British Social Attitudes Survey, 2008

British Social Attitudes: The 26th Report by Alison Park and others was published by Sage on 26 January 2010 (£50, ISBN 9781849203876). It comprises a series of essays based upon the findings of the 2008 British Social Attitudes survey, conducted among a representative sample of adult Britons aged 18 and over. The survey has been undertaken by what is now NatCen annually since 1983 (except in 1988 and 1992), on behalf of a range of public-sector and third-sector clients and funders. A combination of face-to-face interviews and self-completion questionnaires is used.

As in 1991 and 1998 (when they formed a module of the International Social Survey Program), the 2008 British Social Attitudes survey included a large number of religion-related questions, especially funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, the John Templeton Foundation and NORFACE. These underpinned two of the chapters in the published report, both written by members of the British Religion in Numbers project team at the Institute for Social Change, University of Manchester.

The first chapter is by David Voas and Rodney Ling on ‘Religion in Britain and the United States’ (pp. 65-86), for which a press release will be found at:

NatCen’s official summary of this chapter reads: ‘There has been a sharp decline in religious faith in Britain, while in America people are much less likely to be atheist or agnostic. Despite this difference, people in Britain and America hold similar views about the place of religion in society. Most people are pragmatic: religion has personal and social benefits, but faith should not be taken too far. From politics to private life, many domains are seen as off limits to clerical involvement. Our research also revealed that just over half of people in Britain (52%) fear that the UK is deeply divided along religious lines and are particularly concerned about Islam compared with other faiths.’

The other chapter is by Siobhan McAndrew on ‘Religious Faith and Contemporary Attitudes’ (pp. 87-113), which is summarized as follows: ‘People who are religious hold more traditional attitudes towards family and personal relationships. Half of religious people believe that homosexual sex is always or almost always wrong compared with one in five of unreligious people. One in five religious people agree that it is the man’s job to earn money and the woman’s job to stay at home and look after the home and family compared with one in ten of the unreligious.’

These two chapters by no means exhaust the religion-related potential of the 2008 British Social Attitudes Survey, as will become clear when the dataset is released for secondary analysis by the Economic and Social Data Service. Meanwhile, a glimpse of the relevant subjects and topline results can be found in the questionnaire, which is available at:

See, in particular: face-to-face questionnaire, Q656-Q844, Q1111-1119; self-completion questionnaire version A, Q8-Q34; and self-completion questionnaire version C, Q17-Q34. The total number of respondents for the 2008 survey was 4,486, although many questions were only posed to sub-samples.

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

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