Western European Religion

There is no real consensus of public opinion in matters of religion, according to a new multinational poll from YouGov@Cambridge, published in connection with a symposium on the future of Europe, held at the British Academy on 15 March 2012.  

Fieldwork was conducted online among representative samples of around 1,500 adults in each of seven Western European nations (Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark) between 24 February and 6 March 2012. Topline data are at:


The religion-related questions amounted to something of a pot-pourri, certainly in relation to the more systematic questions about membership of the European Union and the European economic crisis, but are nevertheless not without interest.

Of the seven countries Italy generally emerged as the most ‘religious’ nation and Sweden as the least. Britain’s position fluctuated, with one-quarter or more of its citizens sitting on the fence on religious issues and others holding seemingly inconsistent views.

The three matters on which an absolute majority of Britons agreed were all rather negative: that organized religion is in terminal decline, that Christians and the Church should not be permitted to have more influence over domestic politics, and that Muslims are poorly integrated into mainstream society. Here are the headlines:

  • 24% of Britons agreed that there are some things in life which only religion can explain (France 21%, Germany 24%, Italy 36%, Norway 22%, Sweden 18%, Denmark 18%), but 49% disagreed and 23% were undecided 
  • 30% of Britons believed in a personal God (France 22%, Germany 34%, Italy 55%, Norway 28%, Sweden 19%, Denmark 26%) and a further 10% in a higher spiritual power, with 21% disbelieving, 17% agnostic and 22% uncertain 
  • 39% of Britons felt that it is good for children to be brought up within a religion (France 46%, Germany 44%, Italy 59%, Norway 27%, Sweden 19%, Denmark 31%), more than who said the opposite (23%) or who expressed no opinion (34%) 
  • 55% of Britons agreed that organized religion is in terminal decline in their country (France 38%, Germany 26%, Italy 54%, Norway 33%, Sweden 49%, Denmark 33%), with only 13% disagreeing and 26% uncertain 
  • 35% of Britons contended that the decline of organized religion has made or would make the country a worse place (France 24%, Germany 20%, Italy 32%, Norway 22%, Sweden 17%, Denmark 15%), against 32% who disagreed and 27% who did not know 
  • 25% of Britons thought that some religions are better than others (France 20%, Germany 19%, Italy 21%, Norway 37%, Sweden 29%, Denmark 29%), compared with 39% who disagreed and 31% undecided 
  • 15% of Britons wanted Christians and the Church to have more influence over domestic politics (France 14%, Germany 13%, Italy 16%, Norway 11%, Sweden 9%, Denmark 5%), but 58% disagreed and 23% were neutral 
  • 19% of Britons thought that most Muslims were integrated with national customs and way of life (France 24%, Germany 12%, Italy 19%, Norway 14%, Sweden 18%, Denmark 19%), while 56% disagreed and 19% were unsure


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