Theos/ComRes Poll: Religious vote key to election result as Labour closes in on Conservatives
Voters with a religious faith could determine the outcome of the general election, according to a new poll published by Theos, the public theology think tank.
In an opinion poll conducted for Theos by ComRes, support for the Conservatives has dropped two points from last week to 38%, Labour is up one to 30% and the Lib Dems are down one to 20%. Others are up two to 12%. All these changes are within the margin of error.
The poll reveals some striking differences among religious groups. Despite the Iraq war and concern about anti-terror laws, 57% of Muslims intend to vote Labour. Only 32% of Muslims are 'absolutely certain' to vote, however – well below the national average of 47%.
For the Conservatives, support amongst those of no religion has grown sharply since 2005 (up from 21% to 34%) but amongst Christians it has only grown from 38% to 40%. Amongst Christians, however, 48% say they are ‘absolutely certain’ to vote, a figure which rises to 61% amongst Christians who say their faith is very important to their lives.
One reason for the Conservatives’ limited gains amongst Christians is that only 21% of people believe that the Conservative Party has been the friendliest towards the Christian faith over recent years, only fractionally different from the 20% for Labour. 9% say the Liberal Democrats.
However, Labour is seen as most friendly to Islam by 36% of the public, while 10% say the same of the Conservatives and 7% say it of the Liberal Democrats. Among Muslims, 49% say that Labour is most friendly towards their faith.
The Liberal Democrats poll best amongst people who say they do not belong to any religion, scoring 26% compared to 20% overall and 18% amongst Christians.
The research also reveals that one-third of people (32%) believe that religious freedoms have been restricted in Britain over the last 10 years, compared with 59% who disagree. However, both Muslims and strong Christians take a different view. 51% of Christians who say their faith is very important to their lives and 53% of Muslims believe that religious freedoms have been restricted over the past 10 years.
In the light of recent comments by the Pope regarding the UK’s equality laws, it is notable that two thirds (64%) of people believe that he and other religious leaders have a responsibility to speak out on political issues they are concerned about, compared with only 30% who disagree. 63% disagree that the law should prevent people from expressing their religious views in the work place.
The poll also shows a gender divide in attitudes towards religion with women less likely than men to say their religious beliefs do not really influence their life (40% - 53%).
Commenting on the research, Director of Theos Paul Woolley said:
"The result of the election looks too close to call. We're in hung parliament territory.
"The balance of support among the different faith groups shows that the Conservatives cannot afford to lose the current support they have among Christians. Labour is in a position where it could benefit from reaching out especially to Christians.
"The problem for Labour is that the people most likely to support Labour are also the least likely to vote. Muslims are most likely to vote Labour (57%) but only 32% of Muslims are 'absolutely certain' to vote, compared with 47% of the population as a whole.
"The UK isn't like the United States, but the religious vote is going to be a critical factor in determining who gets into Number 10 – especially when it comes to appealing to female voters."