Religious Diversity in UK Parliamentary Constituencies

Dr Theo Zenou and Dr Alan Mendoza

In April 2015, the Henry Jackson Society released a briefing about the presence of religious groups throughout the United Kingdom. Titled Religious Diversity in British Parliamentary Constituencies, it detailed the number and proportion of religious communities in every parliamentary constituency. (The data was taken from the 2011 census).

The briefing was published a month before the general election of May 2015. The aim was to give a picture of the religious dynamics underpinning British politics. “This research is vital for anyone considering the impact religious groups can have on political behaviour in the run up to the May 2015 general election and beyond,” wrote Dr Alan Mendoza, the briefing’s author and the Henry Jackson Society’s Executive Director.

Now, in time for the July 2024 general election, the Henry Jackson Society has once again examined religious diversity across parliamentary constituencies. In partnership with Electoral Calculus, we have created the following website:

The website features an interactive map of the UK, whereby users can discover the religious make-up of the country’s constituencies, regions and local government wards. Among other things, they can see which faith group has the largest number of adherents at various levels. They can also find out which faith group is the largest minority—excluding Christianity and those of no religion—at the constituency, regional and ward level. The website, moreover, contains an interactive table of constituencies. It breaks down their religious diversity, and can be sorted by high or low levels of membership of specific religions. Accompanying the website is the present briefing, which provides a topline summary of the latest data on religious diversity in Britain.

The goal of this project is to spotlight the potential impact of religious groups on British parliamentary elections, although given the data is available for regional and local government ward level as well, it will also have applicability in more localised contests. In recent months this has become a major topic of discussion—and speculation—in the press. Now, thanks to our interactive map and table, political commentators and researchers will be able to dig deeper into this issue in an easily accessible format. They’ll be able to enrich their analyses with empirical and visual data. We aim for our website to be a valuable resource for years to come, long after the dust has settled on the current general election.

An important stipulation should be made from the outset. Religious affiliation isn’t a surefire predictor of voting behaviour, and no attempt is therefore made in this briefing to suggest the impact of the presence of any particular grouping in a constituency or ward. It can be an indication, but it is in no way a prophecy. Religious groups aren’t monoliths. Co-religionists don’t automatically share the same political beliefs simply because they hail from the same community. Political analysts should never fall prey to determinism or lazy tropes. As Dr Mendoza argued back in 2015: “Religious identity is just one of a complex set of factors that determine who electors vote for.” Other factors include socio-economic status, age, gender, sexual orientation, personality traits, level of education, profession and geographical location. The life experiences of individual voters also matter.

Another caveat to note is that as religion in the census is a matter of self-definition, it is therefore not possible to understand from this data the level of religiosity of any particular respondent. Respondents will likely cover the whole range of religiosity from having a cultural or familial connection to a particular religion all the way to full religious practice. Religions in the UK are also extremely diverse in their internal natures, and it is not unlikely that any two adherents of a particular religion may well diverge sharply in their beliefs based on personal choice or the particular sect they might affiliate to.

It is also important to stress that the data we are using is for the entire population of a constituency or ward. As this includes those under the legal voting age, there may be a difference in the total population religion percentages for an area versus the voting age religion percentages and the reader will need to make an appropriate determination for what would be an appropriate adjustment to make if the latter figure is required.

Finally, as religion is a voluntary question in the census, there may well be some adherents of particular religions who did not wish to answer that question. The data obtained is therefore from those who answered the question, not necessarily from the entire population who answered the census.

Read the full briefing HERE


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