The European Commission has recently published Special Eurobarometer 341 on Biotechnology. This is based upon face-to-face interviews by TNS with representative samples of the adult population aged 15 and over in the 27 member states of the European Union plus Croatia and Turkey (candidate countries) and Switzerland, Iceland and Norway (members of the European Free Trade Association). 1,311 interviews were conducted in the UK, between 29 January and 15 February this year.

At the topline level, four matters are of particular relevance to BRIN. Among the set of biotechnology questions, one (p. 165 and table QB19.10) asked whether religious leaders were doing a good job for society in saying what is right or wrong about developments in the biotechnology field.

In the UK 25% thought they were doing a good job (somewhat below the EU average of 31%), 47% a bad job (EU average 46%), with 28% uncertain (EU average 23%). In both the UK and the EU religious leaders scored the lowest ratings of ten groups for benefiting society with regard to biotechnology.

The other three questions were intended to provide religious background for analysing the biotechnology set. 37% of UK citizens claimed to believe in God (p. 204 and table QB32), well below the EU average of 51% and way behind Malta and Turkey (94%) and Romania (92%).

Additionally, 33% in the UK believed in some sort or spirit or life force, while 25% disbelieved in any kind of God, spirit or life force (against 20% in the EU as a whole), and 5% did not know what to think. Disbelievers were up by 5% from the last Eurobarometer survey to cover this issue, in January-February 2005.

Only 11 of the other 31 countries had a lower proportion of believers in God than the UK: Bulgaria (36%), Finland (33%), Slovenia (32%), Iceland (31%), Denmark and The Netherlands (28%), France (27%), Norway (22%), Sweden and Estonia (18%), and the Czech Republic (16%).   

On religious affiliation (table QB33), 6% in the UK said that they were atheists and a further 24% non-believers or agnostics. 14% were Catholics, 44% other Christians, 5% non-Christians, 2% from other religions, and 5% did not know what their religion was.

At 30%, those with no religion (including atheists) in the UK had increased by 5% since the question had last been put in May-June 2009. The EU average was 8% lower, at 22%. Just six countries had more irreligious than the UK (Czech Republic, the former East Germany, France, The Netherlands, Norway and Sweden).

As for attendance at religious services (table QB34), apart from weddings or funerals, 12% of UK adults claimed to go once a week or more, 6% once a month, 5% every two or three months, 7% on special holy days only, 9% once a year, 14% less often, and 46% never.

The UK figures were little changed from when the European Commission last posed the question, in September-October 2006. But the proportion never attending religious services in the UK today is 17% higher than the EU average. Only the Czech Republic, the former East Germany, and France have more non-worshippers.  

The report is available at:

A four-page fact-sheet on the UK results is at:

The dataset for the survey is deposited with the Economic and Social Data Service as SN 6518 (Eurobarometer 73.1). This would obviously support analysis of the answers to all the many specialized biotechnology questions by the three religious variables.

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

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