Non-religious people encouraged to ‘be honest’ about their beliefs in 2022 Census

  • New research shows sharp decline in religious identity compared to research 11 years ago
  • Around a million less Scots now identify with Christian groups compared to 2011
  • In 2011 53% of people in Scotland identified as Christian – by 2022 that has dropped to 33%
  • However further analysis reveals most who identify as Christian don’t share in key Christian beliefs – around a third of Christians (36%) said they ‘believe the teachings of Christianity’ while only 28% said they ‘believe that Jesus was a real person who died and came back to life and was the son of God’ and only 18% attend church services
  • Concerns raised with accuracy of census religion data as alternative wording used in other countries reveals only 19% of Scottish adult surveyed consider themselves ‘religious’
  • 70% of young people aged 18-34 stated they had no religion, compared to 50% surveyed in 2011
  • The 2022 Scottish census has been launched in the last week with households being asked to complete the survey in March 2022

New research carried out by YouGov published today by Humanist Society Scotland reveals how the 2022 Scottish census is potentially expected to show a vast decline in religious identity when compared to the 2011 census.

The poll findings reveal how 56% of Scottish adults could tick the ‘none’ box when asked what religion they ‘belong to’ this month. 33% are expected to identify with a Christian denomination with around 6% aligning with other faith traditions.

However the findings of the research could raise questions with the census data reliability. When the same set of people were asked ‘are you religious’ a whopping 75% responded ‘No, I am not’. This question is used by continent wide research groups like the European Social Survey, and considered by statisticians to more accurately reflect individual beliefs than the questions used in the Scottish census.

Part of the 20% difference can be attributed to ‘census Christians’ who when asked about ‘group affiliation’ identify with a Christian denomination because they were baptised or christened or went to a faith school despite not believing in the teachings of Christianity. Only 36% of people surveyed who identified as a Christian said they actually believed in the teachings of Christianity.

A photo of Fraser Sutherland from 2019

Fraser Sutherland

Commenting on the findings Chief Executive of Humanist Society Scotland Fraser Sutherland said,

“These findings show that the biggest demographic shift we will see in the 2022 Scottish census will be on religious identity. However questions must be asked about census planners’ continued insistence on the use of a question that is shown to overrepresent religious identity by as much as a million people.

“We are asking everyone to pause and think about their beliefs before they fill in the census this year, ascertaining if they actually follow the religion and believe in the teachings of the faith, or if they are ticking a box in recognition of the faith they were brought up in but no longer adhere to. This data is used to justify compulsory Christian religious observance in Scottish schools for example – answering the question honestly will ensure an accurate picture of religious and non religious beliefs in Scotland.”

To read more about why the census data is important, read our more information here.

Full research tables from YouGov for the 2022 research are available to download here.

Full research tables from YouGov for the 2011 research are available to download here.


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