Faith Schools and Other News

Seven religious statistical stories feature in today’s post, including five newly-released YouGov polls, four touching on aspects of religious prejudice, and leading with a major study of attitudes to faith schools.

Faith schools

In our post of 2 September 2013, we referred to new research into faith schools commissioned by Professor Linda Woodhead in connection with the Westminster Faith Debates. It was undertaken on her behalf by YouGov, 4,018 Britons aged 18 and over being interviewed online between 5 and 13 June 2013. That research was published on 19 September, in the form of a press release on the Religion and Society website and the data tables on the YouGov website. Some fascinating results emerged, which, as the press release indicated, will offer ‘little comfort for either those who defend or those who oppose faith schools’. Findings include the following:

  • Only 32% believe the Government should fund faith schools generally, 18-24s being most supportive (43%), with 45% opposed, peaking at 57% in Scotland (where the existence of Catholic schools has often been a matter of controversy), and 23% undecided
  • Government funding of any type of faith school fails to find majority support, but opposition is notably lowest for Anglican schools (38%) and greatest for Islamic schools (60%) – hostility to Hindu and Jewish schools (59% and 55% respectively) is also high, but falls to 43% for Christian schools other than Anglican
  • Only 24% would choose a faith school for their own child, the proportion not exceeding 30% in any demographic sub-group, with 59% being unlikely to do so (peaking at 77% in Scotland)
  • Academic standards (77%), location (58%), and discipline record (41%) are the major factors in choice of school – just 5% attach importance to grounding of a pupil in a faith tradition and 3% to transmission of belief about God, and no more than 23% cite ethical values
  • A plurality (49%) finds it acceptable that faith schools should have admission policies which give preference to children and families who profess or practice the religion with which the school is associated (with 38% deeming it unacceptable, ranging from 31% of women to 51% of Scots)
  • Just 23% (never exceeding 28% in any demographic sub-group) agree that all faith schools should have to admit a proportion of pupils from a different religion or none at all, while 11% think it better for faith schools to admit pupils only of the same faith and 30% that schools should determine their own admissions policies

Analysing the factors which determine favourability to faith schools, Woodhead found strength of belief in God to be the most significant. When it came to attitudes to non-Christian faith schools, an insular (as opposed to a cosmopolitan) outlook was a key influence. In general, while there was some age effect, gender, social grade, and voting intentions appeared to make little difference to opinion.

The press release can be found at:

and the data tables (with breaks confined to gender, age, social grade, region and voting intention) at:

Y-word in football

Yid is slang for a Jew, deriving from Yiddish. On 9 September 2013 the Football Association (FA), which is ‘cracking down’ on undesirable behaviour in football, issued a governance statement about what it described as the ‘y-word’, concluding that ‘the use of the term “Yid” is likely to be considered offensive by the reasonable observer’ and encouraging football fans ‘to avoid using it in any situation’. The statement was clearly directed at Tottenham Hotspur Football Club (the ‘Spurs’) which historically had many Jewish supporters. In consequence, its fans often still describe themselves as ‘Yids’ or as belonging to ‘the Yid Army’, and the team’s opponents, in turn, call Spurs supporters ‘Yids’. The FA’s statement has led to controversy and debate, in which even the Prime Minister has become involved.

To test public opinion on the topic, YouGov questioned 1,878 British adults aged 18 and over online on 18 and 19 September 2013. Although three-fifths of those interested in football felt that it was acceptable for Tottenham fans to use the y-word in describing themselves, fewer (46%) of the sample as a whole agreed (with 26% disagreeing and 28% undecided). One-quarter contended that such self-description encouraged anti-Jewish abuse, albeit one-fifth argued the contrary, suggesting that anti-Jewish abuse was actually discouraged by reclaiming the y-word as a positive. A plurality (41%) deemed it unacceptable for Spurs’ opponents to call Tottenham fans ‘Yids’, but people interested in football were more inclined to tolerate use of the word in this context (47%) than Britons overall (34%). Roughly half of both the public and those interested in football seemed to approve of the FA’s intervention in the matter, but 34% thought there were other (implicitly more important) issues for the FA to focus on, UKIP voters (56%) particularly subscribing to this view. Data tables were published on 20 September at:‘Yid-Army’-results-190913.pdf

By way of footnote, some BRIN readers may be interested to know that a forthcoming exhibition tells the story of Jews and football in Britain. Entitled Four Four Jew: Football, Fans, and Faith, it runs at the Jewish Museum in London from 10 October 2013 to 23 February 2014.

Banning the burka (1)

Recent high-profile cases, involving courts and a college, have reignited the controversy surrounding Islamic women’s dress, the debate having now spilled over into other arenas such as hospitals. The specific point at issue has been the desirability of permitting the wearing of the full face veil or niqab in public, but The Sun commissioned YouGov to run a poll about the burka (a whole-body garment) more generally, 1,792 Britons aged 18 and over being interviewed online on 16 and 17 September 2013. Three-fifths (61%) supported a total ban on the burka in Britain, 5% less than in April 2011, while 32% were opposed to such a prohibition and 8% undecided. The strongest backing for a ban came from UKIP voters (93%), the over-60s (76%), and Conservatives (71%), with the 18-24s (55%), Liberal Democrats (46%), and Scots (42%) most hostile. Opposition to a ban effectively increased when the question was asked in a more roundabout way, 38% agreeing with the proposition that people should be allowed to wear whatever clothing they want in public, including the burka, 54% being in disagreement. At the same time, many respondents wanted officials and employers to have discretion to ban the burka in specific locations: 86% at security checkpoints, 83% in courtrooms (for defendants), 79% in courtrooms (for witnesses), 68% in schools and colleges, and 63% in universities and the workplace. Full data tables were published on 18 September 2013 at:

Banning the burka (2)

YouGov’s polling for The Sunday Times, conducted online on 19-20 September 2013 and published on 22 September, was more nuanced, differentiating between the burka, the niqab, and the hijab (a headscarf which does not cover the face). Whereas two-thirds of the 1,956 respondents supported a ban in Britain on both the burka and the niqab, with fewer than one-quarter disagreeing, only 25% opposed the wearing of the hijab (with 65% against its prohibition). Rather more (76%) wanted schools to be allowed to ban their students from wearing burkas or niqabs, and 81% wanted hospitals to be permitted to ban their staff from wearing the garments. Referring to the recent court case involving a female defendant with a veil, just 6% thought she should be allowed to wear it throughout the entire trial; 54% favoured removal of the veil in court at all times and a further 35% while the woman was giving evidence. The usual demographic variations can be seen in the answers to all these questions, with UKIP and Conservative voters and the over-60s least sympathetic to Islamic dress, and the under-40s (especially), Londoners, and Scots disproportionately more tolerant. The data tables are at:

Churchgoers and evolution

A non-random and disproportionately northern ‘convenience sample’ of 1,100 attenders at 132 Protestant churches, who completed questionnaires in 2009, is used by Andrew Village and Sylvia Baker to examine ‘Rejection of Darwinian Evolution among Churchgoers in England: The Effects of Psychological Type’, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Vol. 52, No. 3, September 2013, pp. 557-72. The principal conclusions are set out in the abstract: ‘The main predictors of rejecting evolution were denominational affiliation and attendance. Individuals from Pentecostal or evangelical denominations were twice as likely to reject evolution compared with those from Anglican or Methodist churches. In all denominations, higher attendance was associated with greater rejection of evolution. Education in general, and theological education in particular, had some effect on reducing rejection, but this was not dependent on having specifically scientific or biological educational qualifications. Psychological type preferences for sensing over intuition and for thinking over feeling also predicted greater rejection, after allowing for the association of type preferences and general religiosity.’ For options to access the article, go to:

Ecumenism in Scotland

A report on ecumenical activity at congregational level has been prepared by the Church of Scotland’s Committee on Ecumenical Relations and the Ministries Council, based on research carried out in February-March 2013. A questionnaire was sent to all the Kirk’s parishes of which 823 (over half) replied online or by post, a significant minority of which recorded the absence of any other denomination in the parish. Where there was a presence, Roman Catholic, Scottish Episcopal and Baptist churches and independent fellowships were thickest on the ground. However, in practice working relationships were closest (in terms of frequent ecumenical contacts) with the United Reformed Church, followed by the Scottish Episcopal Church, Congregational Federation, and Salvation Army. The commonest inter-denominational activities involving Church of Scotland parishes were the World Day of Prayer, Holy Week services, Christian Aid Week, and Week of Prayer for Christian Unity services. Only a minority of parishes belonged to a local Churches Together Group/Council of Churches (43%) or to an ecumenical ministers’ meeting (48%), but it could have been that none existed locally in some cases. The ‘deepest’ forms of collaboration were inevitably limited, just 6% of congregations sharing their building with another denomination, 3% being in a covenanted partnership with a congregation from another denomination, and 1% having involved an ecumenical partner in the appointment of a minister. More Church of Scotland parishes (70%) detailed hindrances to ecumenical working than identified benefits (60%). Further information about the research can be obtained from Very Rev Dr Sheilagh Kesting at SKESTING@COFSCOTLAND.ORG.UK

Ghosts and UFOs

A majority of Britons (52%) believe that some people have experienced ghosts but fewer (38%) think that some individuals have witnessed UFOs with an extra-terrestrial origin. This is according to a YouGov poll conducted online among a sample of 2,286 adult Britons aged 18 and over between 28 and 30 August 2013, on behalf of the Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena (ASSAP) and published by ASSAP on 17 September 2013 (following a preview in the Sunday Telegraph for 15 September, p. 3). Disregarding inevitable variations in question-wording, belief in ghosts appears to have risen over time (see the tabulation of previous data at, and it is especially prevalent among women (62% in the ASSAP survey), the separated/divorced (64%), and residents of the East Midlands (66%). Belief in UFOs is highest in the North-East (50%). Disbelievers in ghosts number 34% and in UFOs 45%, peaking among full-time students at 50% and 61% respectively, with 14% and 17% of adults unsure. The data tables are at:


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