Religion in Great Britain, 2011

Today the Office of National Statistics, (ONS), published the latest “key statistics and a selection of quick statistics tables for local authorities in England and Wales, with commentary and short stories on international migration, ethnic group and religion, and Welsh language”.  Full national censuses have been undertaken at ten-yearly intervals since 1801, except for 1941 during the Second World War, and in Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State in 1921.  The Census Act 1920 is the principal legislation relating to the conduct of censuses in Great Britain, for which section 8 provides penalties for failure to comply, provision of false information, &c, although those under section 8(1) do not apply to the refusal or neglect of any particulars in respect of religion.

Details of the information relating to religion are to be found here, for which there are interactive maps, here.  The 2011 data relating to religion are fully compatible with those in the 2001 Census, which used the same question:

‘What is your religion?’

which was  intended to determine religious affiliation, i.e. “how we connect or identify with a religion, irrespective of actual practise or belief”. It is noted that “[r]eligion is a many-sided concept and there are other aspects of religion such as religious belief, religious practice or belonging which are not covered in this analysis”.

Data on religion in England and Wales are reported here, for which the headline issues are:

  • Although the number of Christians has fallen since 2001, Christianity remains the largest religion in England and Wales in 2011, (59.3%). Muslims are the next largest religious group, (4.8), and are greater than the total number of Hindus, Sikhs, Jews, and those of other smaller religious groupings, (3.6% in total).
  • There are 14.1 million people, 25.1% of the population in England and Wales, who with no reported religious affiliation.
  • The question on religion was the only one that was voluntary, and 7.2% chose not to give an answer.

With regard to regional variations,

  • The most diverse region was London having the highest proportion of people identifying themselves as Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu and Jewish; The North East and North West had the highest proportion of Christians; and Wales had the highest proportion of people reporting no religion.
  • Knowsley, Merseyside, was the local authority with the highest proportion of Christians, (80.9 %); Tower Hamlets had the highest proportion of Muslims. (34.5%); Norwich the highest proportion of the population reporting no religion, (42.5%).


The above information is as-reported by the Office of National Statistics, and no attempt has been made at its interpretation. The ONS provides detailed clarification of the methodology used and advises against comparison with its other data sets, except those relating to England and Wales in 2001, here.

Some researchers use “The Annual Population Survey”, as this provides more recent information than that in the national censuses, and although the question relating to religious affiliation was aligned in 2011, comparison should be undertaken with caution.

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "Religion in Great Britain, 2011" in Law & Religion UK, 11 December 2012,

2 thoughts on “Religion in Great Britain, 2011

  1. As in the 2001 Census I declared myself as “other” on the grounds that it was the description that best fitted me as a Quaker of the Unitarian/Universalist tendency. I guess not everyone is as literal-minded as I am: but it does raise the question about definitions and what the labels actually mean.

    I don’t see how someone like me, who firmly rejects the doctrine of the Trinity as a solution still seeking a problem, can describe himself or herself as a “Christian”: equally, I’m sure that a lot of those who did so would be barely able to distinguish Shrove Tuesday from Sheffield Wednesday.

  2. Pingback: UK Census 2011 religious statistics released today #census2011 | eChurch Blog

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