Carols + Websites + Prisoners

Today’s medley covers Christmas carols, church websites, and Muslim young offenders. It is anticipated that our next substantive post will be devoted to the 2011 religious census results for England and Wales, scheduled for release on 11 December.

Silent night

Silent Night (Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht), written in Austria by Father Joseph Mohr in 1816, remains the nation’s favourite Christmas carol, as it has been in various opinion surveys conducted over recent years. YouGov’s latest study gives it 21% of the popular vote (rising to 28% of the over-60s), similar to the 20% recorded by the same pollsters two years ago. Runner up position goes to O Come All Ye Faithful (Adeste fideles), with 11% of preferences (10% in 2010), being twice as popular among Conservative and Liberal Democrat voters as for Labour supporters. Charles Wesley’s Hark, the Herald Angels Sing moves up three places, from sixth to third (on 10%, six points above its score in 2010).

The chart is a little contrived, in that respondents did not have a completely free choice over which carols they could nominate. Although there was a category for ‘other’, they were presented with a pre-set list and asked which was their favourite carol on it. The 2012 list was distinctly shorter than in 2010, only nine titles now compared with twenty-five then. Moreover, whereas in 2010 all the lyrics could arguably be classified as carols, by 2012 Jingle Bells (6%), Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer (5%), and We Wish You a Merry Christmas (4%) had been allowed to make an entrance. Clearly, the boundaries between sacred and secular have become muddied. But, even with such elastic definitions, 21% said that they did not have a favourite carol, with a notable gender gap between men (26%) and women (16%).      

Source: Online survey by YouGov among 1,552 British adults aged 18 and over on 18-19 November 2012, but results not published until 10 December at:

Church websites

Two-thirds of local churches across a range of denominations had a dedicated website as at December 2011, up from two-fifths in 2009, but many of those examined in detail by a postgraduate researcher were found to be sub-optimal. In particular, 63% were non-current in terms of their content, with 12% of them more than three months out of date. Many also had surprising omissions of content, 5% even failing to give the times of the Sunday services and 22% not including a map. Only a minority of church websites contained information about the arrangements for rites of passage: 35% about weddings, 30% about baptisms, and 14% about funerals. Just 8% of websites incorporated a blog and 16% a link to a social media service for the church. 

Source: Sara Batts, ‘What’s the Point of a Website …’, Church Times, 30 November 2012, p. 35. The author is undertaking doctoral research at Loughborough University. An earlier report of her research has appeared on BRIN at:

Young Muslim prisoners

The proportion of Muslims among young men aged 15-18 detained in young offender institutions in England and Wales has risen from 13% in 2009/10 to 16% in 2010/11 to 22% in 2011/12. In 2011/12 they comprised the largest single religious group in such institutions, even outnumbering Anglicans (18%) and Catholics (17%), albeit fewer than the 33% who professed no faith. Moreover, despite signs of improvement since 2010/11, the experiences of young Muslim prisoners in 2011/12 continued to be frequently more negative than that of their non-Muslim counterparts. Of the 167 questions tested for statistical significance, responses to 68 (41%) were more negative for Muslims than non-Muslims, and in only 15 (9%) were they more positive.

Source: Questionnaires completed by 926 males aged 15-18 (195 of them Muslims) detained in young offender institutions in England and Wales in 2011/12. Results published by HM Inspectorate of Prisons and the Youth Justice Board in Rachel Murray, Children and Young People in Custody, 2011-12: An Analysis of the Experiences of 15-18-Year-Olds in Prison, with the detailed comparison of responses for Muslims and non-Muslims at pp. 128-34. The document is available at:

Similar findings have also been published recently in HM Chief Inspector of Prisons 2011/12 survey of 6,161 adult prisoners, 899 (15%) of them Muslim. On 85 measures of prison life, Muslim responses were significantly worse than those of non-Muslims in 48 (56%) and significantly better in just 18 (21%); in the remaining questions (22%) there was no significant difference. Details contained in HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales, Annual Report, 2011-12: Survey Summaries – Ethnicity, Religion, Nationality, Disability and Age, which can be found at:


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2 Responses to Carols + Websites + Prisoners

  1. Pingback: Church websites need to up their game | eChurch Blog

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