The British Social Attitudes Survey

The British Social Attitudes Survey (BSA) has been published annually by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) since 1983, and contains around three thousand interviews each year conducted with a representative sample of the British population.

The 31st report, covering 2013, showed that a majority of the population regards itself as belonging to no religion, whilst the percentage identifying as Christian dropped to an all-time low. An overwhelming majority of Britons, meanwhile, said that Christianity was not an important part of British identity.

Key points:

  • 50.6% of the population regarded themselves as belonging to no religion in 2013, up from 47.7% in 2012. Only 41.7% defined themselves as Christian and just 16.3% as Anglicans, both lowest ever figures.
  • This marked decline in religiosity comes despite only 19.1% of respondents in 2013 saying that they had been bought up in a non-religious household.
  • Only 24% of respondents saw Christianity as an important element of national identity in 2013, down from 32% in 1995 and 31% in 2003.
  • 62.4% of the population never attend religious services and meetings, whilst only 13.1% go once a week or more.

The 26th report, published in 2010, included a number of other questions of interest to humanists in two of its chapters, ‘Religion in Britain and the United States’ and ‘Religious faith and contemporary attitudes’. The 27th report, published in 2011, updated a number of the statistics involved.

Voas, D.  and Ling, R. (2009), ‘Religion in Britain and the United States’,  in Park, A., Curtice, J., Thomson, K., Phillips., Clery E., and Butt, S. British Social Attitudes: the 26th Report, London: Sage

Key points:

  • 42% of all those questioned were against any form of ‘faith’ schools
  • 52% agreed that ‘Britain is deeply divided along religious lines’
  • Religion in Britain was estimated to have a ‘half-life’ of one generation
  • Three quarters (75 per cent) maintain their religious leaders should not try to influence voting behaviour while two-thirds (67 per cent) think religious leaders should stay out of government decision making
  • Nearly half (45 per cent) of people in Britain take the view that laws and policy decisions would probably be worse in these circumstances and only a quarter (26 per cent) think that decisions would probably be better.
  • There is also disquiet about the extent to which religious faith can lead to intolerance. Three quarters (73 per cent) of Britons maintain that “people with very strong religious beliefs are often too intolerant of others”. Naturally, agreement was highest among the unreligious (at 82 per cent), but even 63 per cent of religious people concurred.

McAndrew S. (2009) ‘Religious faith and contemporary attitudes’, in Park, A., Curtice, J., Thomson, K., Phillips., Clery E., and Butt, S. British Social Attitudes: the 26th Report, London: Sage

Key points:

  • 71% of religious people and 92% non-religious (82% in total) believed that a doctor should be allowed to end the life of a patient with an incurable disease.
  •  29% of religious people believed pre-marital sex is wrong, compared to 3% of non-religious people
  • 50% of religious people believed homosexuality is always or almost always wrong
  • 21% of religious people believed men should work and women remain in the home
  • The non-religious were far more likely not to vote
  • Religion was found to be a weak measure of party affiliation