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Survey reveals falling numbers

20 June 2014


Olden days: Sixteenth-century church-goers. From The Church Catechism with Notes - Illustrated by E.M.; published by SPCK, in 1891. 

Olden days: Sixteenth-century church-goers. From The Church Catechism with Notes - Illustrated by E.M.; publish...

THE proportion of the British population who identify themselves as Anglican has more than halved in the past ten years, according to data collected by NatCen Social Research and released to the Church Times.

At the same time, the percentage of people who attend religious worship is largely unchanged.

The data was compiled by NatCen as part of its research for the 31st British Social Attitudes Survey, but was not included in their report, which was published this week.

It shows that the percentage of people identifying as C of E/Anglican has fallen from 27 per cent in 2003 to just 16 per cent in 2013, a drop of 59 per cent. The percentage identifying as Roman Catholic has remained static at nine per cent, while "other Christians" account for 16 per cent - up one per cent.

The total proportion of the population who say that they are Christian is now 41 per cent, down from 51 per cent in 2003. The percentage identifying themselves with a non-Christian religion has risen from six per cent in 2003 to eight per cent in 2013.

The number of people who say they have no religion has increased by more than 16 per cent, from 43 per cent to 50 per cent, overtaking the proportion of people who claim a religious affiliation.

There has been less movement in the frequency of attendance at public worship events. The percentage of people who attend at least weekly has fallen from 14 per cent to 13 per cent; while the number attending at least monthly has risen from eight per cent to nine per cent.

The published data in the British Social Attitudes Report concentrates on what it means to be British. Some 95 per cent of people said that to be "truly British" you must be able to speak English; while almost three-quarters said it was important to have been born in Britain. Just under a quarter said that you needed to be Christian to be considered British, down from 32 per cent in 1995.

The survey also asked about the forthcoming referendum on Scottish independence. Just 20 per cent of Scots said that they intended to vote for independence; 42 per cent indicated that they would vote against. Some 34 per cent said that hadn't decided.

Asked about Scottish identity, 32 per cent of Scots said in 1999 that they were Scottish, not British. This has now fallen to 25 per cent. Similarly, the percentage of people who said that they were more Scottish than British has fallen from 35 per cent to 29 per cent. The percentage who said that they were equally Scottish and British has risen from 22 per cent to 29 per cent.

On questions of poverty and welfare, there has been a large increase in the percentage of people who believe there has been an increase in poverty over the past decade. In 2000, 36 per cent believed poverty had increased; this figure is now 64 per cent.

And despite a very high percentage - 77 per cent - of people who agree that "large numbers of people" are falsely claiming benefits, there was support for an increase in some benefits payments. Some 73 per cent supported an increase in benefits for carers; 59 per cent supported an increase in benefits for working parents on low incomes. But almost half (49 per cent) supported cuts to unemployment benefit.


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