Monday, 21 March 2011

65 per cent non-religious: opinion poll exposes flaws in census religion question

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The religion question as it appears on the England & Wales census
A YouGov poll commissioned by the British Humanist Association (results in Excel document) has found that 65 per cent of respondents identify as non-religious when answering the question "Are you religious?" By contrast, when asked the question "What is your religion?" in the 2001 census, 71.8 per cent of the public in England and Wales identified themselves as Christian.

Humanists have long campaigned for a change to the census question, which is considered more leading than alternative questions, such as that used in the YouGov poll, and, having been unable to secure a change, the BHA have been urging the non-religious to ensure they tick "No religion" in this week's census.

As Winston Fletcher points out in the current issue of New Humanist, the 2001 census result belies the evidence provided by other surveys of British religiosity, including the Church of England's own statistics. This latest poll further highlights the inaccuracy of the census results – of 1,896 adults surveyed by YouGov in England and Wales, only 29 per cent answered "Yes" to "Are you religious?", compared with 65 per cent answering "No". Furthermore, just 48 per cent of those who identified as "Christian" said they believed in Christ and the resurrection, while 63 per cent of all respondents said they had not attended a place of worship in the last year. In fact, 20 per cent of people said they had never attended a place of worship. By contrast, when asked the census question by YouGov, 61 per cent ticked a religious answer.

In a separate poll commissioned by the Humanist Society of Scotland (results in Excel), 56 per cent of respondents answered "No" to "Are you religious", compared with 35 per cent answering "Yes". When asked the Scottish census question, ‘What religion, religious denomination or body do you belong to?’, 42 per cent answered "None".
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