Profile of Anglicans and Other News

Today’s mix of religious statistical news stories includes a segmentation analysis of self-identifying Anglicans, support for St George’s Day as a public holiday, the faith of undergraduates, and an updated interactive gateway to important serial survey data covering religion in Britain.

Profile of Anglicans

The YouGov survey which Professor Linda Woodhead commissioned to inform the 2013 series of Westminster Faith Debates, and which BRIN has been reporting after each debate, is likely to prove a very valuable dataset for subsequent secondary analysis. To illustrate the point, Professor Woodhead, with statistical support from the Revd Professor Bernard Silverman, has used the poll (conducted online among 4,437 Britons aged 18 and over on 25-30 January 2013) to undertake a segmentation analysis of contemporary Anglicans (1,261 identified themselves as such in the survey). Her findings are presented in her article ‘”Nominals” are the Church’s Hidden Strength’ in the current issue (26 April 2013, p. 16) of the Church Times. This is only available online to subscribers of the newspaper.

The analysis proper, which forms the first part of the article, distinguishes four types of Anglicans:

  • Godfearing Churchgoers (5% of Anglicans) – These are Anglicans who attend church, are very certain in their belief in God, and who say that God is the main source of authority in their lives. They are also likely to score highly on other indicators of religiosity (such as prayer and Bible-reading) and to hold conservative views on many issues of personal morality, particularly sexuality (setting them apart with Baptists and Muslims rather than fellow Anglicans).
  • Mainstream Churchgoers (12% of Anglicans) – These have more in common with Non-Churchgoing Believers than with the Godfearers. Apart from their churchgoing, they differ in being a little more religious than Non-Churchgoing Believers on a number of measures and a little more morally conservative.
  • Non-Churchgoing Believers (50% of Anglicans) – These share a good many of the attributes of Mainstream Churchgoers, notwithstanding that they do not attend church. They all believe in God (although some prefer the word Spirit), and significant numbers practise religious or spiritual activities regularly. ‘These “nominals” are more than Anglican in name only: they believe, practise, and identify with Anglicanism.’
  • Non-Churchgoing Doubters (33% of Anglicans) – These Anglicans are also more than merely nominal. Only 15% are outright atheists, most being agnostic or unsure about God, and more than one-fifth claim to practise some religious or spiritual activity in private. They are the most morally permissive of the four groups.

The second half of the article is an impassioned – some may say occasionally idealized – plea for the Church of England to take more seriously non-churchgoing Anglicans in general, and Non-Churchgoing Believers in particular, rather than representing Godfearing Churchgoers as the ‘most real Anglicans’. Woodhead contends that the Church is in danger of becoming too clerical and congregationally-based, and of abandoning its sense of being a lay institution governed by monarch and Parliament, and responsible to the people.

St George’s Day

Hopefully, you noticed – or at least did not forget – that last Tuesday (23 April) was St George’s Day, commemorating England’s patron saint. To mark the occasion, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), Cardiff University, and the University of Edinburgh released some initial findings from YouGov polling commissioned for their collaborative ‘Future of England Survey, 2012’. Online fieldwork was undertaken between 23 and 28 November 2012 among samples of 3,600 English residents, 3,401 white English adults, and 651 black and minority ethnic (BME) English adults.

Respondents were asked whether St George’s Day should be a public holiday. Whereas two-thirds of all English and whites agreed with the proposition, under half (47%) of BMEs did so. Some 41% of BMEs were neutral on the matter or did not know what to think, compared with under a quarter of all English and whites. These differences appear to be related to the fact that BMEs are four times more likely than English and whites to identify themselves as British but not English, and three times less likely as English but not British. Strong agreement with St George’s Day becoming a public holiday was registered by 43% of English overall but by 60% of UKIP supporters, falling to 32% of Liberal Democrat voters. IPPR’s press release and the summary table can be found, respectively, at:’s-day.pdf

Student faith

‘Christianity and the University Experience in Contemporary England’ was one of the projects funded by the AHRC/ESRC Religion and Society Programme between 2009 and 2012. It sought to take the religious temperature of undergraduates attending 13 English universities through a mixture of quantitative and qualitative methods. The full results of the research will be published by Bloomsbury on 12 September 2013 in a book by Mathew Guest (principal investigator for the project), Kristin Aune, Sonya Sharma, and Rob Warner, Christianity and the University Experience: Understanding Student Faith. Meanwhile, some findings are also being reported in academic journals, most recently in the May 2013 issue (Vol. 28, No. 2, pp. 207-23) of Journal of Contemporary Religion, in which the same four authors have an article ‘Challenging “Belief” and the Evangelical Bias: Student Christianity in English Universities’.

Evangelicalism is often seen as the dominant form of campus-based Christianity, but this essay presents something of a corrective to that simplistic picture, by drawing upon the replies to an online questionnaire notified to a random selection of students at each university in 2010-11. The response rate was 12%, amounting to 4,341 undergraduates, and while weighting was able to correct for certain types of non-response bias, it is conceded that ‘our survey could be skewed, perhaps, in favour of those who are most interested in religion or who are religious themselves’. This may help to explain why the proportion of students professing a faith is somewhat higher than for equivalent age cohorts in surveys of the general population, as a consequence of ‘the religiously indifferent opting out’, albeit (more optimistically than I would be) the authors do not consider the ‘inflation’ to be ’dramatic’.

Overall, 34% of students said that they had no religion, while 51% were Christian, and 15% were of other faiths. Asked whether they considered themselves to be religious or spiritual, only 25% opted for religious, 31% for spiritual but not religious, 33% for neither religious nor spiritual, with 11% unsure. Among self-identifying Christians, more (40%) viewed themselves as religious, 31% as spiritual, 15% as neither, and 13% were uncertain. Again, for Christians, attending university had a net effect in marginally increasing religiosity, with 15% claiming they had become more religious, 12% less religious, and 71% remaining the same. Weekly churchgoing in term-time was reported by 29% of Christian undergraduates, outside term by 35%, which (if true) suggests less nominalism than in society at large. For all students, 75% described their religious perspective as unchanged since arriving at university, heightened or lessened religiosity cancelling each other out at 11%.

CCESD Information System 

The CCESD Information System, hosted by the Centre for Comparative European Survey Data at London Metropolitan University, has recently been extended in scope. It now includes seven sub-sites, of which six are especially important for British and comparative data on religion and related topics. These are: British Social Attitudes Survey, British Election Study, Eurobarometer, European Social Survey, International Social Survey Programme, and European Values Survey. The sources can be browsed and searched, and analyses of data undertaken at topline level or through cross-tabulations by standard demographic variables. Data can be exported in a variety of formats. This is a reasonably simple and interactive system which requires no great statistical expertise, and registration for and use of it are entirely free. To access the CCESD Information System, go to:


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6 Responses to Profile of Anglicans and Other News

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