ComRes on Religion and Other News


ComRes on religion

Exactly half the whole population (and 71% of those professing no religion) now denies that religion is a force for good in the world, according to a ComRes poll for ITV News on 16-18 January 2015, for which 2,036 adults were interviewed online. Only 24% overall agreed with the proposition with 26% undecided. Christianity was viewed somewhat more positively, a plurality (39%) agreeing that it is a force for good in the world (peaking at 55% of over-65s and 63% of Christians), against 30% who disagreed (including 53% of religious nones) and 31% who did not know. However, although 44% judged that religious leaders in Britain should not get involved in political debates (compared with 34% who thought they should), in practice there was majority support for some specific recent interventions: 65% approved of the criticisms made by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York of the behaviour of shoppers in the Black Friday sales; 63% of their charge that Britain has become dominated by consumerism and selfishness; and 50% of religious leaders speaking out about economic inequality. Data tables are at:

British Cohort Study

On 27 April 2014 BRIN included in one of its regular weekly round-ups of religious statistical news an item on ‘When we’re 42’. This contained a preliminary (topline) analysis of a short religion module which had formed part of the latest wave of the 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS), which has been following the lives of babies born in Britain one week in 1970. Information was gathered by TNS BMRB between May 2012 and April 2013 from 9,841 members of the cohort at the age of 42, by a combination of face-to-face interview and self-completion questionnaire, the religion questions appearing on the self-completion form.  

A much fuller (27-page) analysis of the module, incorporating various cross-tabulations, was published on 21 January 2015 as Centre for Longitudinal Studies Working Paper 2015/1: David Voas, The Mysteries of Religion and the Lifecourse. It will also appear in a forthcoming issue of the journal Longitudinal and Life Course Studies but meanwhile can be accessed via the link at:

The press release for the report led on the substantial gender differences which were found in the two religious beliefs which were enquired into, an emphasis which was then reflected in the media coverage, although the phenomenon is hardly novel and, as Voas comments, still lacks a clear resolution. Perhaps of greater interest are his methodological conclusions and observations arising from the research, with a plea to avoid over-reliance on single-item measures of religiosity. This is exemplified in the sevenfold religious typology proposed by the author in table 8, based on pooling BCS data about religious identity, religious attendance, and belief in God and life after death, and which demonstrates that religiosity is far from being a black and white matter. The table is reproduced below: 

Label Description


Non-religious Does not have a religion and believes in neither God nor life after death


Nominally religious Identifies with a religion but believes in neither God nor life after death


Unorthodox non-religious Does not have a religion or does not attend services, believes in God or life after death but not both


Unorthodox religious Has a religion and attends services at least occasionally, believes in God but not life after death (or vice versa)


Non-identifying believers Does not have a religion but believes in God and life after death


Non-practising religious Has a religion and believes in God and life after death but does not attend services


Actively religious Has a religion and believes in God and life after death and attends services


Religious affiliation

Lord Ashcroft’s latest themed political opinion poll was published on 14 January 2015, this time on public attitudes to the National Health Service. Fieldwork was conducted online between 14 and 24 November 2014 among adults aged 18 and over, and, as usual, there was a background question asked about religious affiliation: ‘which of the following religious groups do you consider yourself to be a member of?’ Summary weighted findings appear below, with comparisons from previous years, from which it will be seen that Christian disaffiliation and profession of no faith are proceeding relatively rapidly. The full results (with breaks by gender, age, social grade, region, employment sector, working status, educational attainment, and voting intention) can be found in table 149 of the data tables at: 

% down

11/2011 All

11/2012 All

11/2013 All

11/2014 All

11/2014 18-24

11/2014 65+















No religion














N =







Rating Pope Francis

Pope Francis was quick to condemn the Islamist outrages in Paris, but he subsequently raised more than a few eyebrows when he told journalists that there were limits to freedom of expression and that the faith of others should not be insulted, even cracking a joke in the process about punching anybody who foul-mouthed his own mother. The majority of Britons (51%) disagreed with the Pope’s (unguarded) statement (Londoners and UKIP voters most strongly, on 59%), against 36% who supported it, according to an online poll by YouGov among 1,747 Britons on 18-19 January 2015. Reviewing his pontificate more generally, 51% thought that the Pope is doing a good job, up by 15 points over two YouGov surveys undertaken during his first year in office in 2013, and very few (7%) suggested he is doing a bad job, as many as 42% being undecided. Almost one-quarter (23%) claimed they had a more positive view of the Catholic Church as a result of Pope Francis, albeit the plurality who hold a negative view of the Church is still as large as ever (36%, the same as in November 2013), the over-60s being most negative (48%). Nearly two-fifths (39%, 8 points up on November 2013) anticipated that the Pope would make the Church more liberal, notwithstanding there is as yet little tangible evidence that its teachings are about to be ‘modernized’ in any substantive way. A blog about the survey was published on 20 January 2015, with a link to the data tables, at:


A plurality (47%) of the British public believes that immigration has weakened Christian values in Britain, according to an online poll by Survation for the think-tank Bright Blue, for which 1,052 adults were interviewed between 12 and 16 September 2014 (although the results were only released on 19 January 2015). The proportion holding this view soared to 81% among UKIP voters and also constituted a majority for several other demographic sub-groups, including retired people (66%), the over-55s (62%), Conservative voters (56%), the lowest (DE) social grade (55%), men (54%), and married persons (53%). Just 19% of the whole sample disagreed with the proposition that immigration had weakened Christian values in Britain, while 25% neither agreed nor disagreed and 8% registered as don’t knows. On a related matter, and referring to a recent situation in real life, 66% of Britons favoured granting asylum in the UK to a woman from a strongly Muslim country who had been threatened with execution because of her Christian beliefs. Data tables are at:

The same questions were also posed to a separate sample of 1,307 current Conservative voters between 12 and 30 September 2014, and these data tables are at:

Anti-Semitism – Jewish perspectives

Anti-Semitism was again in the media spotlight during the past week, in the wake of the recent Islamist outrages in France, in one of which four Jews were murdered in an attack on a kosher supermarket. The heightened coverage of anti-Semitism is being underpinned by original empirical research. 

The Jewish Chronicle has published the second in its new series of Jewish topical issues polls, undertaken by Survation among a representative sample of 939 UK Jews (including secular and non-practising) aged 18 and over, who were interviewed by telephone on 19-20 January 2015. Notwithstanding greater efforts being made by the authorities to protect Jews, 58% claimed not to have noticed any increased police presence in their own areas during the past fortnight (against 40% who had), with Jewish over-55s most likely to have detected no improvement (70%). Asked whether the Government was doing all it could to combat anti-Semitism, only 33% answered in the affirmative, while 55% thought it should be doing more (rising to 61% of female Jews and 64% of under-35s). However, there was majority welcome (60%) from UK Jews for the letter which the Communities Minister had written to Muslim leaders calling for renewed efforts on their part to explain how Islam can be part of British identity. Data tables, with breaks by age, gender, and region, are at:

As well as summarizing the results of its own poll, the current issue of The Jewish Chronicle (23 January 2015, pp. 6-7, 35) also allocated space to continued discussion about the validity of the poll of Jews conducted online by the Campaign against Antisemitism (CAA) between 23 December 2014 and 11 January 2015, whose findings were rather alarmist (as featured in our last post on 18 January 2015). In The Jewish Chronicle, CAA chair Gideon Falter had an article strongly affirming the ‘bulletproof’ nature of his organization’s research, while distinguished academic (and Holocaust survivor) Michael Pinto-Duschinsky urged the newspaper’s readers ‘don’t trust these misleading figures’, backing up previous criticisms of them by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research. Meanwhile, Geoffrey Alderman, a regular columnist on The Jewish Chronicle, called for an end to ‘point-scoring’ about the CAA survey of Jews, although he was skating on somewhat thin ice himself since he had apparently made some use of the CAA data in an article he had written for The Spectator. 

Anti-Semitism – public opinion

A survey of public attitudes to Jews and the Holocaust was published by the European Jewish Congress on 21 January 2015. It was designed by 202 Strategies and undertaken by Survation among a sample of 504 UK adults aged 18-35 (48% of whom described themselves as not religious), who were interviewed online between 8 and 10 January 2015. A significant minority of respondents was found to have ambiguous, prejudiced, or ill-informed views on both topics, albeit some might consider a few of the questions to be a little leading. Although a majority (53%) acknowledged the existence of anti-Semitism in the UK, 23% denied it and 24% were undecided. Three-fifths had been taught about the Holocaust at school but fewer, 40%, regarded it as the most important event in European history over the last century, just 34% knew who Adolf Eichmann was, 31% underestimated the number of Jews who had perished in the Holocaust (with a further 21% unable to answer at all), and only 29% were aware of Holocaust Memorial Day. One in seven inclined to Holocaust denial in that they agreed ‘the evidence surrounding the Holocaust is not complete and I would need to see more proof to believe without a doubt that it occurred’. A similar proportion (15%) backed the introduction of a legal requirement for businesses owned by Jews to have a special form of identification (22% saying the same about Muslim businesses) and 15% wanted individual Jews to carry religious identification (13% wishing to see a similar obligation on Christians). One-quarter thought it very or somewhat likely that laws discriminating against Jews could be passed in Europe today, and 24% anticipated that another Holocaust might happen in Europe during their lifetime. Full data tables have not yet been released (and may not be, since 202 Strategies rather than Survation did the analysis), but a 16-page report is available at:

The Conversation of 22 January 2015 contained a preliminary analysis by Tim Bale of a poll which he had commissioned from YouGov to gauge voter reactions to the prospect of a Jewish politician leading a political party and becoming Prime Minister. This is more than a distant scenario, given that Ed Miliband leads the Labour Party and might, after the May general election, become the first British Jewish Prime Minister since 1880, albeit – conceivably – at the head of a minority or coalition government. In fact, only one-third of all UK voters are aware of Miliband’s religious background, and even fewer of those intending to vote Labour than for the other parties. Even if they were aware, for the vast majority (83%) it would apparently make no difference to their electoral choice. However, 13% of UKIP voters would be less likely to vote for a party with a Jewish leader, twice the proportion of Conservative and LibDem voters who said this, and three times the number of Labour voters. UKIP voters were also least likely (48%) to see a Jewish prime minister as equally acceptable as one from another faith, compared with 62% of all voters and 72% of Labour voters. More generally, just 10% agreed that Jews have too much influence in the country, a reduction from 18% in 2004 (albeit UKIP supporters are still at 18%). Bale’s post, which is a spin-off from his forthcoming Oxford University Press book on the Labour Party under Miliband, can be read at:

Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion

Among the 11 essays in the latest edition (Vol. 25, 2014) of Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion, an annual published by Brill, are a couple which might interest BRIN readers, details of which are given below: 

  • pp. 2-16, Leslie Francis and Mandy Robbins, ‘Religious Identity, Mystical Experience, and Psychopathology: A Study among Secular, Christian, and Muslim Youth in England and Wales’ – a survey of the incidence of mystical experience and its association with psychoticism and neuroticism among 203 Muslim, 477 Christian, and 378 religiously unaffiliated young people aged 14-18 attending 12 schools in England and Wales 
  • pp. 78-108, Andrew Kam-Tuck Yip and Sarah-Jane Page, ‘Religious Faith and Heterosexuality: A Multi-Faith Exploration of Young Adults’ – a survey of the sexual values, attitudes, and behaviour of 515 self-defined heterosexual religious young adults aged 18-25 living in the UK


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