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Church of England numbers at record low

07 September 2018 | Tags: British Social Attitudes, Scottish Social Attitudes, religion and belief

The most recent British Social Attitudes survey reveals that the number of Brits who identify as Church of England has more than halved in the last fifteen years.

London, UK: 7th September - The proportion of Brits who describe themselves as ‘belonging to the Church of England’ is at a record low, halving in the last fifteen years, with the sharpest decline among 45 to 54 year olds.


The most recent British Social Attitudes survey reveals that the number of Brits who identify as Church of England has more than halved since 2002, falling from 31% to 14%.The sharpest decline happened among 45 to 54 year olds (35% in 2002 vs 11% in 2017). The proportion of people who describe themselves as Roman Catholic (8%), belonging to ‘other Christian affiliations’ (18%) and ‘of non-Christian faiths’ (8%) have remained fairly stable. 52% of people now say they have no religion, compared with 41% in 2002. Men are more inclined to say they follow no religion than women (57% compared with 48%).


Although religious affiliation has dropped across all age groups, young people are least likely to be religious. 70% of those aged 18-24 say they have no religion. This is an increase from 56% in 2002. 2% of this group view themselves as Anglicans, down from 9% in 2002. In contrast, Brits aged 65 and over are most likely to say they belong to the Church of England (30%). In 2002, 51% of this age group identified as Church of England. This age group has also seen a sharp decline in religious identity, with 34% saying they have no religion in 2017, compared with 18% in 2002. In 2002, 35% of 45 to 54 year olds said they followed the Church of England. The figure for that age group is now 11 % - the biggest fall in percentage points across age groups.


The findings also highlight a significant gap between religious affiliations when it comes to church attendance. 21% of respondents who affiliate themselves with the Church of England say they attend church - apart from special occasions, such as weddings and funerals- at least once a month. This is compared with 42% of Roman Catholics. The majority of Brits who follow either religion attend church less than a month (CofE 78%, Roman Catholics 58%).


The number of Scots who say they belong to the Church of Scotland has fallen overall, from 31% in 2002 to 18% in 2017. In 2002, 14% of those aged 18 to 34 said they followed the Church of Scotland, compared with 4% in 2017. In 2002, 24% of those aged 35 to 54 said they followed the Church of Scotland, the figure is now 13%. 32% of those aged 55 and over say they do so, down from 50% in 2002.


56% of Scots now say they have no religion. Those aged 18 to 34 are the most likely to say this (73%), followed by 35 to 54 year olds (59%) and those aged 55 and over (42%). All age groups have seen a decline in religious identity of between 11-17% in the last fifteen years, which has gone hand in hand with a gradual decline in church attendance at Church of Scotland services. 33% of those affiliated with the Church of Scotland attended at least once per month in 2002 while now only 25% do.


Roger Harding, Head of Public Attitudes at the National Centre for Social Research, said: “Our figures show an unrelenting decline in Church of England and Church of Scotland numbers. This is especially true for young people where less than 1 in 20 now belong to their established church. While the figures are starkest among younger people, in every age group the biggest single group are those identifying with no religion.

“We know from the British Social Attitudes survey that people’s views are becoming more socially liberal on issues like same sex relationships and abortion. With growing numbers belonging to no religion, faith leaders will no doubt be considering how to better connect to a changing society.”