WWJD? Survey reveals muddled picture of church attitudes to Occupy protest

WWJD? Survey reveals muddled picture of church attitudes to Occupy protest

The results of the latest ComRes poll, commissioned by Premier Radio, of a sample of ‘churchy’ people are out. They cover church attitudes to the protest outside St Paul's.

ComRes have developed a “CPanel” which looks at a small sample of the population weighted by denomination to reflect the composition of the UK church population according to the 2005 Church Census.

Three caveats:

(i) I asked Andrew Hawkins at ComRes and he says the margin of error in this online sample of 550 is "around + or – four per cent"

(ii) The Church census, on which the sample was based, only covered around half of the UK’s churches.

(iii) This sample is 'Churchy' rather than specifically Christian: ie it doesn’t include those who have a faith but don’t express it in the terms covered by the Church Census. So for example, it may not reflect more radical/ non-institutional expressions of Christianity.

The sample and results therefore have significant limitations. They may also have inbuilt bias in various forms (most notably perhaps in a conservative and institutional direction) because of their basis in the Church Census. But taking this into account, the survey found a mixed, sometimes apparently contradictory picture, with a lot of people even now unsure about what they think.

Broadly speaking the respondents:

(i) Agree with the sentiments of the protestors, but in apparent contradiction at the same time say they don't think the protestors know what they are protesting about.

I agree with the sentiments of the protestors outside St. Paul's Cathedral: Agree 59 per cent. Disagree 21 per cent. D/k 20 per cent

The protestors at Occupy London don't really know what they are protesting about: Agree 41 per cent. Disagree 37 per cent. D/k 22 per cent.

(ii) Are pretty clear that they believe the Church of England should do more to speak out against the financial services sector.

The Church of England should do more to speak out against the financial services sector: Agree 63 per cent. Disagree 22 per cent. D/k 14 per cent.

(iii) Feel that the Church of England (NB not St Paul's) has handled the protests very badly. The strength of feeling on this is interesting as it is the clearest result, and also that 'churchy' people might be considered less likely to criticise the Church of England than others in the wider population.

The Church of England has mishandled its response to the protests Agree 66 per cent. Disagree 10 per cent. D/k 23 per cent.

The way that the Church of England has communicated with the media regarding the Occupy London protest has been wrong: Agree 56 per cent. Disagree 12 per ent. D/k 31 per cent.

(iv) Are uncertain over whether Jesus would have supported the protests, but even more uncertain whether he would have supported the Church of England’s response.

Jesus would have supported the Occupy London protest: Agree 27 per cent. Disagree 37 per cent. D/k36 per cent.

Jesus would have supported the Church of England's response to the protest: Agree 10% Disagree 38 per cet. D/k 51 per cent.

(v) Feel the protestors should be allowed to "exercise their right to protest peacefully" outside the cathedral but don’t think they should have the right to continue to camp. The implication here seems to be that the respondents don’t see the camp as a legitimate form of protest itself.

The protestors should be allowed to "exercise their right to protest peacefully" outside the cathedral: Agree 48 per cent. Disagree 36 per cent. D/k 15 per cent.

The protestors at Occupy London should have the right to continue to camp outside St. Paul's Cathedral: Agree 29 per cent. Disagree 56 per cent. D/k 15 per cent.

(vi) Don’t think that the church should seek to move them on forcibly, but do feel that the police should have a go. Is this a case of wanting the police to do the 'dirty' work, or just a reflection of the use of the word "forceful" in one of the questions?

St. Paul's should seek to forcibly evict the Occupy London protestors from outside the cathedral: Agree 24 per cent. Disagree 56 per cent. D/k 19 per cent.

The police should clear the protestors away from St. Paul's Cathedral: Agree 44 per cent. Disagree 37 per cent. D/k 19 per cent.

(vii) Feel that the Church of England is being targeted by the protestors which should be seen as the backdrop to the responses given above. There may be a wider feeling in the church that it is being 'got at'.

By camping outside St. Paul's Cathedral, the protestors are actually targeting the Church of England, rather than the financial sector: Agree 56 per cent. Disagree 33 per cent. D/k 11 per cent.

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