|The Guardian, The Independent and BBC News have all covered the release of data from the British Social Attitudes Survey 2012.
The survey questions attitudes among the British public on issues ranging from identity, religion, personal relationships, Gender role, welfare, public spending and same sex relationships.
In the findings for the 2012 survey are interesting trends in relation to religious identity and trust in institutions compared to the landscape of 1983.
The BSA 2012 finds that in 1983, “around two in three people (68 per cent) considered themselves to belong to one religion or another; in 2012, only around half (52 per cent) do so…this decline is in practice a decline in attachment to Anglicanism.
“In 1983 two in five people (40 per cent) said they were Anglican, and the Church of England could still reasonably lay claim to being England's national church. But now only 20 per cent do so. In contrast, the proportion saying they belong to a religion other than Christianity has tripled from two to six per cent. Britain's religious landscape has not only become smaller but also more diverse.”
On the topic of political affiliation, the BSA survey finds that “Back in 1983, 72 per cent identified with one of these parties, while 87 per cent said they supported any political party, including the then Liberal/SDP Alliance. Now less than two-thirds (63 per cent) identify with one of the two traditional class parties, and around three-quarters (76 per cent) claim an adherence to any political party.”
On the subject of trust in public officials, the survey reveals that “Back in 1986, only 38 per cent said that they trusted governments "to place the needs of the nation above the interests of their own political party". By 2000, this had more than halved to just 16 per cent.
“While a degree of scepticism towards politicians might be thought healthy, those who govern Britain today have an uphill struggle to persuade the public that their hearts are in the right place.”
The survey also tracks a decline in attitudes concerning ‘the duty to vote’:
“Back in 1987, that year's British Election Study found that 76 per cent believed that "it's everyone's duty to vote". When we revisited the issue in 1991 only 68 per cent were of that view, falling to just 56 per cent by 2008. The figure has recovered somewhat in recent years and when we last asked the question in 2011, 62 per cent thought everyone had a duty to vote.”
On interest in political and current affairs, the survey shows that “In 1986, 29 per cent said that they had "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of interest in politics and the figure has remained at or around 30 per cent most years since then, and now stands at 36 per cent.
“People are more likely now than in the 1980s to have signed a petition or contacted their MP, no doubt at least partly reflecting the increasing ease with which it is possible to do these things via social media. And, although a majority doubt their ability to influence what politicians do, they are no more likely to feel this now than they were in the 1980s - indeed, if anything, the opposite is the case. In 1986, for instance, 71 per cent agreed that "people like me have no say in what the government does"; now that figure is down to 59 per cent.”
On the trust the average citizen displays towards the British press, the survey shows, “Only 27 per cent think newspapers are well run compared with 53 per cent 30 years ago, a trend that might have been exacerbated by the phone hacking scandal that forced the closure of the News of the World in 2011, but which clearly began before then.”
The BSA 2012 survey can be found here.