Two YouGov Pre-Easter Polls

Our focus today is on the headlines from two newly-released YouGov polls, one Easter-related and one not (being the latest instalment of data from the Westminster Faith Debates survey).

Easter observance

Around 6,000,000 British adults should be in church congregations in a few days’ time, on Easter Sunday, if they act upon the intentions announced in the latest YouGov EuroTrack survey, conducted online between 21 and 27 March 2013 among representative samples in Great Britain (n = 2,047) and six other western European nations, and published on 28 March. For 12% of Britons said that they planned to go to church on Easter Day, including – somewhat implausibly – 20% of non-Christians and 3% of those professing no religion.

The press release for the poll can be found at:

and the full data tables at:

The real number of Easter Day worshippers is likely to be an absolute maximum of half that six million. Unfortunately, the Church of England is the only major denomination routinely to report its Easter Day attendances, which were 1,395,000 in 2010 (the latest year available). However, this total will have included children and young people under 16, so the number of adults worshipping in Anglican churches on Easter Day was perhaps no more than 1,100,000. Even if we factor in other Protestants and Catholics, it seems hard to imagine that more than 3,000,000 British adults worship on Easter Day in a ‘good’ year (when the weather is favourable, which it certainly will not be in 2013), and perhaps considerably less.

As often happens with surveys on religion, therefore, YouGov’s respondents probably gave somewhat aspirational answers, reflecting what they felt they ought to be doing to celebrate this high point in the Christian calendar. Besides the 12%, a further 3% said that they would not go to church on Easter Day itself but would do so on another Sunday near Easter. The combined Easter churchgoing score of 15% reached 29% for Christians alone. The national figure was four points lower than in Germany (19%), equal to that in France, and higher than in Norway (13%), Denmark (11%), Sweden (10%), and Finland (10%).

Asked to identify the most important part of Easter for them, a plurality of Britons (47%) said spending time with friends and family, with still more (49%) for Christians alone. This was followed, a long way behind, by having time off work (19%) and, in third place, by the religious significance of the festival, the crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ (15%, albeit 30% for Christians). Even so, more chose the religious option in Britain than in any of the other six countries surveyed, France and Germany being closest on 13%, and falling to 5% in Denmark.

Remarkably few Britons (2%) selected exchanging Easter eggs as the most important part of Easter. Nevertheless, in a separate YouGov poll (undertaken on 26 and 27 March with a sample of 1,867), 60% of adults indicated that they expected to buy at least one large chocolate egg this Easter and 46% to eat at least one. A very keen 8% (which would certainly have included yours truly) thought that Easter eggs should be on sale throughout the entire year. These tabulations are online at:

Family issues

The family-centric nature of Easter revealed in our first poll neatly aligns with the release, on 27 March, of the results from the family module of the YouGov survey commissioned by Linda Woodhead for the 2013 series of Westminster Faith Debates, in which 4,437 adult Britons were interviewed online between 25 and 30 January 2013. The data tables can be found at:

and a press release at:

The first question listed 13 different models of human relationships and asked respondents whether they considered each to constitute a ‘family’ or not. A majority were found to have a fairly narrow view of the family as a biological unit, such as married or cohabiting couples with children, but sizeable proportions also took a broader view of the family, including definitions which did not involve marriage or the presence of children.

People professing a faith differed little in their replies from the population as a whole, even when it came to definitions based on household units comprising same-sex couples with or without children. The main exception was the sub-set of the religious whose authority in life derived from God or religious teachings, who tended to take a narrow view of the family, whereas those having no religion inclined to take a broader view.

The second question outlined eight changes affecting the family and asked whether they were perceived as good or bad for society. In each case, a majority or plurality of replies opted for the neutral (neither good nor bad) position. However, it was noticeable that, with one exception, people of faith who currently engaged in some form of public religious activity took a more conservative line than adults in general. The percentages saying that each scenario was bad for society were as follows:


All adults

Religiously active

More women never having children



More unmarried couples raising children



More single women having children without a male partner



More gay and lesbian couples raising children



More people living together without getting married



More mothers of young children working outside the home



More people of different races marrying each other



More couples living ‘together apart’



This conservatism among the practising faithful is seen by the public particularly to play out in the relatively cool reception which most Christian churches in the UK are thought to give to lesbian, gay, and bisexual people (LGBs). Whereas 80% of all adults consider the churches to welcome married couples with children, 76% married couples without children, and 74% single persons, only 21% feel they embrace LGBs, with 53% claiming that churches are unwelcoming to LGBs. Three-tenths also believe churches are unwelcoming to divorced people.

Those without faith are especially critical of the lack of welcome perceived to be given to LGBs by the churches (62%), but even many of the religious seem to admit that the criticism is well-founded. Thus, 43% of the practising religious accept that churches are mostly unwelcoming to LGBs, six points more than deny it. In particular, majorities of both professing Catholics (58%) and practising Catholics (55%) agree that churches do not welcome LGBs, which is doubtless (in part) a reflection of the vigorous line which the Catholic Church has recently been taking against same-sex marriage.



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