Sunday, August 12, 2007

Consultation on the questions for the 2011 census

Consultation on the questions for the 2011 census

The Government somehow omitted to include the BHA in its preliminary consultation covering the ‘religion’ question for the 2011 census, but once we heard about the consultation, we very rapidly put together a response and managed to submit it just before the closing date.

Our objective is to ensure that the question or questions about religion in the 2011 census give an accurate picture of religious affiliation in the UK. The single question in the 2001 census used in England and Wales gave a far higher figure for ‘Christian’ than all other surveys: 71.74% in England and 71.90% in Wales, while the Scottish figures, where respondents were asked about the religion they were brought up in, as well as their current religion, showed significantly lower religious affiliation: 65.08%, in spite of far higher figures for Church attendance for example in Scotland. The corresponding figures for ‘no religion’ were: England 14.60%, Wales 18.63% and Scotland 27.55%. The figures were probably also distorted by the fact that the question appeared immediately after a series of questions on ethnicity, which may well have encouraged people to respond more on the basis of culture than actual beliefs or religious affiliation.

Other surveys tend to give around 30 – 40% non-religious, rising to 60 – 65% for young people. Click here for a selection of statistics on religion and belief in the UK.

The census figures are, of course, used throughout Government as the basis for planning, resource allocation, etc, so it really is very important to make sure that the figures they produce next time are a true reflection of the situation in the UK.

The BHA is demanding two questions on religion or non-religious beliefs in the 2011 census, similar to those used in Scotland in 2001, and will be lobbying hard to achieve this.

We also need to think about how to encourage people who do not have religious beliefs to answer the question more carefully: too many people who have not been near a Church for many years and have no religious beliefs still have a ‘Church of England reflex’ when faced with an official form.

Questions suggested by BHA
First, ‘Were you brought up with religious beliefs?…Yes/No’
‘How would you describe the religious or non-religious beliefs you were brought up
with?’…List of options that includes ‘non-religious’, with an option to specify.
Second, ‘Do you regard yourself now as belonging to any particular religion, or religious
denomination? …Yes/No’ and followed again by ‘How would you describe your religious or
non-religious beliefs now?’…List of options that includes ‘non-religious’, with an option to

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