Early May News Round-Up


Ritually-slaughtered meat

A renewed spate of media reports about supermarkets and restaurants selling their customers halal products without clearly labelling them as such has prompted The Sun to commission YouGov to run another survey of public opinion on the subject. It was something of a ‘quickie’ study, restricted to 603 adults interviewed online on 8 May 2014. The poll revealed that 65% of Britons wanted both sets of establishments clearly to identify meat which came from animals slaughtered using religious methods such as halal or kosher, 18-24s (74%) being especially of this view; 19% were opposed to labelling, with 16% uncertain. A majority (55%) also wanted the government to legislate for such labelling by retailers, even though Prime Minister David Cameron appears recently to have ruled this out, with 29% against. However, when initially asked about criteria of importance in buying meat, only 28% of adults had mentioned how it was slaughtered, compared with 84% opting for quality, 65% for price, 44% for standards of animal welfare generally, and 36% for country of origin. It should be noted that the questions did not specifically probe the issue of slaughter of animals without pre-stunning, which particularly affects Jews (most halal meat produced for UK Muslim markets actually involves pre-stunning). The results of the poll were published in The Sun on 9 May 2014, while detailed tables can be found at:


Muslim call to prayer

Channel 4’s daily broadcast of the Muslim call to prayer (adhan) during Ramadan last year was the biggest single cause of complaint made to the broadcaster in 2013, according to its annual report for the year, which was published on 8 May 2014 under the title of Return on Innovation. Of a total of 16,835 complaints to Channel 4, 2,011 (12%) concerned the 4Ramadan season and 1,658 (10%) specifically related to the call to prayer. On the other hand, Channel 4 received 321 appreciative comments about 4Ramadan, the largest positive reaction for any broadcast (out of 5,174 such comments), with the 4Ramadan season attracting audiences of an estimated 5,300,000 and reaching 9% of the population (much larger than the number of Muslims living in the country). Four-fifths of viewers surveyed said that they had learned something new from 4Ramadan. The broadcaster’s annual report can be read at:


Nigerian schoolgirls

The abduction of more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls by militant Islamist group Boko Haram was the most noticed news story this week, according to replies to an open-ended question posed in an online Populus poll of 2,006 Britons on 7-9 May 2014. It was mentioned by 28%, well ahead of Ukraine in second place on 11%. This information is taken from ‘Something for the This Weekend’, the weekly email round-up by Populus, dated 9 May 2014.

Ethnic minorities

‘In contrast to whites, BMEs are more likely to have a religion, more likely to practice that religion regularly, and more likely to feel religion plays an important part in their life.’ So is summarized the position regarding ethnic minorities and religion in contemporary Britain in Rishi Sunak and Saratha Rajeswaran, A Portrait of Modern Britain, which was published by the think tank Policy Exchange on 6 May 2014. The findings receive added significance from the forecast that people from ethnic minority backgrounds will make up nearly a third of the UK’s population by 2050. The data in the religion sections of the report (mostly on pp. 8-9, 18-21, 38-41, and 93) are drawn from a combination of the 2011 population census, the 2010 Ethnic Minority British Election Study (EMBES), and wave 1 (2011) of the Understanding Society survey. The document can be found at:


Voting intentions

With less than a fortnight to go before the local and European elections, the latest Populus aggregate data on voting intentions, prepared for the Financial Times, will be of particular interest. The sample size is a large one, 18,448 adults aged 18 and over interviewed online between 2 April and 1 May 2014. Overall, 23% indicated they would vote Conservative, 26% Labour, 7% Liberal Democrat, and 9% UKIP. Christians (29%) and Jews (46%) disproportionately favoured the Conservatives, with 67% of Conservatives self-identifying as Christian, 14 points above the national mean of 53%, followed by 60% of UKIP voters. Labour appealed especially to Muslims (59%) and Hindus (40%); indeed, there were twice as many Muslims among Labour voters than in the sample as a whole. Liberal Democrats only really flourished among Buddhists, 21% of whom said they would vote for them. People with no religion were eight points more likely than average to fail to identify with any of the four main parties, and they were particularly unlikely to vote Conservative (16%), albeit more so than Muslims (8%). Just 27% of Conservative supporters professed no faith against 39% of all Britons (and 55% among the 18-24s). The religious affiliation question was worded thus: ‘which of the following religious groups do you consider yourself to be a member of?’ For the full breakdown, see pp. 151-8 of the data tables at:


Linda Woodhead on religion

Issue 7 (Spring 2014) of the quarterly news magazine On Religion, which is just out, includes (p. 24) a short ‘expert interview’ with Professor Linda Woodhead of Lancaster University and Director of the AHRC/ESRC Religion and Society Programme from 2007 to 2013. In it she identifies several trends in the study of religion in the UK. She notes the ‘paradoxical situation’ whereby the core subjects of theology and religious studies are struggling somewhat in the universities at the same time as interest in religion from academics in other disciplines is growing. In the outside world she highlights the ‘real crisis’ affecting religious studies in secondary schools and the outdated coverage of religion in the media, with few journalists specializing in religion. She stresses the responsibility of academic researchers ‘to get their research out there’ and to make it relevant to contemporary issues. Hopefully, BRIN is making a modest contribution to help realize these goals through improved dissemination of the available religious statistics. On Religion itself has shown little sign as yet of drawing upon quantitative data in its feature articles.

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

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