The Church of England have released a poll they claim shows the vast majority of people believe in the power of prayer, when it does no such thing. There is nothing at all wrong with ICM’s actual polling, which asks people “Irrespective of whether you currently pray or not, if you were to pray for something at the moment, What would it be for?” (emphasis is mine). A perfectly reasonable question, asking people what they would pray for, if they were the sort of person who did pray.

However, the Church of England have gone rather rogue in interpreting the results, deciding that everyone who gave an answer to ICM’s hypothetical question of what people would pray for if they prayed must therefore believe in prayer – putting out a press release claiming that “Four out of five British adults believe in the power of prayer”. The Telegraph has gone on a similar flight of fancy, declaring “Six out of seven people still believe that prayers can be answered despite a dramatic drop in formal religious observance, a study has found.”

In a population where only around half of people believe in a god at all, any claim that 80% of people believe prayer works should ring alarm bells anyway. For the record the last poll I can find that actually asked whether people believed that prayer worked was by YouGov for the Sun in 2012. That found 31% of people believed that prayer worked in some way (that is they thought prayers were heard by God, or were physically answered in some other way), compared to 45% who did not and 25% who weren’t sure.

Hat tip to Alex Hern at the New Statesman for spotting it – his own mockery is here.

Meanwhile this morning’s YouGov poll for the Sun had topline figures of CON 30%, LAB 41%, LDEM 13%, UKIP 11%. The thirteen points for the Liberal Democrats is the highest that YouGov have shown them since November 2010. While all the usual caveats about individual polls apply, it is indicitative of a broader underlying trend – since the end of last year there has been a definite uptick in levels of Lib Dem support in YouGov’s daily polling. Last autumn YouGov were typically showing them at 8-10%, in recent weeks they have typically been showing them at around 11-12%.


317 Responses to “No, 80% of people do NOT “believe in prayer””

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  1. A rare, pithy observation by Mrs A this morning.
    on hearing of the retirement from front line politics of young David, she opined that she never saw very much in his political soul, applying the term ‘The Millibland’.

  2. Interesting news this morning regarding the Monetary Policy Committee report into banks and capital holdings. It looks like they are asking banks to greatly increase their capital holdings, while others are saying this is the wrong approach, and it should be made easier for banks to fail, with banks themselves determining their capital requirements.

    This really is important – if they get it wrong, we will see big economic impacts. There were many voices saying that the moves to enforce better capital ratios as we went into recession were ill judged, and let to the restriction of lending and the deepening of recession.

    If regulators remain fixated of bolstering banks balance sheets, then this will run directly counter to their policies of credit easing, so scale and timing are going to be absolutely crucial.

    My fear is that regulators are too obsessed with the financial sector, with too little experience of the real world, and so often fail to see where actions in one harm the other, with feedback loops then undermining the positives from the given action in the first place.

  3. I cannot imagine Liam Byrne’s activities could bring about a return from Lab to LD as I cannot imagine that voters know who he is, let alone anything else, but the result this morning (thanks as always TF) is twice in a row. Three strikes and LD is back? :-)

  4. LEFTY

    @”When I reflect on that, it makes me pause before pouring out my Rationalist arguments against religion.”

    Similar reflections for similar reasons.

    Though “religion” needs specifying-it’s a big range from wholly bonkers/anti-science/imperialist etc, to quite inoffensive , sustaining belief.

    “Faith” & “prayer” are different-very personal & private things at their best.

  5. I note that the figures quoted for the 2012 yougov poll for belief in prayer, disbelief and “don’t know” were 31%, 45% and 25% respectively. A grand total of 101%

    Perhaps The C of E, The Telegraph and Yougov should all pray together for a better grasp of statistics!

  6. Amber

    “David Miliband moving to New York is being spun as ‘a blow’ to Ed Miliband. Actually, it’s confirmation that David & the Party expect Ed to stay leader & form a government in 2015. David is not willing to wait 8 years for his chance to lead so is leaving to pursue other interests.”

    Nail. Head. Bang.

    Does anyone really think that DM would be stepping down from politics if he thought that the Labour leadership would be up for grabs within the next 2 and a bit years?

    Me, I’ll pass on the eye-dabbing eulogies. Miliband was a potentially great politician, but he destroyed himself by his cack-handed fumbling when the top of the pole was in sight.

    Labour made a decent fist of clawing its way back from the depths of its polling slump in 08/09. It would probably have done a fair bit better had the focus not been so heavily placed on whether DM was going to wield the knife and replace Brown. DM did his party a great dis-service by neither putting up, nor shutting up. Considering the way the arithmetic fell out in GE10, there is a convincing case to be made that it was that continuing air of division that stopped Labour being in position to go into coalition with the LDs in 2010.

    And DM’s supporters couldn’t stop by here was another abortive putsch in January 2012 which momentarily damaged EM.

    DM’s leaving may be a loss to the intellectual heft of British politics. But it finally closes the door on the single biggest threat to Labour in 2015 – that Labour would descend into amateurish inter-necine bickering again.

  7. Now we just need Balls to find a nice charity job somewhere! (it’s a joke Amber)

  8. 49% of affiliated members voted in accordance with their union’s recommendation.

    Richard Jobson and Mark Wickham-Jones of Bristol University concluded that “the leadership contest does not meet the definition of a free and fair election because the candidates did not secure equal access to the electorate in their campaigning, voters were not fully informed about the five candidates and their policies because the unions distributed information about only their preferred candidates alongside ballot papers.”

    After the election both Len McCluskey and Ed Miliband stated that they were prepared to look at rule changes to overcome any perceived democratic deficit.

  9. @ Leftylampton

    Or it could be that DM is aware that even if Labour gets back into government in 2015, it too will have to implement further rounds of austerity. That will make them very unpopular with their voter base and will not be any fun for a party whose very mission is founded on increasing public spending.

  10. RC

    Right. I hadn’t thought of that.

    So, when he stood for the Labour leadership 30 months ago, are we to assume that DM expected to sail into Downing Street in 2015 on a tsunami of economic growth, and be in a position to shower public money on all parts of the Kingdom?

  11. I agree with Lefty L.

    We are aware that GB had a mountain to climb but what went on with Hoon, and the antics of the small red headed lady (whose name escapes me) was unbelievable.

    Still, I should not intrude on private grief here; however party disunity is a killer blow and no mistake.

  12. An interesting piece of information Billy Bob.

    Puts rather a dampener on all that “free & fair” stuff.

    And puts Tessa Jowell’s remark on R4 this morning -” That is the way we elect Labour leaders” -into a rather uncomfortable context.

  13. @RC

    Alternatively, they could reverse the most unpopular policy decisions. Then selectively take apart the Conservative Austerity package.

    Economically speaking, I would expect the sudden surge of money into the UK economy from undoing austerity would probably give them a solid year of good GDP figures. Particularly if they undo the benefit cuts, which have the highest multipliers. The Conservatives will then claim that “Just like in 97, Labour take the benefit for our hard choices!”

    What might happen tho is they are advised to be slow on undoing Austerity to prevent s sudden lurch and stall due to over-heating in the economy.

    I really don’t see why they *have* to follow the same route as GO. And in fact I see every reason why they, and indeed the government currently in power, could roll back Austerity.

  14. Founded in 1933, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) is a global network of first responders, humanitarian relief workers, healthcare providers, educators, community leaders, activists, and volunteers. The IRC is on the ground in 42 countries, providing emergency relief, relocating refugees, and rebuilding lives in the wake of disaster.

    – Seems a worthwhile reason to leave British Politics not quite the same as lining your pockets as a Non Exec Director of a Privatised Utility

  15. @Billy Bob

    “Richard Jobson and Mark Wickham-Jones of Bristol University concluded that “the leadership contest does not meet the definition of a free and fair election because the candidates did not secure equal access to the electorate in their campaigning, voters were not fully informed about the five candidates and their policies because the unions distributed information about only their preferred candidates alongside ballot papers.”

    That criticism might be more credible if the candidates in question were hitherto unknown quantities to the electorate, but the Milibands, Abbott, Burnham and Balls were nationally recognisable and well known political figures who were campaigning publicly in the media at the time. Are we seriously arguing that the trade union members who cast their vote in secret and individually weren’t aware of the candidates political stances and personal attributes and dependent on what the union leadership fed them?

    The Union leaders may have made recommendations and expressed preferences, but the idea that each individual trade union member was pressurised into making a decision against their better judgement, or in ignorance, is risible.

    Now, if Ed Miliband’s election was based on union block votes, then I’d have a much more jaundiced view of his legitimacy, but it wasn’t.

    This doesn’t come from a rankled Ed supporter either. I voted for David, but to claim he was the victim of an old fashioned union stitch up is nonsense.

  16. @ Colin

    Puts rather a dampener on all that “free & fair” stuff.

    And puts Tessa Jowell’s remark on R4 this morning -” That is the way we elect Labour leaders” -into a rather uncomfortable context.
    ——————-
    Losers & their friends always complain about ‘the system’.

    David Miliband & Diane Abbott had much higher public profiles than the rest of the candidates. Ed Miliband ran a better campaign & said he’d do more for Labour supporters & voters thereby winning the endorsement of some of the Unions – not all; some endorsed David but you didn’t hear his team complaining that the ones who endorsed David didn’t send out literature about all the candidates.

    Personally, I don’t care how the Tories, LibDems or UKIP elect their leader. I’m not a member of those Parties, nor do I vote for them, so why should I care?

    The faux concern about how Labour elects its leaders is thinly disguised ‘Union bashing’ & given the incredibly measured way in which the Unions have responded to the biggest attacks on their members’ terms, conditions & living standards in a generation, people should think before they indulge in it.

  17. The acceptable face of Miliband leaves, oh dear, still never mind the dream team of the two Ed’s lives on.

  18. @ LeftyLampton

    I agree with you.

    It shows that Ed is doing better than people expected, and is a blow for the Blairites.

  19. Haven’t commented for a while – in fact I’ve been a bit of a classic lurker – but felt the need to put my hand up this morning.

    David Miliband is 47. Why is everybody reacting to his completely understandable decision to go off and do something completely different as the complete, final, no returns, cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die end of his political career? He could return in 10 years time if he chose with his reputation enhanced by an excellent addition to the “look what I’ve done in the real world” part of his CV. Sorry, resumé.

    Since the leadership contest I think both David and Ed have behaved impeccably to each other, certainly in public and one has to assume in private as well. Ed is doing far better as leader than any commentator gave him any chance to be, and although 26 months is an eternity of a long time in politics at the moment looks like having a great chance of achieving his and his party’s primary aim of restricting the coalition to a single term. I’m sure David is going off to his new job delighted that things are going so well for his little brother so far, knowing that his own shadow being removed from the proceedings can only help in the short and medium term. But I bet he’ll be back into British politics at some stage.

  20. @Crossbatt11

    Like you I did support David for the leadership, however, I have come to the conclusion that Ed is temperamentally better suited to the job – I have been impressed with much of his thinking, tactical approach towards Cameron and so on. I’m hoping he will eventually make a breakthrough with the electorate.

    I wasn’t really making a point, just responding with some qualifying information to set alongside the OMOV argument. If local councils for example could determine which candidate was allowed access to the electoral vote and which candidate’s supporters were allowed to canvas door-to-door you could still say the result was fair under OMOV.

    It is all water under the bridge, but Labour supporters are allowed to question these things. Funnily enough I was just reading a Benedict Brogan article written before the 2010 election about how much of David Cameron’s forthcoming victory will be down to the influence of Lord Ashcroft.

  21. “electoral vote” should real electoral roll

  22. Suspending lurking for this post. I agree with LeftyL 8.58. DM hesitated when he could have (should have?) shown courage in 2010. He was a poor loser in 2010. Lab, of all parties, don’t do primogeniture.

    I attended the leadership hustings in 2010, and initially I thought I would vote for DM. I changed to EdM on the basis of his performance there. I found him more introspective, more thoughtful, less of a triangulator, and – crucially – untainted by Iraq. I also thought that DM would simply be the Blair continuation candidate, and grateful though I am to Blair for 3 GE victories, he has had his day. Time to move on. Needless to say, I have been impressed by EdM calling many of the big issues right without partisan hysteria, and by his skill in keeping Labour remarkably free from public discord. As Amber noted, it is testament to EdM’s strength that there is no opening for DM.

    Question for the non-Lab posters here. If DM had won the leadership by the same slender margin, would the legitimacy of his victory be doubted as EdM’s has been? Do electoral college rules only matter when the ‘wrong’ candidate wins?

  23. Oh my lord, the unraveling of the mortgage subsidy keeps going. Now we are told that we will have hundreds of thousands of Russian gangsters coming here to take advantage of subsidized second homes!!(OK I’m laying in on a bit thick) was this really a back of the fag packet policy, it’s got more glued than Swiss cheese

  24. Notice how I stayed on topic by beginning my post with a prayer

  25. @leftylampton – ” …it was that continuing air of division that stopped Labour being in position to go into coalition with the LDs in 2010.”

    My reading was that Labour did have a failure of nerve… I thought GB was a good PM and the country did have much to thank him for… but would my local party (or anyone else’s) dare include a picture of him on their literature? Dave Cameron was essentially applying for a vacant position.

    This was a collective failure fron Labour MPs unable to

    Personally I find it possible to admire Ed without having to denigrate his brother.

  26. Sorry for the slander on Swiss cheese, it has holes not glue

  27. @leftylampton – ” …it was that continuing air of division that stopped Labour being in position to go into coalition with the LDs in 2010.”

    My reading was that Labour did have a failure of nerve… I thought GB was a good PM and the country did have much to thank him for… but would my local party (or anyone else’s) include a picture of him on their literature? Dave Cameron was essentially applying for a vacant position.

    This was a collective failure fron Labour MPs unable to generate any enthusiasm for their leader… why else was Harriett Harman putting together the New Year push against Brown? The were all reading the Guardian and accepting the narrative. It can’t all be pinned on David Miliband. He would no doubt have stood as a candidate if there had been a contest, but it was not his place to precipitate one.

    Personally I find it possible to admire Ed without having to paint his brother as a villain.

  28. It seems more non Labour supporters are upset that DM is leaving politics. Could it be that he is spoiling their planned negative campaign for the GE?

  29. @Billy Bob
    “I’m hoping he will eventually make a breakthrough with the electorate.”

    I find phrases like this very silly, when Labour have a consistent ten point lead in the polls. If Ed does make this “breakthrough with the electorate”, should we expect 20 point leads?

    Or perhaps, is leader personality polling irrelevant to a parliamentary election. I’m quite quite confused at the continuing obsession over it. It’s not Ed M’s job to be personally popular and a super star hit. It’s his job to get Labour in as the next government, and that’s his ultimate assessment.

  30. @ Richard iN

    “Sorry for the slander on Swiss cheese, it has holes not glue”

    Your slander was worse. It is the holes that have cheese. They make these cheeses by taking a few holes and put cheese around them.

    I’m sure they will “refine” the rules on this mortgage subsidy. Politically it’s just extremely dangerous.

  31. @jayblanc

    I could be wrong, but I think a case could be made that the “best PM” measure becomes increasingly important during the general election campaign. I can’t make any prediction about how the Conservative and Labour leaders will measure up by then… that is why I express my hope that Ed improves relatively speaking.

  32. @JAYBLANC

    “It’s not Ed M’s job to be personally popular and a super star hit. It’s his job to get Labour in as the next government,”

    Absolutely. Although EdM is a ‘handsome super star’ in my book.

  33. @JAYBLANC

    I think it is more than that. When I look back to the start of New Labour I wonder if they needed to go quite so far to the right to win in 1997. They might not have had such a large majority, if they had kept some more socialist ideas but they would have still have had a majority.

    Then I look at the banks, the current governments policies on benefits etc and I wonder if Labour did enough to change society to a more equal and fair society during their three terms. The best thing for Scotland was the setting up of the Scottish parliament as we are protected from many Tory policies on the NHS, tuition fees etc. But they could have done more for the rest of the country,

    So I think EM’s task is to win but also to win wthout moving to the right.

  34. @ The Other Howard

    It still was a smaller loss than Lamont’s master stroke in 1992.

    Anyway, it seemed to be a good idea when Brown started to sell the gold. It turned out that it wasn’t loosing about 2 billion.

    In any case, with the need of constantly reassessing the reserve portfolio, I’m quite sure losses and gains happen every day.

  35. “UK gross domestic product (GDP) in volume terms was estimated to have decreased by 0.3%
    between the third and fourth quarter of 2012, unrevised from the previous publication.

    The households’ saving ratio was estimated to be 7.1% in 2012, the highest since the 1997
    estimate of 8.1%.

    • Real household disposable income increased by 2.1% between 2011 and 2012. This is the
    highest growth since 2003 when it rose by 2.7%.”

    ONS.
    Quarterly National Accounts.
    Q12 2012 update.

  36. Dear Howie,

    Thankyou for desisting with your silly verbal smiies

    Crofty [smug smirk]

  37. Interesting to think that EM’s increasing confidence in recent weeks might have been down in part, subconsciously perhaps, to knowing that his brother was likely to be moving on.

    And interesting to see if it develops further now that it’s out in the open.

  38. It seems that some comments just disappeared?

  39. Colin

    Good links on the gold sales

  40. Laszlo

    Yeah, comments disappearing happen a lot when Gordon brown is being discussed, seems he brings out the partisan worse in folk on both sides

  41. Liam Byrne

    apparently his Mum doesn’t know who he is so I doubt he will be altering VI very much.

  42. Richard/Laszlo

    Yep-gone forever.

    Couldn’t be partisanity-I didn’t comment.

    Ah well.

  43. ALEC

    @”If regulators remain fixated of bolstering banks balance sheets, then this will run directly counter to their policies of credit easing, so scale and timing are going to be absolutely crucial.”

    You, like Vince Cable , appear not to have read what the Bank actually said.

    Peston covers it as follows :-

    “But isn’t there a danger, as I’ve mentioned here many times, that banks will hit their new capital ratio targets by shrinking lending, rather than finding new capital?

    Well the FPC is instructing the new bank supervisor, the Prudential Regulation Authority, to stop that from happening: “The PRA should ensure that major UK banks and building societies meet the requirements…by issuing new capital or restricting balance sheets in a way that does not hinder lending to the economy”.

    THis is exactly the right move-if you are short of long term capital-go the equity markets with a rights issue.
    Cyprus may make good tv & lots of debate on matters EU-but it has a lesson for UK.:

    If you allow your banks to grow balance sheets to a size which is too big to fail & too big for you to rescue-when they strike trouble-so do you.

    The little local difficulty on the BoE edict is that GO will not want to buy any more bank shares. The Treasury says they wont need a share issue.-RBS & Lloyds can dispose of further assets ( Visa/Coutts etc) and/or sell bonds to cover their capital requirement-( around

  44. ……….oops

    ( around £7.5bn of the £25bn)

    Peston asks two key questions :-

    Has PRA got the clout?

    How much further into the future does this push a disposal of RBS & Lloyds ?

  45. @ Colin

    I was almost expecting Osborne to push a mandatory debt-equity swap to privatize the RBS, if it had worked in Cyprus.

    He probably needs to reassure depositors that he won’t or he could precipitate a run on the bank from its biggest depositors.

  46. AMBER

    I think he is stuck with both of them for a while, until the markets are satisfied their balance sheets are clean & they are capitalised to BoE / Basl 111 requirements.

    The Treasury needs the equivalent of £5 share to break even on RBS.

    It is £2.78p today.

  47. @colin – “You, like Vince Cable , appear not to have read what the Bank actually said.”

    That’s correct – I posted this before the statement was released. I was also stating what would happen if the BoE got it wrong, and I’m glad they have said this.

    However, I don’t have much confidence in the BoE. They have already run several systems designed to promote lending, which have largely failed. How they can ensure banks improve their capital ratios without any pressure on lending I’m really not sure – the BoE does not sit in on every lending decision made by the banks, so they will react in the best way the market dictates.

  48. Oh hell

    Luxembourg has just said it’s not Cyprus!!

    I don’t think they were talking about climate or geography

  49. I like the way no one has commented on what I said previously. Possibly a bit too close to the bone for some??

    Maybe we could treat this topic with more respect. I notice quite a few people’s use of the name of God in vain. Maybe they could look up the Bible – Exodus 20 v 7.

    Thankyou.

  50. @ ALI

    Possibly a bit too close to the bone for some??
    —————
    Too close to the bone for the entire site; your comment seems not to have made it through moderation.

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