Rating Rowan Williams and Other New Sources

There follows a round-up of British religious statistics published between 26 and 28 September 2012, arranged in order of their date of release. Additionally, it should be noted that, although the Office for National Statistics issued a statistical bulletin on 28 September relating to the Integrated Household Survey for April 2011-March 2012, this year’s bulletin, unlike the previous two editions, did not report the data on religious profession, being confined to the questions covering sexual identity and health/smoking.

Rating Rowan Williams

Rowan Williams, the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, has slipped on a few banana skins (both within and outside the Church of England) during his tenure of office, but English public opinion remains fairly well disposed towards him. In a recent poll a slight majority (53%) rated him as a good leader of the Established Church, rising to 59% of the over-65s and residents of Eastern England; 15% disagreed, with 32% undecided. Despite his reputation for ‘wooliness’, slightly more (55%) considered Williams had been clear in telling people what he believes and why, against 16% dissenting and 29% unsure. But he was deemed to have been somewhat less successful in helping the Church of England remain relevant in modern Britain, even though a plurality (46%) credited him with this achievement; 27% took the contrary line, the top (AB) social group being far more critical (32%) than the lowest (DE, 21%), with 27% as don’t knows. 

Source: ComRes survey for BBC Local Radio in which 2,594 English adults were interviewed by telephone between 24 August and 9 September 2012. Published on 26 September. Data tables available at:


Religious Education

It is often argued that the role of religious education (RE) in the curriculum is threatened by the introduction of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc), notwithstanding the subject’s legal protection under the Education Act 1944. In fact, 33% of schools recently claimed that those legal requirements to study RE are not being met at Key Stage 4 (the two years incorporating GCSEs and other public examinations). One-quarter (24%) reported a reduction in the number of specialist staff employed to teach RE for 2012/13, and 54% that they would have no entries for the GCSE short course in RE in 2014 (with 18% having no entries for the full course). These figures all represent a decline on previous surveys, and the EBacc was invariably cited as the cause. One-fifth of schools stated that they attempt to deliver the full GCSE course in RE over less than the recommended teaching time of 120-140 learning hours.

Source: Survey (fourth in a series) by the National Association of Teachers of Religious Education (NATRE), undertaken online during the six weeks following 19 June 2012 among a self-selecting sample of 625 secondary schools in England. Published on 27 September. Full analysis available at:



Only 41% of Britons questioned deemed it possible for the West and the Muslim world to coexist in peace, against 43% who perceived fundamental conflict between the two, one or other side having to prevail in the end. In the United States, by contrast, a plurality (47%) felt coexistence to be feasible, 8% more than picked the conflict option. In Britain Liberal Democrat voters were most inclined to take the optimistic position (58%) and Conservatives most pessimistic (49%). Very few (17%, 3% less than in the United States) wanted the Government to give financial aid to Muslim countries in the so-called Arab Spring to enable them to make the transition to democracy, with 69% opposed. Opinion was probably clouded by recent violence in Muslim nations directed against the United States in protest against the Innocence of Muslims video on YouTube. Fully one-third of Britons (and two-fifths of Conservatives) assessed that one-half or more of people in the Muslim world supported this violence.

Source: YouGov survey of 1,739 adult Britons, interviewed online on 23-24 September 2012. Fieldwork was also undertaken in the United States. Published on 27 September, with exclusive coverage in The Guardian for that day. Data table available at:


Cultural Boycott of Israel

British public opinion towards Israel has tended to become more negative over the years. The Jewish state is no longer simply regarded as the ‘underdog’ in the Middle East, but is often cast in the role of ‘aggressor’. There are growing calls for boycotts of Israel, and there have recently been several high-profile disruptions of Israeli cultural performances in this country. As many as 17% of Britons contend that Israeli actors, dancers or musicians should not be welcome to perform in Britain, against 53% who say the opposite and 30% undecided. Moreover, 27% of adults think that British actors, dancers or musicians should not perform in Israel, compared with 37% who believe they should and 36% uncertain.

Source: YouGov survey for the Jewish Chronicle in which 1,739 adult Britons were interviewed online on 23-24 September 2012 (i.e. the same survey as the preceding entry). Published on 28 September, the headline in the Jewish Chronicle proclaiming ‘Massive majority opposes boycott’. Data table available at:


Feelings towards Religious Groups

‘There are common factors underlying less positive feelings towards religious groups. These include being male, holding no or lower-level qualifications, supporting a minor political party or having no partisan attachment, and lower levels of political engagement. Age, religious affiliation, personal importance of religion, and ideological beliefs show a more complex set of relationships with feelings towards religious groups.’ On a 0-100 scale, the feeling thermometer scores of attitudes to seven religious groups ranged from 46.8 towards Muslims to 62.6 towards Protestants, with the average across all groups being 56.2.

Source: Secondary (bivariate and multivariate) analysis of data from samples C and D (n = 2,236) of the British Social Attitudes Survey, 2008 by Ben Clements, ‘The Sources of Public Feelings towards Religious Groups in Britain: the Role of Social Factors, Religious Characteristics, and Political Attitudes’, Journal of Contemporary Religion, Vol. 27, No. 3, October 2012, pp. 419-31. Published on 28 September. Article pay-per-view option at:



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One Response to Rating Rowan Williams and Other New Sources

  1. Pingback: Respect for Clergy and Other News | British Religion in Numbers

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