How much does religion matter?

New research by Ipsos shows around seven in ten people surveyed say they have a religion, and most see it as important in their lives.

New research by Ipsos highlights how much religion matters in the world. Around seven in ten people surveyed say they have a religion, and most see it as important in their lives. The survey reveals marked differences across the world, with 94% of those with a religion in primarily Muslim countries surveyed saying it is important in their lives compared to 66% in Christian majority countries. The latest Global @dvisor survey conducted in 24 countries shows that among younger people with a religion/faith, their religion also plays a significant role in their lives: almost three-quarters (73%) of those under 35 say their religion/faith is important in their life. Those in Muslim majority countries are more likely than those in Christian majority countries to believe that their faith or religion is the only true path to salvation, liberation or paradise, 61% compared to 19% respectively, but they are also much more likely to say their religion is a key motivator in giving time and money to people in need (61% versus 24% in primarily Christian societies) Overall, three in ten (30%) people with a religion/faith say that religion motivates them to give their time or money to people in need. Over half (52%), however, say that it makes no difference since they see it as important to give time or money to people in need in any case.

A third (33%) of citizens across the 24 countries included in the research have no or almost no friends or acquaintances from any other religion. This varies widely across countries, and seems to have no relationship as to whether or not people hold that their own religion is the only true faith, which varies widely, from a small minority in Western Europe, to a majority in some Muslim countries.

Chief Executive of Ipsos, Ben Page, said:

“The survey is a good reminder to many in western Europe of how much religion matters – and is a force for good – in much of the world. Our analysis shows people would rather keep politics separate from religion, but that in a globalising world, it still matters more than many in old Europe think.”

Patron of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, Rt Hon. Tony Blair, said:

“This survey shows how much religion matters and that no analysis of the contemporary world, political or social, is complete without understanding the relationship between faith and globalisation. The evidence is that, though people fear the prospect of religious strife, even here in Britain, there is much to encourage the view that people can learn to respect those of another faith and live with them peacefully. Inter-faith dialogue and action today is not just an interesting but peripheral minor subject, it is the essence, central to creating greater social cohesion and harmony.”

Technical Note

This release presents the findings of five questions regarding religion and faith, placed on Global @dvisor, an Ipsos survey conducted between 6th and 21st April 2011. The survey is conducted monthly in 24 countries around the world via the Ipsos Online Panel system. An international sample of 18,473 adults, aged 18-64 in the US and Canada, and aged 16-64 in all other countries, were interviewed. Approximately 1000+ individuals participated in each country, with the exception of Argentina, Belgium, Indonesia, Mexico, Poland, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden and Turkey, where 500+ adults were interviewed. In Saudi Arabia, respondents were given the opportunity to opt out of answering these questions given the potential sensitivity of some of the questions, and 354 respondents opted to complete the survey. This means that the findings for Saudi Arabia must be treated with caution as they are based on a smaller sample size of respondents who have actively opted into completing the survey. Weighting was applied to balance demographics and ensure that the sample's composition reflects that of the adult population according to the most recent country Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. In developed countries these findings can be viewed as representative of the wider population. In developing countries, where access to the internet is less widespread, respondents are more likely to be affluent and well connected than the average member of the population.

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