Good Death and Other News


Good death

Time was when religion was the cardinal attribute of a ‘good death’. But no more, it seems, according to a ComRes survey for the National Council for Palliative Care published on 18 May 2015, for which 2,016 adult Britons were interviewed online on 29-30 April. Asked to rank six factors in terms of importance for ensuring a ‘good death’, only 5% put ‘having your religious/spiritual needs met’ in first position while 60% placed it last, the mean score being 5.27 out of six. The next score was 3.68 for being involved in decisions about end-of-life care, and the lowest of all (and thus the most popular option) was 2.33 for being pain free. Indeed, for 33% the top priority was being pain free, for 17% being with family and friends, and for 13% retaining one’s dignity. There were comparatively few variations by demographics, apart from in London where having religious/spiritual needs met was the most important factor for 11%, although even here 47% rated it least significant. Data tables are available at:

Geographical knowledge

They may be among the most iconic landmarks in the country, but a significant minority of Brits are unable to recognize Canterbury Cathedral and St Paul’s Cathedral as being in the UK. This is according to a poll of 2,000 adults conducted on behalf of Mercure Hotels and published on 22 May 2015. Shown pictures of a number of famous locations, and given multiple choice answers, 65% correctly identified St Paul’s Cathedral but 28% confused it with The Vatican and 6% thought it was somewhere else. Canterbury Cathedral was recognized by 82% but 15% claimed it was Notre Dame in Paris, with 2% suggesting other places. A similar lack of knowledge was displayed for more secular landmarks. No data tables are available, and this summary is taken from the report at:

Meanwhile …

St Paul’s Cathedral, Sir Christopher Wren’s masterpiece, has been voted the nation’s favourite building in a survey for UKTV published on 21 May 2015, for which 2,000 adults aged 18 and over were interviewed online by OnePoll during April. St Paul’s Cathedral attracted a vote of 38%, with Stonehenge and the Houses of Parliament in second and third places (with 30% and 26%, respectively). Other ecclesiastical buildings to make the top 20 were Westminster Abbey (eighth, 14%), Durham Cathedral (eleventh, 8%), and King’s College Chapel, Cambridge (fourteenth, 8%). St Paul’s Cathedral also topped the poll for being the most impressive feat of design in the country, being voted for by 68%, almost double the figure for Westminster Abbey (38%). No data tables have been released, but UKTV’s press release can be found at:

Faith-based social action

The latest attempt to quantify faith-based social action was published by the Cinnamon Network on 20 May 2015: Cinnamon Faith Action Audit National Report. It derives from an online survey of 4,440 local churches and other faith groups in 57 locations throughout the UK in February 2015, of which 2,110 responded saying they were actively working to support their local community; 94% of them were Christian. These 2,110 groups were mobilizing 139,600 volunteers and 9,177 paid staff to benefit 3,494,634 individuals in 2014 through 16,068 projects with a total financial value of £235 million (including a calculation of volunteer hours at the living wage level). Scaled up for the 60,761 faith groups in the UK, faith-based social action is estimated by the Cinnamon Network to be worth over £3 billion per annum and to support over 47 million beneficiaries. However, it should be noted that the sample was recruited through the invitation of local champions and may not be statistically representative. The report is available at:

Ethnic minorities and the general election

Black and minority ethnic (BME) Britons have traditionally favoured the Labour Party, but one-third voted for the Conservatives in the 2015 general election (held on 7 May), according to a Survation poll for British Future conducted among an online sample of 2,067 BMEs between 8 and 15 May 2015. Voting by religious groups (for the 79% of the sample who voted) is tabulated below, from which it will be seen that the Conservatives especially appealed to Buddhist, Hindu, and Sikh electors, Labour to Muslims, and the smaller parties to Buddhists and the non-religious. British Future’s press release of 25 May 2015 is available at:

Full data tables can be found at: 

% across



Other parties

All BMEs
























Not religious




Young people and Muslims

There is significant negativity toward Muslims on the part of young people, according to findings from a study of 5,945 10-16-year-olds at 60 English schools in 2012-14 and published by Show Racism the Red Card (SRTRC) on 19 May 2015. This is associated with an exaggerated notion of the size of the Muslim presence in England, the average estimate by pupils being 36% of the population, seven times the real figure. Questionnaires had been sent to schools ahead of visits by the SRTRC team, and, although the sample is not claimed as being representative, the ethnic and religious profile is said to broadly match the 2011 census.  

Summary data have been published by The Guardian at:

They reveal that: 

  • 42% acknowledge there are poor relations between Muslims and non-Muslims
  • 41% view forced marriages as being common in Islam
  • 31% agree that Muslims are taking over England
  • 29% think Muslim women are oppressed
  • 26% believe Islam encourages terrorism and extremism
  • 19% disagree that Muslims make a positive contribution to English society
  • 14% disagree that Islam is a peaceful religion

Slightly different figures are quoted in the SRTRC press release at:

Islamic State

There has been limited British polling of attitudes to Islamic State (IS) thus far this year, doubtless because of pollsters’ preoccupation with the general election campaign but also perhaps because of a perception that IS has suffered some setbacks (until very recently, that is). However, a YouGov survey published on 22 May 2015, and conducted online among 1,494 Britons on 18-19 May, has found that 50% of all adults (and 63% of over-60s) assess that IS has become more powerful over the past six months and only 5% less, with 32% detecting its position as stable. Although only 33% are aware for certain that the RAF is currently taking part in air strikes against IS, 59% approve of such RAF participation and 55% would like to see it scaled up (men particularly so, 67%). Full data tables, minus breaks by voting intention (which seem to have all but disappeared from pollsters’ websites following their poor performance in the general election, now the subject of independent audit), are available via the link in the blog post at:


On 13 May 2015 the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) published an important 32-page policy paper summarizing some (but by no means all) recent research into British anti-Semitism and outlining the principles of a future research strategy in this area: Jonathan Boyd and L. Daniel Staetsky, Could it Happen Here? What Existing Data Tell Us about Contemporary Antisemitism in the UK. The paper covers: a) the attitudes of non-Jews toward Jews, principally on the basis of surveys undertaken by the Pew Global Attitudes Project and the Anti-Defamation League and of anti-Semitic incidents recorded by the Community Security Trust (CST); b) Jewish responses to anti-Semitism, taken from the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) studies and the JPR’s 2013 National Jewish Community Survey; and c) an analysis of the perpetrators of anti-Semitism, mainly from CST and FRA data. The report is available for download at:

To quote JPR: ‘The report demonstrates that existing data present a complex and multi-faceted picture of reality, proving some existing hypotheses beyond any reasonable doubt, but challenging others. It further maintains that research data on antisemitism in the UK vary in quality, and many of the outputs seem to generate far more heat than light. It argues that much more work needs to be done in coordinating research efforts, maximising the value of existing datasets, focusing on the areas of greatest concern, and ensuring that any data collected and analysed are strongly concentrated on the most important issues: understanding the threat, assessing whether it is growing, declining or stable, and providing genuine policy insights for international, national and Jewish communal leaders, as well as Jews more generally.’ Significantly, there is no mention here of non-Jewish (including academic) audiences for research data in this field. 

Reflections on religious surveys

Abdul-Azim Ahmed reflects on the utility (and pitfalls) of sample surveys on religion and belief in a post on the On Religion blog on 5 May 2015 at:


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

This entry was posted in News from religious organisations, Religion and Ethnicity, Religion and Politics, Religion and Social Capital, Survey news and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.