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. “Maybe we could treat this topic with more respect.”

    Hmmm. As I said before, it’s like faeries at the bottom of the garden – some people take them seriously, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us have to.

  2. @LizH

    “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?”

    Sadly, I think a fully engaged and committed David Miliband would have been a great asset to the Labour Party and I’m still a little haunted by the memory of watching an ITN focus group of non-aligned voters being asked to give their reactions to clips of the five contenders for the Labour leadership in late 2010. To a person, and quite forcibly in some cases, they opted for David as the most plausible and convincing of the five. Non-scientific, I know, and maybe too anecdotal for some, but the focus group members seemed like pretty typical floating voters to me; people disengaged from party politics and politicians in between general elections, but who tended to turn out when required with their voting intentions quite often determined by gut feels, hunches, foibles and personalities.

    I hope my worries prove unfounded and, as others have said, I’ve warmed to Ed Miliband considerably over the last two years or so. He may well prove to have been a wise choice for the party, and I wonder if David’s disappearance removes a potential embarrassment arising from the soon-to-report torture and rendition inquiry, but the Party has lost, albeit temporarily maybe, a very talented politician with gravitas, senior ministerial experience and considerable intellect.

    They aren’t too many politicians of that calibre on either side of the House in my view.

  3. @RiN

    Agreed GB is best not discussed on here.

  4. I’m with Mrs A re DM.
    I hope progress group stopsome of their carping.
    They remind me of the ‘one more heave tendency’ in the early 90s in thinking all we need is a return to Blairs agenda to win an OM.
    As per Tark, thanks for the wins but times have moved on.

    Like some on the right of the Tories who won’t forgive DC for not getting an OM if (as imo is likely) EM does not get an OM but achieves largest party status there will be ‘ the new Dynasaurs’ claiming with DM as leader we would have won.

    In both cases an OM would been exceptional given the Electoral mountain to climb.

    Rob S – you still reading, as a measured critic of the early EM leadership I would be keen to get your take now.

  5. RiN

    Malta, Slovenia & Latvia receiving comment too.

    Sky just reporting those Cypriot Credit Controls. They include a ban on cashing cheques!

    Truly amazing precedent within a supposed single currency.

    They say it is all “temporary” .??

  6. @Lazslo
    Your post quite a while a go (I’ve not been around for a while) was interesting but still does not explain the ‘coincidence’. You mention Israel being different today in contrast to the times of Ezekiel, but this holds no water as Israel (especially Jerusalem) is still largely in the same geographical position. You make out that this is only the interpretation of some – this holds even less water. The fact that the people predicting the countries involved were using other Biblical references, they were writing four hundred years ago anyway and even in the 1600s, when King James I’s translators were at work, they had no idea that the nations (then Mesopatamia and Russia) were going to politically rival to Israel in this period of time. Are you saying that James I’s translators were the profits?

    Interesting though your comments were I would prefer a valid, sensible explanation.

  7. I meant prophets in the last post, the picky ones can go in peace.

  8. @Ali
    While I’m still posting – nice post earlier. I wholeheartedly agree.

  9. Just came in and noticed some people still banging on about religion. Does any deity favour a particular party?

    Please don’t answer that. :-)

    Euro still sliding (a bit) against the dollar but the main slide was over a week ago and in sudden jumps. That usually indicates big-time speculators. We who are in relative penury cannot bring about such movements.

    What is the next poll mover then, now that neither Budget nor Cyprus did ‘out ?

  10. @CROSSBAT11

    “they opted for David as the most plausible and convincing of the five.”

    DM had an international profile as a politician and this may have convinced some that he was therefore more experienced and suited as a future leader. His expertise is not lost and EdM will consult him if he needs/wants to as he does now. I totally agree with DM’s reasons for leaving (i.e. better for him and the Party) and like someone said further up, we don’t have to dislike one brother to like the other. Imo we have the right brother as leader.

  11. @ ALI

    …then moments before he died, his restlessness ceased. He said ‘I’ve prayed, and I no longer feel my pain.’

    Makes you wonder.
    —————–
    I found your comment, miles back in the thread.

    Many people with terminal illnesses have this experience of pain disappearing during the period when death is imminent. It happens with or without prayer & sometimes gives false hope to friends & family that the person will have a remission.

    I have friends in the nursing profession who use this as one of the signs that it’s time to contact friends or family who are not nearby to come as soon as possible & say their last goodbyes.

  12. @Howard

    I’m not trying to be ‘disobedient’ but I must say that your first question is interesting. As it happens we are discussing politics as we are today because of the Bible! The reference on which British democracy is based is in the Bible. I cannot remember the reference but I’m sure you’ll find it by googling it. It speaks of government being in God. Not as secular a state as some might imagine, are we?

  13. This is forum for discussion of polling, so please people don’t get onto religious debate (especially people who seem to have newly turned up solely for that reason… you are very welcome to stay and discuss politics, opinion polling methodology and public opinion… but not to bang on about biblical prophesy)

  14. AW

    Heretic.

  15. I’m pretty sure that the idea of democracy predates Christianity, in fact the social organization that christianity is most associated with is the divine right of kings

  16. Paulcroft

    Yes indeed, I would suggest burning AW at the stake but it would leave us without a venue to discuss his heresies

  17. RiN

    “burning at the stake”

    Bit harsh! Hanging, drawing [I can do that in my new role as great artist] but no quartering seems fairer.

  18. I think the best way to take the name of the lord in vain is to pray specifically to him.

  19. “I would suggest burning AW at the stake …”

    Would that make him a stakeholder, if only momentarily?

  20. Fun & games in Italy.

    Bersani rebuffed by Berlusconi & Grillo.

    Grillo said Bersani and Berlusconi are “founding whoremongers” who had “screwed” an entire generation.

    The Five Star Movement’s refusal to support a centre-left government has reportedly angered many of its supporters who want Italy’s squabbling politicians to move on.

    Asked if he would be asked to carry on , Monti said :-

    “This government, and I’ll say it in the most respectful way possible, can’t wait to have its mandate rescinded. It’s a mandate we didn’t ask for in November 2011. It was the world of politics that found the situation too complicated to handle it.”

  21. Re: David Miliband,

    I agree with those on here who believe DM was a huge asset for the Labour Party. With him as leader, I have no doubt that Labour would have achieved a big majority/landslide in 2015. In many ways, he reminded me of Tony Blair but without the Iraq issue.

  22. By the way earlier I wrote ‘out. I meant ‘owt. Not too well up on this yorky lingo.

    So what is the next known ‘event’? That is what I was asking about. Not the local elections surely? I was looking at teh composition of Milton Keynes council earlier (no, don’t ask me why as I can’t remember now), I noted that, apart from the more rural usual leafy bits going to whom you would suspect, there werer little enclaves where a history of committed activism produced a hegemony.

    So Wolverton (old railway works|) had some Lab oncentration whereas in a more socailly ‘new’ area, the LDs had made inroads, including an apparent husband and wife combo.

    My point is (I do have one) that we have to take the locals results very much with care as I believe they are very heavily influenced in this way. Another way of putting it is that FPTP works even more unfairly due to the smaller areas of the wards or divisions.

  23. Short memory AS!!!!

  24. ” In many ways, he reminded me of Tony Blair but without the Iraq issue.”

    Eh!

  25. @Akec and others,

    DM is more of a centrist – more my cup of tea (and like TB). He is also very charismatic, rather like Tony himself.

  26. Excuse my typos! Been sipping too much wine! :P

  27. “I agree with those on here who believe DM was a huge asset for the Labour Party. With him as leader, I have no doubt that Labour would have achieved a big majority/landslide in 2015. In many ways, he reminded me of Tony Blair but without the Iraq issue.”

    That seems to be point of debate. Lab voters on here seem to be saying they don’t necessarily need another Blair OR pursue a big majority/landslide with a leader that possibly appeals beyond the Lab tribal borders to win the 2015 GE. They may well be right.

    I can only say that because as a non-Lab voter I held DM in very high regard and agree with those who have been saying he is a great loss to British politics.

  28. The trade figures out today are really rather savage. Without wishing to fall foul of AW’s scissors, there really isn’t any conceivable way to view these politically other than through the prism of total failure of a central plank of government policy.

    Rebalancing of the economy was meant to be the driving force of the recovery, and the counter balance to domestic austerity – without surging demand for your exports, austerity at home just doesn’t work.

    The trade deficit ramped up massively last year, and all the weak pound has done is to feed inflation that squeezes disposable incomes, while giving precious little boost to exports.

    We can blame the Euro crisis I suppose, but Q4 showed exports to non EU countries weakening significantly, suggesting there is something far more troubling going on.

    Osborne has now veered off to focus on the domestic construction sector, but the OBR believes the housing loans policy will have little impact of house building but will create a price hike. Again, if true this would also amount to complete failure.

    I think there are areas where Osborne has been unlucky, and external influences are always highly influential in economics, but (and again I am trying to be non partisan here) it really is extremely difficult to conclude anything other than every major economic policy decision taken has failed, more or less completely.

  29. “That seems to be point of debate. Lab voters on here seem to be saying they don’t necessarily need another Blair OR pursue a big majority/landslide with a leader that possibly appeals beyond the Lab tribal borders to win the 2015 GE. They may well be right.”

    I agree that Labour can win big without DM. But with him, I think a big Labour majority/landslide would have been a virtual certainty. As it is, they might still achieve that, but it’s more open to doubt IMO.

  30. “DM is more of a centrist – more my cup of tea (and like TB). He is also very charismatic, rather like Tony himself.”

    Where though would he fit along the line of a strong state (albeit in centrist terms) versus a libertarian society of free individuals?

    That would be the deal breaker for me with DM – as indeed it was with old TB himself.

    Even so my ideal party would run a spectrum from DM to DC with a run through NC en route (Just with an emphasis to individuals providing their own answers to the problems facing their communities rather than politicians/the state) – so perhaps its inevitable I see DM as a real loss.

  31. @GrhinPorts,

    “Even so my ideal party would run a spectrum from DM to DC with a run through NC en route (Just with an emphasis to individuals providing their own answers to the problems facing their communities rather than politicians/the state) – so perhaps its inevitable I see DM as a real loss.”

    Yep. I agree with some values/policies of the left and some of the right. I think a sensible approach is always to combine the two, for example, in the way you describe.

  32. AS – I’m basically with you on this. I do Lab will probably win in 2015 or at least end up as largest party. But IMO would have ended up with a larger win with DM as their leader.

    However there is a legitimate argument made by Lab voters here that Lab can maybe achieve more with a smaller majority and perhaps even as largest party in a coalition.

  33. @Grhinports,

    “However there is a legitimate argument made by Lab voters here that Lab can maybe achieve more with a smaller majority and perhaps even as largest party in a coalition.”

    Indeed there is. I guess that would depend hugely on the size of the Labour majority or the size of the majority that the LIb/Lab coalition would command. Anything less than a majority of 20 – either through a Labour majority or a Lab/Lib coalition – would be problematic IMO. A majority of more than that would mean that Labour would stand a good chance of lasting the full 5 year term and be able to see through most of its policies IMO.

    ” I do Lab will probably win in 2015 or at least end up as largest party.”

    Likewise.

  34. @ Anthony Wells

    ‘banging on’ – I thought this meant something repeated?? As far as I am concerned, saying something once is not repeating?

    Seems you dont like my opinion that the C of E may be correct?

  35. There was a lot of chatter on these pages concerning President Hollandes when he got elected his employment, tax and spend with minimal cuts in the budget idea’s. I believe it was sold as a package similar to Labours budget ideas, not heard much about it lately hows that going then, I’ve heard he’s very popular or not as the case may be.

  36. Good Evening All.

    I feel sad about David Miliband leaving, and not being party leader. He seems to have been complacent when dealing with the new intake of MP’s.

    Probably he will go down as another lost leader, such as Denis Healey. S*d them, Healey said. I think Labour would have won the 2015 GE if he had been leader. People will say that.

  37. “chatter” = stuff you don’t descend to I assume Turk? And why don’t you just say what you mean straight out instead of in such an obtuse way?

    There are so many of these silly epithets used – “chattering classes” “commentariat” “bloody tourists” etc., when that’s precisely what the person using them is themself.

  38. I can only strongly disagree with those who view David Milliband as charismatic. Very formidable intellect certainly – coupled with experience of high office – but in no way is he charismatic – much more like ‘the blandest of the bland’.

  39. Of course there are no elections in May for MK but that was not the point I was making. I suppose a national summing up of the national overall results could give a trend, but one suspects that these trends will not really come as a surprise, regardless of how they are spun.

    CL1945
    Labour is on course to win in 2015 and needs no help from DM. It could well do without the hindrance too, one imagines.

  40. graham

    I’m afraid Missis Alec has already done the rather brilliant “Milibland”.

    Mind you, Hillary rated him highly and that is good enough for me.

  41. The hypocrisy of the media is quite likely boundless when they have political opinions to influence.

    We’ve been treated to an outpouring of grief from the right wing press on how Labour has lost its Great Leader. We’ve heard for 30 months how DM was a charismatic, telegenic, intelligent Superman, betrayed to the detriment if the Party by his weird, wonkish nerd of a sibling.

    Hmm.

    Go and search through the news archives from 2008. See how often the terms “David” “Miliband” “Mr” and “Bean” came up in close proximity. Here’s an example; a comment piece from the Telegraph at Labour’s 2008 Conference.

    “Ed made the best speech of the week on Saturday, before most delegates arrived. David’s keynote address was useless. Ed is relaxed, self-assured, with an easy charm. By contrast, David is Mr Bean.

    “I’m not suggesting that the clever Foreign Secretary is a bumbling idiot like Rowan Atkinson’s comic creation. But in a telegenic era, I am sure the Tories would love to fight a Labour leader who could win the British gurning championships. And who let him pose for the cameras with a banana in his hand, complete with rictus grin?”

    Let’s see. When there was a possibility that DM might be the next Leader, he was a ridiculous, gaffe-prone, nerdish personality-free-zone. Once that chance has passed, he was a telegenic, intellectual, a sure-footed political operator and a Colossus that Labour was stupid to have rejected.

    Paranoid about the Press? Me?

  42. Alec

    The UK got downgraded again today by egan-jones

  43. To clarify, Hillary rated David highly. Dunno what she thinks of Alec.

  44. Sigh, l love this site,it’s pretty much the only forum where you can have a broad spectrum discussion on the British politiocal sitiuation and under Anthony’s gentle and usually exasperated tutelage we all seem to rub along o,k, However introducing Religion albeit unwittingly was a bit of a mistake… Now please don’t introduce Sex or the Party will really get out of hand!

    p.s. Where has SoCal Liberal got to of late?

  45. I am loving the way every red poster is talking themselves in to what a great day it is for real labour with DM going.
    Maybe there is some truth that it is Tories like me who are genuinely sad, but that’s because a DM labour Govt for me was ok, like Blair Pre Irag, I thought he was pretty good to be honest.
    Getting rid of him is a blow to the moderate right of Labour, which I guess a lot of old labour are happy about. Unless Darling comes back, I think it’s potentially one of the weakest cabinets ever. Yvette Cooper I rate, and that’s about it.

  46. Ewen

    We can always segue from religion to sex via priests and bishops if you like?

  47. RichO
    Paragraph 1
    “I am loving the way every red poster is talking themselves in to what a great day it is for real labour with DM going.”

    Paragraph 2
    “Maybe there is some truth that it is Tories like me who are genuinely sad, but that’s because a DM labour Govt for me was ok, like Blair Pre Irag, I thought he was pretty good to be honest.”

    I could scarcely have made the point more succinctly myself.

    We’ve had this discussion before on here. It comes down to whether (like the Blairite wing of the Labour Party) you believe that it is essential to reach out to centrist Tories. Or whether (like most of the rest of the Labour Party) you believe that reaching out to centrist Tories is undesirable because (a) they are a small pool (see AW’s Oct 2011 poll on voters’ self-assessment of where they personally are on the political spectrum) and (b) doing so risks alienating the liberal soft leftist who have come over (back) to Labour in their millions in the past 3 years.

    Nothing personal in this, but the fact that you as a Tory feel that DM might have appealed to you does nothing to make me think Labour made the wrong choice.

  48. “Hillary rated David highly. Dunno what she thinks of Alec.”

    You clearly weren’t paying attention during the 2008 Democratic primary contest. She’s not a fan of Alec. Not a fan at all. Cost her the nomination.

  49. PaulCroft

    Now Paul,l would hate to see anybody Bashing the Bishop !

  50. @leftylampton,

    Yes I know I partly made the point, but ask yourself what got you those big thumping majorities? It wasn’t Michael Foot and the hard left was it….

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