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Press Release Westminster Faith Debate 4 - Old Tory Men Have the Narrowest View of Family

27 March 13

Embargo until 00.01 Tuesday 26th March

A YouGov survey of attitudes to the family commissioned for the Westminster Faith Debate  taking place this week finds that:

A majority of people still think of the family primarily as a biological unit

This can be called a narrow view of the family.

When asked what they would consider to be a ‘family’, almost everyone agrees that a married couple with children is a family.

Most people also agree that the following count as families:

  • An unmarried couple with children (89%)
  • A lone parent with at least one child (87%)
  • A married couple without children (72%)
  • Siblings who live together (71%)
  • A same-sex couple in a civil partnership with children (70%)

But sizeable proportions now take a broader view of the family

This takes seriously emotional ties or living together.

  • 52% of people consider an unmarried couple without children to be a family
  • 47% of people consider a same-sex couple in a civil partnership to be a family
  • 39% of people consider any two or more people who care for each-other to be a family

Religious people differ little from the general population in their views - even when it comes to same-sex couples

67% of Anglicans, 66% of Catholics and 72% of Jewish people consider a same-sex couple in a civil partnership with children to be a family (compared with 70% of the population)

46% of Catholics, 51% of Baptists and 48% of Jewish people consider a same-sex couple in a civil partnership without children to be a family (compared with 47% of the general population)

Most people think it’s OK not to start a biological family…

When asked whether more women never having children is good or bad, 18% say good and 54% say neither good nor bad.

…but we think children need families, preferably with a father and a mother

When asked whether more single women having children without a male partner is good or bad, 30% say neither, and 58% say bad.

When asked whether more gay and lesbian couples raising children is good or bad, 24% say good, 31% bad and 39% neither.

The narrowest view of a family is held by older, Conservative-voting men

The two most important factors which predict whether you take a narrow view of what counts as a family are:

  • Voting Conservative
  • Being a man

The next most important are:

  • Being in the minority of religious believers who take their main authority from God or religious teachings (Baptists and Muslims score highest on this)
  • Being over 65

An important factor in predicting whether you take a broad view of what counts as a family is stating ‘none’ when asked what your religion is.

So those with the narrowest view  of a family are older male Conservative voters. Those with the least restricted are younger women Lab/Lib/PC/Scot Nat voters. Those who take their guidance from religious sources also tend to have a narrower view.

Individual Christians appear to be more tolerant and welcoming than the Churches to which they belong

Most people agree that churches are welcoming to married couples with children. Seventy-four per cent think they are also welcoming to single people.

But only 45% think they are welcoming to divorced people, and a mere 21% that they are welcoming to gay, lesbian and bisexual people.

This contrasts with the fact that nearly half of Christians think that a same-sex couple in a civil partnership is a family, a proportion which grows to two thirds if same-sex couples have children.

“This is clearly a problem for the Churches, not only because they fail to reflect the views of most Christians, but because they purport to welcome people even if they didn't necessarily approve of their lifestyle.”

Linda Woodhead

NOTES

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 4,437 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 25th - 30th January 2013.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

 

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 research progamme the ‘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/

Sample sizes (unweighted): Anglican 1261, Catholic 354, Baptist 58, Jewish 162, none 1649.  Total 4437

Contact: Linda Woodhead L.woodhead@lancs.ac.uk

07764 566090

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