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42%: Government pays too much attention to ‘religious groups and leaders’

42%: Government pays too much attention to ‘religious groups and leaders’ (24/11/06)

(Numbers in brackets below refer to endnotes)

More people think that the government pays too much attention to ‘religious groups and leaders’ than to any other domestic group according to an Ipsos MORI poll published today.

Asked to select from a list of groups that people might think the government pays too much attention to, more people (42%) chose ‘religious groups and leaders’ than chose any other domestic group. Religious groups and leaders came second only to ‘leaders of other countries’ in a list that also included ‘Newspaper headlines’, ‘Big business’, ‘the Royal family’, ‘Trade Unions’ and lastly ‘Ordinary people’ (see below for full results).

Hanne Stinson, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association, which commissioned the poll, said that her only surprise was that only 42% felt religion got too much attention from Government, and wondered how much higher this figure would have been if respondents had been able to select more than three options from the seven listed. ‘The other explanation might be a lingering deference to religion that has outlasted mass religious belief. Time and again religious groups get their way against overwhelmingly public opinion. They killed off the Assisted Dying Bill, which 4 out of 5 people supported (1); they have won wide exemptions from equality legislation so they can continue to discriminate against gay people and those who do not share their beliefs; and they will be doing their utmost to defend their 26 unelected members of Parliament when the Government tackles Lords reform this session!’

Andrew Copson, Education Officer at the BHA, said that the result was particularly interesting coming so soon after Government caved in to religious pressure over faith schools: ‘The government keeps making the mistake of seeing pressure from religious groups as widespread public opinion. Even though poll after poll has demonstrated wide public opposition to faith schools (2), religious groups have fought off all attempts to reduce the harm done by them, and instead have won more privileges and pay scarcely a penny of the costs of “their” schools.’

For further commentary on this poll click here , together commentary on the Ipsos MORI poll on the level of humanist convictions amongst the British public .


Respondents were asked: ‘People often comment on the level of attention the Government pays to certain groups in society. Which, if any, of the following groups of people do you think the Government pays too much attention to?’ and presented with a list of seven possibilities from which they could select up to three responses. Responses were:

Leaders of other countries          44
Religious groups and leaders   42
Newspaper headlines                 35
Big Business                                 34
The Royal Family                          20
Trade Unions                                 17
Ordinary People                              3
None of these                                 9

Ipsos MORI interviewed a nationally-representative sample of 975 respondents aged 15+ across Great Britain. Interviews were conducted face-to-face, in respondents’ homes, between 26 and 30 October 2006. 175 sampling points were covered. Results are weighted to the national GB 15+ population profile.

Full analysis of the poll can be found here , together with analysis of the Ipsos MORI poll on the level of humanist convictions amongst the British public .


(1) 82% of the British public ‘think that a person who is suffering unbearably from a terminal illness should be allowed by law to receive medical help to die, if that is what they want…’ (NOP poll, 2004)
(2) eg 64% opposed the idea of government funding for faith schools, ICM poll 2005; 80% believed all schools should be open to those of any religion or belief, MORI poll 2001; 80% opposed the expansion of faith schools, YouGov poll 2001

NOTES TO EDITORS The British Humanist Association(BHA) represents and supports the non-religious. It is the largest organisation in the UK campaigning for an end to religious privilege and to discrimination based on religion or belief, and for a secular state.

For further comment, contact: Hanne Stinson (BHA) by email or on 07764 947249 Andrew Copson (BHA) by email or on 07855 380633 John Leaman (Ipsos MORI) by email or on 020 7347 3000

The following distinguished supporters of the British Humanist Association are also available for comment:

Susan Blackmore by email A C Grayling by email

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