The Soul of Britain, 2000 – a Tribute to Gordon Heald

In the December 2021 edition of Counting Religion in Britain, we mourned the passing of Gordon Heald (1941–2021), one of the most influential opinion researchers of his generation.

He ran the Gallup Poll in Britain between 1979 and 1994 and Opinion Research Business (ORB) between 1994 and 2009.

One of his most significant projects at ORB was The Soul of Britain, commissioned by the BBC to underpin a nine-part television series of that name airing on BBC1 in June-July 2000.

Presented by Michael Buerk, this series examined the values, attitudes, and religious and spiritual beliefs that shaped Britain at the turn of the Millennium.

Fieldwork for the survey was conducted by telephone between 25 April and 7 May 2000 among a sample of 1,000 adults aged 16 and over.

Detailed computer tabulations of results from this study were never released into the public domain, and no dataset is known to exist in any data archive.

However, topline results were tabulated by Gordon, including comparisons with earlier (mostly Gallup) polls, which are here reproduced, as attachment A, by kind permission of Johnny Heald: Soul of Britain A Data

The BBC issued a press release about the principal findings from the study on 29 May 2000, as per attachment B: Soul of Britain B press release

Beforehand, the Sunday Telegraph had been given an exclusive preview, for its edition of 28 May 2000 (p. 3): Jonathan Petre and Ian Cobain, ‘Revealed: Britain still believes in God, a Devil, heaven, and hell’.

Gordon prepared his own special report, which was published in the Roman Catholic weekly The Tablet on 3 June 2000 (p. 770), reproduced as attachment C: Soul of Britain C Tablet

A feature based on the survey was later published in UK Christian Handbook, Religious Trends, No. 3, 2002/2003, ed. Peter Brierley (London: Christian Research, 2001), p. 5.15, reproduced as attachment D: Soul of Britain D Religious Trends

In an email to the present author on 6 June 2000, Gordon indicated that the plan was to publish a book on the project by the end of that year. Sadly, it never materialized.

Hopefully, this webpage will serve as a small memorial to a crucial snapshot of British religion and spirituality at the Millennium, one that otherwise could so easily be lost sight of.

Please note: the data are © ORB International 2022

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

This entry was posted in Historical studies, Research note and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.