Figures just released from the 2011 census record a drop in religious affiliation in Britain. 25% of people now say that they have no religious affiliation – up from 15% in the previous census.
Having worked on the 2011 census, I am pretty sure that the figures for religious affiliation still flatter the true position. It is notoriously difficult for others (and sometimes even for ourselves) to define whether we have a religious affiliation. Many do have a strong belief, others a definite affiliation, but many people feel that they fall into a grey area as far as religious affiliation is concerned. The wording of the census questions certainly seemed to nudge those with very tenuous links to a religion (particularly the Church of England) to opt FOR a religious affiliation.
I have posted before (see post for 21 November 2012) about the lingering correlation between voting and religion in the UK. The secularisation trend revealed in the latest census will provide further impetus to the reduction in political allegiance. Coupled with the rapid decline in party membership (see post for 7 October 2012), fewer and fewer voters are going to feel automatically loyal to any one party. At election time, they will be more inclined to shop around between parties, without feeling guilty.
Politicians have been arguing for ‘choice’, but I am not sure if this is what they hoped for!