Counting Religion in Britain, April 2016

Counting Religion in Britain, No. 7, April 2016 features 23 new sources. It can be read in full below. Alternatively, you can download the PDF version: No 7 April 2016


Muslim voices

Opinion polls conducted among British Muslims have a habit of sparking controversy. No sooner had the storm died down surrounding a telephone survey by Survation for The Sun, specifically regarding the latter’s presentation of the results, than another blew up around a poll by ICM Unlimited for Channel 4, for which 1,081 Muslims aged 18 and over were interviewed face-to-face (in the home) between 25 April and 31 May 2015. Respondents were drawn from Lower Super Output Areas where at least 20% of the population in the 2011 census was Muslim, using random location, quota-based sampling.

Some Muslim commentators (such as Miqdaad Versi in The Guardian and Maha Akeel in The Independent) subsequently criticized this sampling methodology as ‘skewed’ toward Muslims of a lower socio-economic status, but Martin Boon, ICM Director, robustly defended his company’s approach, arguing that this was ‘the most rigorous survey of Muslims that has been produced for many years’. ICM has further published a detailed account of its methodology at:

As an additional cross-check, a significant sub-set of the 53 questions posed to Muslims was put to what ICM described as a ‘control group’ of 1,008 adult Britons interviewed by telephone on 5-7 June 2015. The 615 pages of data tables comprised breaks by demographics and attitudinal types both for the Muslim sample and the control group, together with a topline comparison of the two samples in respect of the questions which were common to both. The breaks for the control group included religious affiliation. These data tables will be found at:

The poll was commissioned by Channel 4 in connection with its documentary What British Muslims Really Think, which was screened on 13 April 2016 and presented by Trevor Phillips, former chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. However, results were fed into the media a few days earlier, notably through two lengthy and hard-hitting articles by Phillips in Sunday Times Magazine (10 April) and Daily Mail (11 April). In them, Phillips suggested that Muslims had become ‘a nation within a nation, with its own geography, its own values, and its own very separate future’, requiring ‘a far more muscular approach to integration’, replacing the failed policy of multiculturalism, if they were to be successfully incorporated into the mainstream.

The overwhelming majority of British Muslims judged Britain to be a good place to live (88%) and had a sense of belonging to the country (86%). This is notwithstanding a perceived growing problem of Islamophobia, with 40% assessing there was more religious prejudice against Muslims than five years ago and 17% reporting a personal experience of harassment because of their religion in their local area over the past two years. The overall positivity toward Britain is almost certainly linked to the feeling of 94% of Muslims that they are able to practice their faith here.

At the same time, there is a wish of Muslims to retain a certain distance from the wider society; while 49% would like to integrate fully with non-Muslims in all aspects of life, 46% wanted some degree of separation in favour of an Islamic life. Moreover, as the table below demonstrates, there is a significant amount of rejection by Muslims of values which have become normative among most non-Muslims. Equality and diversity with regard to gender and sexual orientation are heavily compromised by social conservatism, there is a disproportionate adherence to anti-Semitic views, and subscription to freedom of speech is qualified when Islam is felt to be under attack or criticism.

% agreeing


Control group

Gender equality
Girls and boys should be taught separately



Muslim girls should have the right to wear niqab in school



Acceptable for a British Muslim to keep more than one wife



Wives should always obey their husbands



Acceptable for homosexual to be a schoolteacher



Homosexuality should be legal in Britain



Gay marriage should be legal in Britain



Anti-Semitism is a problem in Britain



Jewish people have too much power in Britain



Jewish people have too much power over the government



Jewish people have too much power over the media



Jews are more loyal to Israel than to this country



Jews have too much power in the business world



Jews have too much power in international financial markets



Jews still talk too much about the Holocaust



Jews don’t care what happens to anyone but their own kind



Jews have too much control over global affairs



Jews think they are better than other people



Jews are responsible for most of the world’s wars



People hate Jews because of the way Jews behave



Freedom of speech
Sympathize with groups who organize violence to protect their religion



Sympathize with people who use violence against those who mock the Prophet



Any publication should have the right to publish pictures of the Prophet



Any publication should have the right to publish pictures making fun of the Prophet



Islamist threat to London

In the wake of the Islamist attacks on Paris and Brussels, the majority (61%) of 1,017 Londoners interviewed online by YouGov for the Evening Standard between 15 and 19 April 2016 remained anxious that Islamic State/ISIS may attempt a terrorist attack on the capital this year, concern running especially high with Conservative and UKIP voters. Overall anxiety had dropped by five points since the question was last put on 4-6 January, the fall occurring entirely among the ranks of the fairly worried, the very worried being unchanged at 25%. Asked which of the two leading candidates in the upcoming London mayoral election, Zac Goldsmith (Conservative) or Sadiq Khan (Labour and a Muslim), would be most likely to tackle Islamic extremism, 41% of the sample could offer no opinion, while 16% opted for Khan and 13% for Goldsmith, with 30% saying neither or both equally. Data tables can be accessed via a post about the general results of the survey (which revealed Khan well ahead of Goldsmith in terms of voting preferences) at:

Anti-Semitism and the Labour Party

It was not just Muslim anti-Semitism which came under the spotlight during April 2016. At the end of the month, a long-simmering row about anti-Semitism in the Labour Party finally erupted, resulting in the Party suspending two of its prominent figures, one an MP and the other Ken Livingstone, the former Mayor of London who had risen to the MP’s defence. Livingstone has a track record of getting into anti-Semitic hot water, and 27% of 4,406 members of the British public interviewed online by YouGov on 29 April 2016 thought that he was very or fairly anti-Semitic, including 46% of Conservative voters and 39% of over-60s. Still more, 45% of the whole sample, considered the Labour Party had been right to suspend Livingstone, and this included 43% of Labour voters as well as 62% of Conservatives. Just over one-fifth (22%) of all Britons judged anti-Semitism to be a very or fairly big problem in the Labour Party, while 45% said it was only a small problem or none at all, with 33% undecided. Labour voters were less inclined (11%) to view it as a problem. A majority (60%) was clear that criticism of the Israeli government was not in itself anti-Semitic, merely 9% deeming it so. However, hating Israel and questioning its right to exist was regarded as anti-Semitic by 53%, against 21% who disagreed and 26% who could not make up their minds. The data are available in full via the link at:

British Social Attitudes Survey

Londoners are more religious than the rest of Britain, in terms of both belonging and behaving, according to fresh analysis by NatCen Social Research of data from the British Social Attitudes (BSA) Survey. In 2014, the latest year available (the dataset and documentation for which is already held by the UK Data Archive as SN 7809), there was a 20 point difference in the proportion of respondents professing no religion between Londoners (32%) and the remainder of the country (52%), whereas in 1983, when BSA commenced, the gap had only been 5%. Of those with a religion, or brought up in a religion, twice as many Londoners (38%) claimed to attend religious services at least monthly in 2014 as people in the rest of Britain (19%). Immigration to the capital, by persons from both Christian and non-Christian backgrounds, largely explains these differences. In 2014, no fewer than 31% of Londoners subscribed to non-Christian faiths (a 9% increase on 2010), against just 4% elsewhere in the nation. In fact, there were almost as many non-Christians as Christians (37%) in London. A press release, with link to data tables, is available at:

Scottish Social Attitudes Survey

A majority (52%) of residents in Scotland says they belong to no religion, according to initial analysis by ScotCen Social Research of the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey (SSAS) for 2015. This compares with 40% in the first SSAS in 1999. Although the proportion of Roman Catholics and other Christians in Scotland has held relatively steady over the years, there has been a big decline (from 35% in 1999 to 20% in 2015) in professed affiliation to the Church of Scotland. The non-Christian presence in Scotland is limited (2%). Among those with a religion, or brought up in a religion, attendance at religious services monthly or more has also fallen by 10% between 1999 (31%) and 2015 (21%), while 66% in 2015 admitted to never or practically never worshipping (49% in 1999). The latest SSAS interviewed a representative random probability sample of 1,288 adults in Scotland between July 2015 and January 2016. A press release, with link to data tables, is available at:’t-attend-services/

Church visits

An online poll by Populus for the Charities Aid Foundation on 19-21 February 2016 quizzed 2,054 UK adults about their engagement with charities, defined in the broadest sense, the principal finding being that almost every household has used at least one charitable service at some point. Churches or religious institutions of charitable status were one of the types of ‘charitable service’ asked about. The proportion of respondents claiming to have ever visited a church themselves (presumably, not necessarily for an act of worship) was 46% (half of them within the past year), which was two points less than those who had never done so. The number of ‘attenders’ was highest among Londoners (55%), public sector workers (56%), the top AB social group (57%), BMEs (57%), and members of households with a combined annual income of more than £55,000 (60%). Those least inclined to have set foot in a church came from the bottom social strata, characterized as being from the DE group (59%), members of households with a combined income of under £14,000 (59%), retired people living only on a state pension (61%), and council tenants (63%). Data tables can be found at:

Referendum on European Union membership

One of the fascinating aspects of the campaign around Brexit, whether the UK should vote to leave the European Union (EU) in the forthcoming referendum on 23 June 2016, is the number of  international leaders who have voiced their opinions that the UK should remain in the EU. These have included the Pope who has let it be known, through a senior Vatican diplomat, that he believes the UK would be better ‘in’ than ‘out’ and that it would also make for a stronger Europe. With President Barack Obama the latest world leader to wade into the debate, ITV News commissioned ComRes to conduct an online poll among 2,015 Britons on 20-21 April 2016. Respondents were asked how important to them were the views on the UK’s EU membership of eight leaders or institutions. As the table below indicates, the Pope’s opinion on this matter counted least of all with the electorate. Only 13% overall regarded what he thinks as important and no more than 20% among any demographic sub-group. Data tables are at:




US President Barack Obama



HM The Queen



German Chancellor Angela Merkel



The Pope



UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon



International Monetary Fund



Bank of England Governor Mark Carney



French President Francois Hollande



Religion and alcohol

Religion continues to exercise a marginal influence on alcohol consumption in the UK, according to recent research by Ipsos MORI on behalf of Drinkaware, for which 2,303 adults aged 18-75 were interviewed online between 16 November and 4 December 2015. Among the 10% of respondents who claimed that they never drank, 39% gave as a reason for abstinence that drinking alcohol was against their religious or spiritual beliefs, the remaining 61% saying that this was not an important factor for them. Of the 90% of drinkers, 9% reported that a change in their religious circumstances had occasioned a sustained decrease in their consumption of alcohol at some point and 1% an increase. However, for both groups the dominant influences on non-drinking behaviour were secular, such as health, finance, and being in personal control. A report about the research, Drinkaware Monitor, 2015, is available at:


Faith-based charities

More than one-quarter (27%) of the 187,500 registered charities in Great Britain are faith-based, in the sense of embodying some form of religious belief – or cultural values arising from a religious belief – in their vision or mission, founding history, or project content. This is according to research by New Philanthropy Capital (NPC), which has devised an improved methodology for identifying faith-based charities, employing a combination of existing classifications and automated text analysis of keywords. About two-thirds (65%) of these charities are categorized as Christian or deriving from a Christian tradition, 23% as generally faith-based, and 12% are associated with non-Christian faiths (mostly Islam or Judaism). Almost one-fifth have been formed since 2006. More information about NPC’s ongoing research into the effect of faith on the charitable sector, including a seven-page description of the methodology used to build the underlying dataset of charities, can be found at:

Faith in public service

A new report from the Oasis Foundation, the research and policy unit of the Oasis group of charities and social enterprises, calls for a rebranding and relaunch of the failed ‘Big Society’ initiative and especially upon the Christian Church in the UK to re-imagine its role and re-orientate itself more radically towards social action and the delivery of public services: Ian Sansbury, Ben Cowdrey, and Lea Kauffmann-de Vries, Faith in Public Service: The Role of the Church in Public Service Delivery. In building their case, the authors draw upon two online surveys conducted on 5-6 April 2016, one by YouGov among 1,710 members of the general public and the other by Oasis of 124 church leaders. The public was clearly ambivalent about the Church assuming a greater role in the delivery of public services. Some people recognized that the Church might be more likely to care than other providers, to add the personal touch, to be better connected to other community groups, and to be more motivated to do a good job. Others, however, worried that the Church might be insufficiently inclusive in its approach, attempting to make converts in the process or to shut out non-Christians or other minority groups. These concerns were held particularly by the 18-24 age group. For church leaders, capacity constraints were a major potential challenge, with only 28% confident that their church could run substantial public services such as education or healthcare. The report can be downloaded from:

Data tables are at:

Christians and Brexit

One-half of practising Christians (including church leaders) believe that the UK should remain in the European Union (EU), according to an online survey conducted by Christian Research among members of its self-selecting Resonate panel during the first week of March 2016. Free movement of trade was cited as the main reason for their pro-EU stance, while many also considered the debate thus far had been too dominated by anti-immigration rhetoric. Just one-fifth intended to vote for Brexit in the forthcoming referendum on 23 June, mostly because they felt the EU to be too bureaucratic and wasteful or its laws threatened our sovereignty. The remaining 30% were undecided. Promoting peace was seen as the most important part of the EU’s mission by 61% of the sample, but its track-record for advancing religious freedom and tolerance was deemed ineffective by 56%. A press release about the survey (with a tiny amount of additional content available to logged-in Christian Research subscribers) can be found at:

Evangelical consumers

The March/April 2016 issue of Idea, the magazine of the Evangelical Alliance, contained some headline results from a 2015 survey of evangelical attitudes to ethics and consumerism, completed by 1,461 self-selecting members of the Alliance’s research panel. Four in five respondents (81%) concurred that greed for material possessions is one of the greatest sins of our time and 76% that consumerism is eroding family and community life. The advertising industry was widely blamed for this state of affairs, 67% wanting it more tightly regulated and 44% considering it was generally unethical. Although 92% of evangelicals accepted that the Bible teaches us to be content with what we have, 84% also thought there was nothing wrong in enjoying the material things God has provided for us. On Sunday trading, 59% said that Christians should avoid doing their shopping on Sundays, and just 5% backed longer opening hours for larger stores on Sundays. The magazine is available at:

Catholic prisoners

Self-professed Roman Catholics constitute a disproportionate number (18%) of the prison population of England and Wales. Insights into their religious background and engagement with the faith in prison are contained in a new 57-page report commissioned from Lemos & Crane by the Roman Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales: Gerard Lemos, Belief & Belonging: The Spiritual and Pastoral Role of Catholic Chaplains for Catholic Prisoners. All Catholic inmates at 17 prisons and young offender institutions in England were invited to complete an anonymous questionnaire, and 332 replied, of whom 86% were male. This was evidently a small minority of those approached, and the sample is not claimed by Lemos as statistically representative. It is possible that prisoners who were least well-disposed to the faith, or suspicious about the involvement of Catholic chaplains in the distribution of the survey, may have been less inclined to take part.

Respondents often had fairly close links with the Catholic Church in their pre-prison life, 82% stating they had attended Mass, 78% they had been baptised, 72% they had made their Communion, and 62% they had been confirmed. Within prison, 88% said they engaged in private prayer and 87% that they had a religious object (typically a rosary or picture) in their cell. Three-quarters wrote that they tried regularly to attend Mass in the prison chapel, albeit 24% had encountered practical or logistical problems in doing so. Favourable opinions were expressed of the Catholic chaplains, whom 94% trusted and 86% considered had helped them learn more about the faith or to practice it, with 58% having come to the chaplain with a specific problem or at a difficult time. The report can be downloaded from:


The lead article in the April 2016 issue (No. 44) of FutureFirst, the bimonthly bulletin of Brierley Consultancy, was by Mark Griffiths on the subject of parental transmission of faith to children, based on his August 2015 online survey of members of the New Wine database, to which 1,500 parents responded. The remainder of the content was written by Peter Brierley, including articles on church growth, larger churches, churchgoing in London, Church of England mission statistics, and religion and wellbeing. A special four-page insert, also by Brierley, examined trends in UK church membership and attendance since 2000, with forecasts through to 2030. The current year of FutureFirst is only available on subscription, but a complete backfile from 2009 to 2015 is freely available at:

Invisible Church

Steve Aisthorpe illuminates the persistence of Christianity beyond the confines of formal church membership and attendance in his The Invisible Church: Learning from the Experiences of Churchless Christians (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 2016, x + 214pp, ISBN 978-0-86153-916-1, £14.99, paperback). The book is based on his original research in Scotland, initially qualitative (in 2013) and then quantitative among two random samples interviewed by telephone, 2,698 members of the general public in the Highlands and Islands in 2014 (of whom 430 non-attending Christians went on to complete a detailed survey) and 815 non-churchgoing Christians in 2015 across five regions. It is written in an accessible style, with cartoons, plenty of Bible references, individual stories, and remarkably few statistics (certainly there are no tables nor figures). The work seems primarily aimed at an ecclesiastical rather than academic readership, both church leaders and church attenders, with questions and activities for further reflection included. Much time is spent by Aisthorpe exposing what he regards as the myths, stereotypes, and prejudices surrounding non-churchgoers. The pervasive message of the volume is that, for many post-congregational and non-congregational Christians, faith continues to play a central role in their lives, even to the extent of a willingness to engage in a different formulation of ‘church’, to display a hunger for informal fellowship, to recognize the importance of ‘mission’, and to become conscious or unwitting pioneers of alternative Christian communities. In this way, ‘what the evidence points to is a reshaping, rebalancing or reconfiguration of the Church.’ Those who subscribe to the thesis that religion is changing rather than declining will derive hope from this book, but it will utterly fail to convince scholars who, arguing from a wider and more balanced portfolio of data, continue to feel that, overall, Britain remains on a secularization trajectory. Further details of the book can be found on the publisher’s website at:

Other outputs from Aisthorpe’s research are available at:


Marriages in England and Wales

There were 9% fewer marriages in England and Wales in 2013 than in 2012, according to a newly-released Statistical Bulletin from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). This was the first decrease in marriages since 2009 and is explained by ONS thus: ‘The fall could indicate the continuation of the long-term decline in marriages since 1972 or could be due to couples choosing to postpone their marriage to avoid the number 13 which is perceived as unlucky by many cultures.’ Moreover, the reduction in weddings conducted with religious rites was more than double the level of those performed in civil ceremonies, 14% compared with 6%. The proportion of religious marriages in 2013 was, at 28%, the lowest figure ever recorded and 20 points below 1994, the last full year before the legalization of marriages in approved premises, where over three-fifths of weddings now take place (the final tenth occurring in registry offices). The overwhelming majority (73%) of religious marriages were celebrated by the Church of England or Church in Wales, with Roman Catholics accounting for 11%, other Christian denominations for 12%, and non-Christian faiths for 4%. Unlike Scotland, humanist marriage ceremonies are still not legal in England and Wales. The ONS Statistical Bulletin, with embedded links to a range of detailed data, is at:


Secularization and crises

The proposition that social crises cause religious revivals has been evaluated by Steve Bruce and David Voas with reference to the effect of three twentieth-century crises (the First and Second World Wars and the inter-war Great Depression) on several statistical measures of British and UK church adherence. They conclude there is little or no evidence that these crises produced any religious resurgence. Rather, they found the trajectory of decline in institutional Christianity during the course of the century to be remarkably smooth, thereby supporting (they contend) the notion that secularization has been a long-run process with amorphous and deep causes. ‘Do Social Crises Cause Religious Revivals? What British Church Adherence Rates Show’ is published in Journal of Religion in Europe, Vol. 9, No. 1, 2016, pp. 26-43. Access options to the article are outlined at:

Cathedral friends

Judith Muskett has reported further findings from her 2011 survey of 1,131 members of the friends’ associations of six English cathedrals in her ‘Associational Social Capital and Psychological Type: An Empirical Enquiry among Cathedral Friends in England’, Journal of Beliefs & Values, Vol. 37, No. 1, 2016, pp. 1-15. She demonstrated that higher levels of religious social capital were exhibited by extraverts compared with introverts, posing a potential challenge for the cathedrals among whose friends introverts outnumbered extraverts by almost two to one. Access options to the article are outlined at:

Theology of religions index

Jeff Astley and Leslie Francis have devised a new multi-choice research instrument to measure ‘theology of religions’, which is concerned with the interpretation and evaluation of the divergent truth-claims and views of salvation asserted or implied by different religious traditions. The methodology is explained in their ‘Introducing the Astley-Francis Theology of Religions Index: Construct Validity among 13- to 15-Year-Old Students’, Journal of Beliefs & Values, Vol. 37, No. 1, 2016, pp. 29-39. The construct validity of the measure was supported in research among a sample of 10,754 adolescents from London and the four UK home nations surveyed for the Young People’s Attitudes to Religious Diversity Project in 2011-12. Access options to the article are outlined at:

Intercessory prayer

Using a special analytic framework for intercessory prayer which she devised, Tania ap Siôn has examined 577 prayer requests posted on the Church of England’s Pray One for Me website over a six-month period in 2012 and compared the results with recent studies of posts to physical intercessory prayer boards in three Anglican cathedrals (Bangor, Lichfield, and Southwark). She highlights important differences between the functioning of requests made in the online and offline environments. Access options to the article (‘The Church of England’s Pray One for Me Intercessory Prayer Site: A Virtual Cathedral?’, Journal of Beliefs & Values, Vol. 37, No. 1, 2016, pp. 78-92) are outlined at:

People and places

Danny Dorling and Bethan Thomas have compiled the third in a series of census-based atlases of the UK, deriving from the 2011 census but also incorporating some more recent data: People and Places: A 21st-Century Atlas of the UK (Bristol: Policy Press, 2016, 284pp., ISBN 978-1-44731-137-9, £22.99, paperback). Through maps, tables, and figures with associated commentary, a succession of topics are explored, including a chapter on religion and ethnicity (pp. 47-80). The book’s webpage is at:


SN 7927: Wellcome Trust Monitor, 3, 2015

The Wellcome Trust Monitor is a triennial survey of public attitudes to and knowledge of science and biomedical research (including alternative and complementary medicine) in the UK. It was initiated in 2009. Fieldwork for the third wave was conducted by Ipsos MORI between 2 June and 1 November 2015 among a sample of 1,524 adults aged 18 and over, interviewed face-to-face. Four religious topics were included as background characteristics, which can be used as variables to analyse responses to the more purely scientific and biomedical questions. They covered: religious affiliation (using a ‘belonging’ form of wording); attendance at religious services; frequency of prayer; and beliefs about the origin of life on earth. The catalogue entry for the dataset is at:

A variety of research outputs from the survey can be accessed on the Wellcome Trust’s website. They include a report (with a section on the origin of life on earth at pp. 74-5, 53% of the sample being unqualified evolutionists, allowing no role for God) and full data tables for all questions, with breaks by demographics. They can be found at:

SN 7933: Youth Research Council Survey of Young People’s Religion and Lifestyles, 1957

The Young Christian Workers’ path-breaking survey of the lifestyles and religiosity of adults aged 15-24 living in urban England in 1957 has hitherto been known mainly from preliminary accounts and analyses published in New Life, Vol. 14, 1958, pp. 1-59 and The Tablet, 12 and 19 April 1958. However, the paper questionnaires completed during the course of the face-to-face interviews have mostly been preserved by the Pastoral Research Centre Trust (PRCT), successor to the Newman Demographic Survey, which was one of the partners involved in the original study. Now, with the cooperation of PRCT’s Tony Spencer and funding from the Nuffield Foundation and Marston Family Trust, Siobhan McAndrew has been able to arrange for the scanning of the majority (5,834) of the questionnaires and their transformation into a dataset. This should support significant secondary analysis in the years ahead which, in turn, will inform the growing scholarly debate about changes in the British religious landscape during the long 1950s. The catalogue entry for the dataset, incorporating a link to a very full and brand new user guide compiled by McAndrew, can be found at:

McAndrew has also blogged about the dataset on the British Religion in Numbers website at:


Please note: Counting Religion in Britain is © Clive D. Field, 2016


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