Round-Up of Islamic State and Other Surveys


Islamic State

There has been a further round of polling in recent days related to the advances of the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria, as summarized below, by chronological order of fieldwork. Unless otherwise stated, surveys were conducted online and among representative samples of Britons aged 18 and over.

August 2014

OnePoll reported on 29 August 2014, on the basis of 1,000 interviews, that the most popular option for resolving the IS crisis was ‘encourage peaceful negotiation’ (29%), with ‘military action – we should launch air strikes’ a close second on 27%. The proportion in facour of air strikes was higher among professing Christians (32%) than atheists (24%), although the number in both sub-groups recommending military action in the form of deploying ground troops against IS was similar (13% and 12% respectively). The survey covered knowledge of, and attitudes to, a range of current international conflicts, revealing a significant lack of understanding (including the 13% of respondents who identified the Egyptian holiday resort of Sharm el-Sheikh as a terrorist organization). As so often with OnePoll studies, there is only a blog post available online, published at:

20-22 August 2014

ComRes, commissioned by the Sunday Mirror and Independent on Sunday, reported 55% of 2,058 Britons in agreement with the suggestion that, if IS continued unchecked in Iraq, it would pose a direct threat to security on British streets; just 14% disagreed with 31% undecided. However, there was no consensus that the emergence of IS demonstrated that Britain had withdrawn from Iraq prematurely: 26% agreed, 39% disagreed, and 36% could not say. Data tables are at:

22-25 August 2014

ComRes, for ITV News, asked 2,062 Britons how the British government should respond to IS, taking into account the level of military action necessary to achieve a particular outcome. One-third (35%) thought that we should seek to defeat IS in its entirety, a big jump on the 20% recorded in the pollster’s previous survey of 15-17 August, with 23% wishing to see us concentrate on preventing IS from making further gains (29% in the earlier study). Just over one-fifth (22%) argued that Britain should not become involved, 8% down on the week before. These answers were not wholly consistent with those to another question, which asked whether the government should concentrate its efforts on preventing radicalization of Muslims in the UK, rather than engaging in Iraq and Syria, a strategy with which 58% agreed. Overwhelmingly (71%), respondents considered that people using social media to promote IS should have their accounts suspended, with only 10% dissenting, with 75% concurring that social media websites should hand over to the government the personal details of anybody using their account to organize IS activity. Data tables are at:

28-29 August 2014

YouGov’s latest weekly poll for the Sunday Times largely replicated questions about IS and Iraq asked on 21-22 August 2014, and sometimes in earlier surveys. Opinion was found to have remained constant over the week, with 77% approving of the RAF dropping humanitarian supplies to people fleeing IS, 43% of air strikes by the RAF against IS (more specifically, 37% against IS targets in Syria), 37% of supplying arms to Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting IS, and 29% of sending British troops to help train such forces. Strong support remained for stripping Britons fighting alongside IS of their citizenship, in cases where they held dual nationality or had been naturalized (78%), and of changing the law to allow citizenship to be withdrawn from birth Britons (67%). Overwhelmingly (86%), Britons who had fought for Islamist groups abroad were deemed to pose a threat to the country on their return, while 79% held that their Islamist involvements had increased the risk of major terrorist attacks taking place in Britain. Four-fifths wished to see the prosecution of British citizens travelling to Iraq or Syria, the presumption for many respondents being that they must have gone to fight for IS, unless they could prove otherwise. Data tables are at:

29-31 August 2014

Telephone interviews with 1,001 adults by ComRes for The Independent revealed continuing minority support for direct British military involvement in the fight against IS in Iraq and Syria, 35% endorsing RAF air strikes (with 50% disagreement) and 20% the commitment of British ground forces (with 69% opposed). A majority (61% versus 29%) thought that Britons suspected of joining IS should have their passports taken away and be stripped of their citizenship, albeit fewer (39%) considered that Britons travelling to Iraq and Syria should be presumed to be terrorists until they could be proved innocent. Data tables are at:

3 September 2014

The deteriorating situation in Iraq and Syria, including an apparent beheading by IS of a second American citizen and a threat of a similar fate to a British hostage, is slowly increasing public support for RAF air strikes against IS. Based on a fairly small sample of 703 adults, by YouGov for The Sun, the figure now stands at 47%, ten points up on 10-11 August (when the question was first asked by YouGov), with 31% disapproval and 22% undecided. Support for Britain supplying arms to Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting IS has also increased, from 28% on 11-12 August to 39% on 3 September, with 37% opposed and 24% uncertain. However, there was no greater enthusiasm than in previous polls for Britain and the USA deploying ground troops in Iraq to combat IS (with 20% in favour and 58% against, the same split as on 14-15 August). Data tables are at:

A tracker of YouGov’s recent polling on Iraq and IS is at:

Scottish religion

Further evidence that religion is on the wane in Scotland is provided by two new data sources from the Scottish Government.

The proportion of adult Scots who profess no religion stood at 46% in 2013, up by six points since 2009, according to the report and tables from the 2013 Scottish Household Survey, published on 13 August 2014, for which 9,920 individuals were interviewed. There was a corresponding fall over the same period in allegiance to the Church of Scotland, from 34% to 28%, while the number of Roman Catholics remained unchanged, at 15%. Respondents were also asked about their experience of discrimination and harassment. Discrimination was reported by 7% of all Scots but by 10% of Catholics and Christians other than Church of Scotland, and by 21% of non-Christians. For harassment the national average was 6% but 14% among non-Christians. Further information is contained in tables 2.2, 4.18, and 4.19 and in figure 2.1 at:

The majority of marriages in Scotland in 2013 were solemnized in civil ceremonies, as they have been in every year since 2005. The proportion now stands at three times the level it did in 1946-50. The principal reason why ‘religious’ weddings remain reasonably common, at 49% in 2013, is that the total is inflated by those conducted by humanist and other ‘non-religious’ celebrants, a practice which is legal in Scotland, but not yet in England and Wales. Indeed, representatives of the Humanist Society of Scotland alone officiated at 3,185 marriages in Scotland in 2013, not far short of the 4,616 celebrated by Church of Scotland ministers. If humanist and other belief weddings are excluded, then the proportion which might be considered ‘religious’, on a more conventional definition of organized religion, is reduced to 37%, the equivalent figure in 1946-50 being 83%. The fall in religious marriages has been absolute as well as relative. Whereas in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War there were an average of 35,700 per annum, there were just 10,300 in 2013, on a like-for-like basis. Weddings conducted in the Kirk have more than halved in the decade 2003-13. Details are provided in Vital Events Reference Tables 7.5, 7.6, and 7.7, published by the General Register Office for Scotland on 14 August 2014 at:

Trust in religious institutions

Surveys have consistently demonstrated that the under-25s are the least religious of all age groups, regardless of the measure of religiosity which is used. New research from Survation for Sky News, based on 1,004 online interviews with Britons aged 16-24 on 21-26 August 2014, has now revealed that they also tend to mistrust religious institutions, relative to other national institutions. The question asked was: ‘which of the following institutions do you trust to address your concerns/needs?’ Topline results are summarized in the table below. Distrust in religious institutions was especially high among prospective UKIP voters and residents of Wales, Scotland, and Southern England outside London (the capital itself recording 43% trust). For more detail, see tables 42-49 at:



Not trust

National Health Service






Social services



Local authorities









Religious institutions



Mainstream media




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

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