Sunday Times Religion Poll

YouGov conducts a weekly online poll for The Sunday Times, and today’s edition includes a special module on religion (with particular reference to attitudes to the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church), as well as analysing responses to political questions by religious affiliation (the upcoming budget and press regulation post-Leveson being prominent in this survey). Full data tables can be found at:

Coverage of the poll in the print edition of the newspaper is minimal, confined to just a couple of findings relating to the Catholic Church which are reported on page 25 of the main section. There seems to have been more editorial interest in the drinking habits of the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, which makes the lead story on the front page!

The sample comprised 1,918 Britons aged 18 and over interviewed on 14 and 15 March 2013, 71% of whom professed no religion. This is an unprecedentedly high number of ‘nones’, even by YouGov’s standards, and would suggest caution in using the affiliation data. Unfortunately, also, YouGov coded Church of Scotland to the Anglican responses, thus somewhat compromising the integrity of the category.

Attitudes to the Church of England

A majority of Britons (61%) consider the Church of England to be out of touch, peaking at 69% for those professing no religion and 73% among UKIP supporters. One-fifth (21%) see it as in touch, ranging regionally from 11% of Scots to 29% of Londoners, with 18% undecided. Among Anglicans a few more regard their Church as being in touch (45%) than not (43%), but that still constitutes substantial dissatisfaction.

A plurality of adults (48%, the same as in November 2012) criticizes the Church of England for opposing same-sex marriage, rising to 67% among the 18-24s and Liberal Democrats. Around two-fifths (39%) support the Church’s opposition, including 51% of Conservative and 72% of UKIP voters. Majorities of Anglicans (57%), Catholics (55%), and other Christians (53%) side with the Church. One in seven (14%) of the entire sample remain undecided.

Exactly four-fifths of Britons want the Church of England to allow women to become bishops, including 88% of Liberal Democrats and 82% of people with no religion. Just 11% do not favour women bishops (16% of Anglicans and 23% of non-Christians) and 10% cannot make up their minds.

A majority of adults (69%, including 76% of those professing no faith) believe Justin Welby to be wrong in condemning sex outside marriage, while 17% think he is right (including 30% of Anglicans and UKIP supporters), and 13% are unsure.  

A plurality of Britons (44%) disapprove of the recent criticism by Anglican bishops of the Coalition Government’s 1% cap on welfare benefits for the next three years, which is less than the current rate of inflation. The proportion increases to 72% among Conservative voters and even reaches 51% for Anglicans. Two-fifths (39%, but 60% of Labour voters and 56% of Catholics) back the bishops’ stance, with 17% uncertain what to think.

The country is evenly divided about whether bishops and other senior clergy should comment on political issues and Government policies: 44% contend they should and 43% that they should not. Labour and Liberal Democrat supporters are most likely to favour episcopal intervention, Conservative and UKIP voters to oppose it. Around three-fifths of Christians (58% of Anglicans, 59% of Catholics, 63% of other Christians) want bishops and other senior clergy to speak out, with 35% of Anglicans in disagreement. As many as 38% of people with no religion back the right of the Church to enter the political arena.

Attitudes to the Roman Catholic Church

Even more Britons (77%) regard the Roman Catholic Church as out of touch than do the Church of England, the figure hitting 82% among those with no religion and 87% among prospective UKIP voters. Just 10% view the Church as being in touch, with scarcely any variation by secular demographics, and 14% have no view on the matter. Most professing Catholics (59%) think their Church is out of touch, against 34% who say the opposite. 

Most Britons (78%) want the Catholic Church to allow priests to marry, albeit somewhat fewer of Catholics (70%). Only 7% (but 21% of Catholics) opt to uphold the celibacy rule, with 15% expressing no opinion.

Most adults (79%) consider the Church to have dealt badly with the issue of child abuse by its priests, the over-60s (87%) being particularly likely to say so. The majority of Catholics (62%) agree. A mere 7% of Britons think the Church has handled the crisis well, rising to 27% of Catholics, with 13% unsure.   

Asked whether the Catholic Church was right or wrong to have elected a new Pope from South America (Cardinal Bergoglio, now Francis I), 47% say that they do not know. Of the rest, 48% agree with the decision (among them 54% of the over-60s, 55% of Scots, and 77% of Catholics) and 5% disagree (peaking at 14% for non-Christians).

Religion and political attitudes

The relatively small number of interviewees professing a faith (29%) somewhat limits the potential of analysing political attitudes by religion. In general, the profile of replies for the no religion category does not vary markedly from that for all adults.

However, Anglicans are somewhat more likely than average to align with the Conservatives. For example, 38% say they would vote Conservative (against 29% of the whole sample), 35% approve of David Cameron’s performance as Prime Minister (32%), 24% consider George Osborne is doing well as Chancellor of the Exchequer (17%), and 25% want Osborne to remain in post (17%).

On the other hand, Catholics incline to back the Labour Party: 48% indicate that they would vote Labour (41% nationally), and 39% think Ed Miliband is doing well as Labour leader (30%). Catholics are similarly more unconvinced than all Britons (51% versus 45%) that the Coalition Government’s strategy for managing the economy will work over the long term.


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One Response to Sunday Times Religion Poll

  1. Pingback: Welfare Reform and Other News | British Religion in Numbers

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