Today’s News – (1) ‘Islamic Extremism’, (2) Religion at Christmas

The regular weekly YouGov poll for The Sunday Times, published today, includes questions on a couple of topics which will interest BRIN readers. Interviewing was online on 16 and 17 December, among a representative sample of 1,966 adult Britons aged 18 and over. The data tables are available at:


On 11 December an Iraqi-born British resident, Taimur Abdulwahab al-Abdaly, blew himself up during a suicide bombing on a busy shopping street in Stockholm. He had been a student at what is now the University of Bedfordshire in 2001-04 and had been told to leave the Luton Islamic Centre in 2007 on account of his radical views, although the mosque authorities did not report him to the police. He and his family lived in the town.

Against this background, YouGov posed a number of questions about so-called ‘Islamic extremism’. 51% of respondents considered that the government was doing insufficient to tackle the problem, including 63% of the over-60s, 60% of Conservative voters, 58% of men, and 57% of Northerners. Those least likely to take this line were young people aged 18-24 (31%) and Liberal Democrats (37%).

A further 22% thought that government was doing all it reasonably could to combat extremism, 10% that it was devoting too much effort to the issue, while 17% expressed no clear opinion.

A similar proportion, 52%, argued that universities should be doing more to combat ‘Islamic extremism’, rising to 68% among Conservative supporters and 65% of the over-60s. 13% believed that universities were doing all they reasonably could, 4% that they were already doing too much in this area, with 30% uncertain (including 38% of 18-24s).

Asked whether the Muslim community in Britain co-operated with the police in combating extremism, 7% believed that most or all British Muslims did so, 40% that many did so with a minority not co-operating, 24% that only a minority co-operated and the majority not, 13% that few or none co-operated, with 16% expressing no opinion.

Thus, 37% alleged that a majority of British Muslims failed to work with the police against extremism. The highest figures were for Conservative voters in the 2010 general election (44%), men (42%), the over-60s (42%), Northerners (42%), and the C2DE social group (40%).

Three-quarters of adults were critical of the directors of the Luton mosque for failing to inform the police of al-Abdaly’s views, the over-60s (82%), Conservatives (79%), and Northerners (78%) most inclining to this position. 12% thought the mosque should not have contacted the police, and 14% were uncertain.

78% of the sample agreed that all extremist preachers (whether Muslim, Christian or from another religion) should be banned from Britain, including 86% of Conservatives and the over-60s. The remaining 22% divided equally between don’t knows and those who did not want extremist preachers excluded.

The general nature of the question was presumably intended to subsume the case of Terry Jones, the American pastor with extremist views against Islam, which has been in the news recently.


19% of Britons said that they would be attending a church service this Christmas, 5% less than in another recent YouGov poll for The Sun ( This sub-divided between 8% who regularly attended church throughout the year and 11% who did not normally worship but expected to do so over Christmas. 76% said they would not attend church over the festive period, 2% of whom were otherwise regular churchgoers, and 6% were undecided what they would be doing.

The apparent marginality of religion to the public’s Christmas was underlined by another question in which 75% described it as a predominantly commercial event and only 4% as a religious festival. A further 16% said that it was both and 3% neither. The youngest age cohort (18-24) was most likely to say that Christmas was wholly or partly about religion, followed by Liberal Democrats (24%), and the 18-39s, ABC1s, and Scots (23% each).

Finally, respondents were offered a choice of five guests for their Christmas Day meal. 15% elected for the Queen, 11% for Ann Widdecombe (the former Conservative politician, whose profile has been raised by her appearance on Strictly Come Dancing), 10% Matt Cardle (winner of the X Factor), 5% Liz Hurley and Shane Warne (media celebrities who had left their respective partners to start an affair, although some papers today suggest that it is already over), and just 3% the Archbishop of Canterbury. 55% wanted none of these guests at their dining table.

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

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