Welfare Reform and Other News

Welfare reform (1)

Recent attacks by church leaders from several denominations on the Coalition Government’s welfare and benefits reform programme seem to be giving the British public pause for thought, according to a YouGov poll for today’s edition of The Sunday Times, for which 2,141 adults were interviewed online on 20-21 February 2014. Asked whether they agreed with the church leaders’ criticisms, which branded the reforms as a ‘disgrace’ and leaving some people at risk of ‘destitution’, opinion was evenly divided, 42% agreeing and 42% disagreeing. Most negative about the Government’s policy were Labour voters (71%) and Scots (57%), while those more inclined to reject the views of the church leaders included Conservative supporters (77%) and residents of southern England outside London (50%). For the full results, see p. 9 of the data tables at:


This is not the first intervention about the current Government’s welfare reform programme on the part of church leaders. For BRIN’s previous coverage of public reaction to such intervention, see:

http://www.brin.ac.uk/news/2013/sunday-times-religion-poll-2/ [17 March 2013]

http://www.brin.ac.uk/news/2012/lords-spiritual/ [27 January 2012]

Welfare reform (2)

Meanwhile, opinion about the welfare system shows some signs of division along religious lines, according to a ComRes poll conducted online among a sample of 2,027 adult Britons aged 18 and over on 6-8 December 2013. Results were released on 19 February 2014 to coincide with the publication of the latest report from the think-tank Theos, The Future of Welfare, comprising 12 essays introduced and edited by Nick Spencer. The data tables for the survey can be found at:


Some of the key findings to emerge from the research include:

  • Non-Christians are most confident that the welfare state will survive in something like its present nature and scale in 30 years, 45% against 31% for Christians and 28% for people of no faith, the plurality view among the latter groups being that it will survive but in a diminished form.
  • Christians (75%) take a harder line than non-Christians (63%) or those without religion (60%) in believing that the receipt of welfare benefits should be dependent on prior financial contributions through the tax system, just 19% of Christians disagreeing.
  • Christians (63%) are also much more likely to disagree with the suggestion that everyone should receive benefits, irrespective of whether they have been paying taxes, this being 10% more than the religiously unaffiliated and 26% more than for non-Christians (51% of whom actually agree with the proposition).
  • A plurality among people of no faith (49%) do not think that the relatively wealthy should be entitled to some welfare benefits even if they have been paying taxes, whereas both Christians (58%) and non-Christians (53%) deem such entitlement to be perfectly appropriate (albeit 37% of each say not).
  • Paradoxically, all faith groups (ranging from 64% of those without religion to 70% of Christians) agree that welfare benefits should be a safety net for only the poorest in society.

Of course, such results do not establish any causal effect for religion in shaping views on welfare, and differences are likely to be attributable in the main to underlying demographics, especially of age and social class/wealth. For example, those of no religion will be found disproportionately among younger age cohorts who are, overall, perhaps more economically challenged than their parents’ generation. This may well explain why many of them feel unsympathetic to the relatively wealthy drawing down welfare benefits.

Seven deadly sins

Asked to nominate the worst of the seven ‘deadly sins’ in a recent YouGov poll, a plurality of Britons (43%) replied greed. This sin easily surpassed wrath (18%), sloth (11%), envy (7%), gluttony (5%), lust (3%), and pride (3%). However, when it came to confessing their own one or two worst vices, gluttony and sloth topped the list, at 25% each, followed by pride (19%), wrath (15%), envy (12%), greed (9%), and lust (8%). So, while greed is considered to be the worst sin, it is the one which people are much less likely to own up to themselves. Detailed figures are supposedly available through the link embedded in the YouGov blog post of 20 February 2014, but the link is broken (BRIN has reported it to YouGov), so only the blog is currently available at:


Ethnicity and generational change

The first of the 2014 issues of Ethnic and Racial Studies (Vol. 37, No. 1) comprises nine articles on the theme of generational change (between first and second generations) among ethnic minorities in Britain. Several of these essays explore the religious dimension, drawing especially upon the British Election Study Ethnic Minority Survey (EMBES) in which a cross-section of 2,787 ethnic minority respondents was interviewed, face-to-face and by self-completion questionnaire, from 7 May to 31 August 2010. The contributions likely to be of most interest to BRIN readers are:

  • Lucinda Platt, ‘Is There Assimilation in Minority Groups’ National, Ethnic, and Religious Identity?’ (pp. 46-70). Platt’s principal finding is that there is generational decline on a range of measures of religiosity for all groups with the partial exception of Muslims. This confirms other evidence of a trend of generational assimilation towards majority and away from minority identity and, in a religious sense, could be said to constitute ‘secularization’. Notwithstanding, this is partially qualified by revelations that the second generation of Hindu immigrants prioritized their religious over their ethnic identity, and that perceptions of religious discrimination enhanced common cause among people of the same faith.
  • Raya Muttarak, ‘Generation, Ethnic, and Religious Diversity in Friendship Choice: Exploring Interethnic Close Ties in Britain’ (pp. 71-98). Muttarak uses pooled data from the 2007-08 and 2008-09 Citizenship Surveys, rather than EMBES. Interethnic friendship patterns are shown to vary significantly by ethnic group, religion, and generation. Ethnic groups sharing similar traits (such as region of origin, race, or religion) were more likely to nominate each other as close friends, although the effect weakened between the first and second generations. In particular, Indian Muslims had a substantially higher chance of having Pakistani close friends than fellow Indians of other religious persuasions. However, black Christians (Caribbean and African) had a higher likelihood of having white British close friends than did other blacks.
  • Siobhan McAndrew and David Voas, ‘Immigrant Generation, Religiosity, and Civic Engagement in Britain’ (pp. 99-119). Mainly using EMBES (other surveys are drawn upon), but analysing for an intermediate (1.5) as well as first and second generations, intergenerational secularization is found across ethnic minority groups, as measured by private religious practice (especially) and religious salience. At the same time, communal religious practice appeared robust to generational decline, apart from black Caribbeans. While immigrant religiosity failed to foster generalized social trust, it is revealed to promote greater civic integration and volunteering.
  • Sin Yi Cheung, ‘Ethno-Religious Minorities and Labour Market Integration: Generational Advancement or Decline?’ (pp. 140-60). EMBES is used to examine four labour market outcomes: economic activity, unemployment, access to salaried jobs, and self-employment. The second generation of immigrants showed little advancement in these outcomes relative to the first generation. Substantial ethno-religious ‘penalties’ persisted for all of the outcomes except self-employment, and there was a particularly strong ‘religious penalty’ among Muslim women.
  • Anthony Heath and Neli Demireva, ‘Has Multiculturalism Failed in Britain?’ (pp. 161-80). Analysis of EMBES, again incorporating a 1.5 generation, demonstrates that all ethno-religious groups have displayed major change across the generations in the direction of a British identity and a reduced social distance, which can co-exist with positive orientations toward their own ethnic culture (as reflected in in-group marriage and friendship). Only a small minority of respondents had taken a separatist position, rejecting a British identity and espousing ‘radical’ socio-political positions. No evidence was found that rates of intergenerational change had been slower among groups that had made successful claims for cultural recognition (such as Sikhs and Muslims). In contrast, lower levels of integration were associated with perceptions of individual or group discrimination.

For abstracts and access options for all these articles, go to:


BMRB turns 80

The British Market Research Bureau (BMRB) is celebrating its eightieth birthday year, laying claim to ‘the longest continuous heritage of any social research company in Britain’. It was established in 1933 as the research arm of advertising agency J. Walter Thompson but quickly shifted emphasis away from commercially oriented research, winning its first contract with the Government in 1939. In 1987 it joined the WPP Group which bought out TNS in 2009, resulting in the creation of TNS BMRB as one of the three constituent companies in the Kantar Group, WPP’s insight, information, and consulting division. TNS Omnibus is a separate company which powers TNS BMRB’s Public Opinion Monitor. Compared to, say, the Gallup Poll (now effectively defunct in Britain), BMRB has not been a major player in religion-related survey research. However, you will find around 30 entries in the BRIN source database where BMRB was responsible for the fieldwork, including the 1963 Political Change in Britain study for David Butler and Donald Stokes, which was the forerunner of the British Election Studies.


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

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