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Press Release - 'Do Christians Really Oppose Gay Marriage?'

18 April 13

A YouGov poll commissioned for the Westminster Faith Debate on same-sex marriage this Thursday finds that half of all religious people in Britain are now in favour of allowing same-sex marriage, and that those who identify as Anglican and Catholic now support it by a small margin.

New poll finds many Christians ignoring Church leaders on same-sex marriage

A YouGov poll commissioned for the Westminster Faith Debate on same-sex marriage this Thursday finds that half of all religious people in Britain are now in favour of allowing same-sex marriage, and that those who identify as Anglican and Catholic now support it by a small margin.

Christian support for same-sex marriage

Despite the churches’ official opposition to gay marriage, British Christians who identify as Anglican, Catholic or Presbyterian are now in favour of allowing same-sex marriage by a small margin (Table 1 - appendix).

Amongst active churchgoers, support for allowing same-sex marriage is slightly lower, but still high. Forty percent of Anglicans are in favour and 47% against. Forty-two percent of Catholics are in favour, 48% against (Table 3- appendix).

Overall, all those people who identify with a religion, Christian or otherwise (excluding ‘don’t knows’), are now evenly split on allowing same-sex couples to marry – 43% for and  43% against (Table 1 - appendix).  On the different but related question of whether same-sex marriage is right, religious people are somewhat more opposed (Table 2 - appendix).

The more you believe in God, the less you support same-sex marriage

The section of religious people most opposed to same-sex marriage is made up of those who both (a) believe in God with certainty and (b) make decisions primarily on the basis of explicit religious sources  – God, scriptures, teachings and religious leaders.

 

This ‘moral minority’ of strict believers amounts to almost 9% of the population, and is spread across religious traditions, with a greater concentration among Baptists and Muslims.

The correlations are striking:

 

 

 

Table A “Do you believe in a God or some ‘higher power’”?  - and attitudes to SSM

Do you think same-sex couples should or should not be allowed to get married?

Believe there is definitely a God

(26% of population)

Believe there is probably a God (23% of population)

Believe there is probably NOT a God (16% of population)

Believe there is definitely  NOT a God (19% of population)

Don't know if there is a God (17% of population)

Should

38

51

63

66

50

Should NOT

48

38

27

22

25

Don't know

14

11

10

12

25

Table B “Which, if any, of the following do you rely on MOST for guidance as you live your life and make decisions?” – and attitudes to SSM

Do you think same-sex couples should or should not be allowed to get married?

Own reason

(41% of popn)

Own intuition

(22% of popn)

Family

(13% of popn)

God

(6% of popn)

Friends

(3% of popn)

Religious teachings

(2% of popn)

Science

(2% of popn)

Deceased loved ones

(1% of popn)

Religious leaders

(<0.5% of popn)

Religious group

(<0.5% of popn)

Should

56

57

58

32

64

34

65

53

27

22

Should not

32

31

30

54

25

56

26

37

67

58

Don’t know

11

12

12

14

11

10

9

10

7

20

 

Muslims and Baptists are the most opposed to allowing same-sex marriage;  Jews, Hindus and those of ‘No Religion’  the least opposed

Those who identify as Muslim and Baptist are most opposed to allowing same-sex marriage, whilst Jews, Hindus and those who say they have ‘no religion’ are most in favour of allowing it (Table 1 - appendix).

This can be explained by the higher proportions of those who believe in God with certainty and take authority from religious sources amongst Baptists and Muslims.

Actively practising a religion makes a  difference

Amongst  those who currently engage in a religious activity, 41% are in favour of allowing same-sex marriage and 46% are against. Amongst the non-practising, 54% are in favour and 31% are against.

Amongst Anglicans, 47% of active churchgoers are against allowing same-sex marriage and 40% are in favour. Amongst non-churchgoers opinion is more equally balanced: 44% are in favour of allowing ssm and 43% against. The biggest difference is between churchgoing and non-churchgoing Anglicans and the small number (7%) of strict Anglicans who both believe definitely in God and take their authority from religious sources, 65% of whom oppose same-sex marriage.

Overall, age, religion and gender are the most important predictors of opposition to Same-sex marriage

The most important predictors of opposition to SSM are:

1.Age (17% of 18-24yr olds are against allowing SSM, compared with 53% of those aged 60 and over)

2.Believing that there is definitely a God  (Table A)

3.Gender (40% of men are against allowing SSM, compared with 27% of women)

4.Being guided most by God or other religious sources  (Table B).

Christians who support same-sex marriage do so because they believe in equality and faithful love; Christians who oppose it do so because they believe in traditional marriage, family, and gender-roles

The most common reasons given by Christians who say gay marriage is RIGHT are that:

  • “People should be treated equally whatever their sexual orientation” (77%)

The next most common is:

  • “Faithful love is the heart of marriage and it is not exclusive to heterosexual couples” (70%)

 

The most common reasons given by Christians who say gay marriage is WRONG are that:

  • “Marriage should be between a man and a woman” (79%)

The next most common is:

  • “It undermines the traditional family structure of a mother and father” (63%)

 

 

Churches are widely perceived as unwelcoming  to gay and lesbian people.

Despite the fact that half of all Christians who express an opinion are in favour of same-sex marriage, when asked if churches are welcoming to gay, lesbian and bisexual people only 21% of the public think they are, a proportion which falls to 17% amongst 18-24 olds.

Most churches claim to welcome everyone irrespective of sexual orientation. They are clearly not getting this message across. Some Christians, even from more conservative evangelical churches, are concerned about this. The Revd Steve Chalke, a prominent Baptist Minister, who will be taking place in the Debate on Thursday comments that: “the noise of the arguments around gay marriage are clouding the real question for the Church: The nature of inclusion.”*

 

* Article and video  available at www.oasisuk.org


Appendix

 

Table 1  Do you think same-sex marriage should be allowed? Adherents

Do you think same-sex couples should or should not be allowed to get married?

ALL

No religion

Ang-lican

Roman Catholic

Presby-trerian

Meth-odist

Baptist

Jewish

Hindu

Islam / Muslim

Sikh

Religion

TOTAL

Should

52

69

44

44

49

32

40

52

55

29

35

43

Should NOT

34

20

43

41

44

45

50

38

26

59

35

43

Don't know

14

11

14

15

7

23

11

10

19

12

30

14

 

Table 2   Do you think same-sex marriage is right or wrong? Adherents

 

Do you think same-sex marriage is right or wrong?

ALL

No

religion

Ang-lican

Roman Catholic

Presby-trerian

Meth-odist

Baptist

Jewish

Hindu

Islam / Muslim

Sikh

Religion

TOTAL

Right

46

63

38

36

37

27

22

46

44

23

28

37

Wrong

34

20

43

44

44

43

55

38

31

64

54

44

Don't know

20

17

19

20

18

29

24

16

25

13

19

20

Table 3 Do you think same-sex marriage should be allowed? Currently attend church, participate in a religious group or community

Do you think same-sex couples should or should not be allowed to get married?

Roman Catholic

Anglican

Church of Scotland

Methodist/ baptist

Pente-costal

Jewish

Muslim / Islamic

Hindu

Buddhist

Sikh

None

Should

42

40

54

31

29

46

28

63

95

25

57

Should NOT

48

47

37

52

65

45

58

19

5

45

32

Don't know

10

14

9

17

6

9

14

18

0

30

11

 


NOTES

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

Sample sizes (top line weighted, bottom line unweighted) Total 4437

None

Ang-lican

Roman Catholic

Presby-trerian

Meth-odist

Baptist

Jewish

Hindu

Islam / Muslim

Sikh

Other

Prefer not to say

1630

1519

391

108

121

60

82

48

106

24

100

207

1649

1261

354

90

96

58

162

92

201

49

185

192

 

Fieldwork was undertaken between 25th - 30th January 2013 and predated the Second Reading debate in the House of Commons of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. The Bill has now completed the Committee stage in the Commons (12 March) and awaits a date for Report and Third Reading before passing to the House of Lords.

 

Those we refer to in this briefing as ‘religious’ are those who identified with one of the following major religions or denominations e.g. Anglican, Roman Catholic, Hindu.  Those we call ‘non-religious’ are those who answered ‘none’ to the same question about identification.

The Westminster Faith debates are organised by Charles Clarke and Linda Woodhead and supported by Lancaster University, the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council. They are designed to bring high-quality academic research on religion into public debate. http://www.religionandsociety.org.uk/faith_debates-2013/

Linda Woodhead is Professor of Sociology of Religion at Lancaster University and Director of the £12m national ‘Religion and Society Programme’ funded by two UK research councils, the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council. http://religionandsociety.org.uk/

 

 

 

Contact:

Linda Woodhead

l.woodhead@lancs.ac.uk

07764 566090

 

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