Churchgoers and the Recession and Other News

The following statistics appeared on Monday and Tuesday this week:

Women bishops and the image of the Church of England

Although the measure for women bishops yesterday narrowly failed to secure the necessary two-thirds majority in all three houses of the Church of England’s General Synod, 67% of the general public were in favour of women becoming bishops in the last test of opinion prior to the synodical vote. Women (71%) are somewhat more supportive than men (64%). A further 13% of all adults are against the idea of women bishops (including 31% of 54 Muslims interviewed), while 20% are undecided.

As for the overall image of the Church of England, a slight majority (55%) agrees that it remains an important part of our national identity, and this is especially true of the over-65s (71%); dissentients amount to 29% (42% in Scotland) and don’t knows to 17%. Fewer (42%) think that the Church of England is a significant moral influence on the nation, just 3% more than the 39% who take the opposite line (rising to 62% among those of no faith), with 19% uncertain. Only 13% disagree with the suggestion that the Church of England’s relevance to the country is in long-term decline; 66% agree and 21% express no view.

Source: Online survey by ComRes, on behalf of ITV News, of 2,055 Britons aged 18 and over on 16-18 November 2012. Data tables were published on 19 November and are available at:

Churchgoers and the recession

The same ComRes/ITV News survey ran various questions on the state of the economy and personal finances, and the results were separately analysed for the sub-sample (16%) claiming to attend church at least once a month. The data suggest that these ‘regular’ churchgoers may have weathered the economic storm better than most people. In particular, churchgoers (32%) are more likely than all adults (18%) to say they have more money to spend on non-essentials than last year. Similarly, 48% of churchgoers contend that their personal financial situation is generally heading in the right direction, compared with 37% of all Britons. Perhaps for this reason, churchgoers are also much more inclined than the norm (40% versus 26%) to argue that the Government is in control of the economy. The explanation for the relatively advantageous position that churchgoers find themselves in probably lies in the fact that they have a somewhat higher socio-economic status than the population as a whole. For instance, in this poll, whereas 16% of the latter fell into the top (AB) social group, for churchgoers the figure was 19%.  

Education of religious leaders

Nationally prominent religious figures are less likely to have been educated at independent schools than professional leaders as a whole, but they are more likely to have gone to Oxford or Cambridge Universities. Of 265 religious leaders who received their secondary education in the UK, 37% had attended independent schools, against 45% for all professional groups (ranging from 13% for the police to 68% in public service). A further 15% of religious leaders went to a direct grant school, 35% to grammar school, 2% to a secondary modern school, and 11% to an unspecified type of state school. At tertiary level, 41% of 311 religious leaders had been educated at Oxbridge, 10% more than the norm for all professional groups (ranging from 1% of pop musicians to 62% in the diplomatic service). The remaining religious leaders mostly went to the top 30 UK research universities (33%) or other UK universities (15%).

Source: Analysis of the educational backgrounds of 8,654 individuals whose names appeared in the birthday lists of The Times, The Sunday Times, The Independent or The Independent on Sunday during 2011. Such names were, presumably, often abstracted from Who’s Who. The research was undertaken by the Sutton Trust, a charity dedicated to the promotion of social mobility, in association with Dr John Jerrim of the Institute of Education in London. For breakdowns by different professions see Tables 4 and 5 in The Educational Backgrounds of the Nation’s Leading People, published by the Trust on 20 November 2012 and available at:


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