More Trojan Horse Polling


Trojan horse plot (1)

For the second week running, YouGov was commissioned by The Sunday Times to investigate public opinion surrounding issues raised by the so-called ‘Trojan horse’ plot, whereby Muslim hardliners were alleged to have been trying to take over the governance of some state schools in Birmingham. For this second poll, 2.106 Britons were interviewed online on 12 and 13 June 2014, with data tables published on 15 June at:

More than three-quarters (79%) of respondents identified some risk to state schools being taken over by religious extremists, 34% agreeing that there was a large risk in many parts of the country and 45% a minor risk in just a few parts of the country (with 10% detecting no significant risk and 2% none at all). Risks were most likely to be perceived by Conservatives (88%), UKIP voters (94%), and the over-60s (91%). One-half the sample considered that academies and free schools were at greater risk from religious extremism than local authority controlled schools, while 28% judged them at equal risk.

In relation to the Birmingham situation, bearing in mind that fieldwork followed the publication of Ofsted reports on the schools concerned, a plurality (44%) of adults were convinced that there probably was a plot by Muslim groups to take control of certain schools in the city in order to install a Muslim ethos. Once again, it was Conservatives (55%), UKIP supporters (74%), and over-60s (56%) who were most convinced of the plot. Another third did not believe there had been a plot, but they did agree that some Birmingham schools had gone too far towards adopting a Muslim ethos. Just 6% sensed there was no problem, in that Birmingham schools with a majority of Muslim pupils were merely reflecting their own cultural background.

A majority (55%) of Britons were critical of the Government for not reacting strongly enough to the situation in Birmingham schools, thinking it should have done more sooner, with UKIP voters (88%) and over-60s (72%) most strongly of this persuasion. Just 10% (and no more than 16% in any demographic sub-group) took the contrary line – i.e. Government had over-reacted to the situation with potential to damage community relations. However, the public was largely neutral (63%) in the recent spat between the Home Secretary and the Education Secretary about which had better handled extremism in schools.

Trojan horse plot (2)

The ‘Trojan horse’ plot also provided the context for an online poll by Opinium Research among 1,002 UK adults aged 18 and over on 12 and 13 June 2014. It was conducted for The Observer, with a report appearing on pp. 1 and 14 of the main section of that newspaper dated 15 June. The survey concerned ‘faith schools’, although it should be noted that the schools at the centre of the ‘Trojan horse’ plot were not faith schools in the strict meaning of the term, but rather community schools, some under local authority control and some academies. The tables from the Opinium poll were released on 16 June and can be found at:

In the wake of the ‘Trojan horse’ controversy, Opinium’s panellists were asked whether they thought some predominantly Muslim schools were actually fostering extremist attitudes among their pupils. Most (55% overall, 60% of men and 63% of over-55s) considered that they were, far more than the 16% who believed that mainly Muslim schools were simply reflecting the values and views of the parents of their pupils. A further 29% did not know or otherwise could not choose between the two options on offer.

A supplementary question was around the perceived risk of predominantly Muslim schools encouraging their students to adopt extremist views. A plurality (44%, with 54% of over-55s) deemed the risk to be very serious and another 31% quite serious, giving a combined 75% sensing some threat. Few (14%) judged the risk to be not very or not at all serious, and no more than 20% in any demographic sub-group. Responsibility for preventing and combating extremism in British schools was felt to lie especially with the Home Office and police (33%) and teachers and governors (31%), and to a much lesser extent with families (13%) and community leaders (8%).

The extensive media coverage of the ‘Trojan horse’ affair will almost certainly have conditioned answers to the more general introductory questions about ‘faith schools’ in the Opinium study, albeit other polls (including by YouGov for the Westminster Faith Debates in June 2013) have also revealed growing negativity toward them. In the Opinium survey, just 30% of respondents were comfortable with the idea of faith schools and the taxpayer helping to finance them. The majority (58%) voiced concerns, 23% (including 28% of men), opting for a complete ban on faith schools, with 35% accepting their existence but objecting to any state funding of them.

Asked why they opposed faith schools, the reasons most frequently given by this 58% majority were: the taxpayer should not be funding religion (70%), faith schools promote division and segregation (60%), faith schools are contrary to the advancement of a multicultural society (41%), and faith schools promote radicalization and extremism around faith (41%). Those who wanted to see faith schools banned entirely were most likely to cite the second to fourth of these reasons.

Most respondents (56%) were also clear that faith schools should teach strictly in accordance with the national curriculum, rising to 86% among those who thought such schools should be abolished. One-fifth were willing to give faith schools some flexibility about the teaching of other areas, and an additional 11% conceded discretion in the delivery of the national curriculum beyond core subjects. Only 3% wished to give faith schools total freedom about what to teach provided that pupils were still entered for national examinations.

Scottish independence

The potential religious effect has not featured much in the debate about Scottish independence in the run-up to the referendum on 18 September 2014 in Scotland. However, a recent Populus survey (conducted online among an unusually large sample of 6,078 Britons between 28 May and 6 June 2014) ostensibly suggests that religion may have a marginal bearing on the debate.

Respondents were asked what result they were hoping for from the referendum and given three choices: Scotland remaining in the UK, Scotland becoming independent, or no strong views. The results by religious affiliation for Britain overall are tabulated below:

% down






Remain part of UK





Leave UK





No strong view





It will be seen that: a) non-Christians and those of no religion are more likely than Christians to want Scotland to leave the UK; b) Christians are more likely and non-Christians and those of no religion less likely to want Scotland to stay in the UK; and c) non-Christians and the nones are more likely than Christians to hold no strong views on the matter.

Of course, these associations may imply correlation but they do not necessarily prove causation, so we cannot claim for sure that there is a distinctly religious influence at work. The picture is almost certainly complicated by the operation of other demographic factors. Unfortunately, there is little scope for further analysis of the published data, which are on pp. 33-4 of the tables at:

Religious refugees

As part of a YouGov poll for British Future in connection with Refugee Week 2014, a representative sample of 2,190 adults was asked to identify the single biggest historical flow of refugees to Britain from one country arising from persecution or war. Interviewees were presented with a list of six options to choose from, including Belgian refugees at the start of the First World War. There were actually 250,000 of them, overwhelmingly Roman Catholic, so this was the correct answer to YouGov’s quiz. However, they were placed last with 0%. The next largest refugee influx was of Huguenots (Protestants) from France at the end of the seventeenth century, of whom more than 50,000 fled to Britain (and some have claimed up to 100,000), but just 7% of YouGov’s respondents thought they were the biggest flow of refugees. Jewish refugees from Germany in the 1930s and 1940s were positioned second, on 17%, yet the total number of Jews admitted to Britain and fleeing Nazi persecution in various countries combined is usually reckoned not to exceed 50,000. Top of the YouGov list, with 20%, were Ugandan Asians expelled by Idi Amin in the 1970s, disproportionately Hindu and to a lesser extent Muslim, notwithstanding fewer than 30,000 of them were allowed to enter Britain. Besides the wrong answers, two-fifths of adults could not even venture an opinion. The data tables, based on fieldwork on 21 and 22 April 2014, are at:

The same survey was also run, between 17 and 23 April 2014, among a sample of 1,005 young Britons aged 17-21. They did little better (2%) than all adults in identifying the predominance of Belgian refugees in the First World War. They had Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany in first place (18%), with Ugandan Asians only on 8% and French Huguenots on 7%. One-quarter (26%) knew that ‘Kindertransport’ involved the transport of Jewish children escaping the Nazis, which was 9% less than among all adults. These tables are at:


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