is by Stephen Jivraj on ‘Muslims in England and Wales: Evidence from the 2011 Census’. This offers a comparison of the results of the 2001 and 2011 censuses to demonstrate the growth of the Muslim community with particular reference to spatial aspects at local authority level. Three main conclusions are reached: a) Muslims are clustered in selected areas with a history of immigration from Southern Asia; b) their numbers are growing in areas where they are already most clustered, but at an even faster rate in immediately adjacent areas; and c) they were fairly evenly spread across England and Wales in 2001 and had become more so by 2011, with their residential separation decreasing. The New Muslims is free to download at:

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

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