Monday, May 14, 2012

Poll shows Canada's increasing drift into secularism

A dirty little secret of pollsters is that most of the people they contact refuse to talk to them (70%, according to Ipsos-Reid a decade or so ago). Keeping that in mind, I suspect that while Canadians tend to live their daily lives as if God isn't important, an increasing percentage would be inclined to describe themselves with the term that's currently popular on dating sites: "Spiritual but not religious."

As reported by Randy Boswell of Postmedia News, April 7, 2012:

A nationwide survey conducted ahead of the Easter weekend has found that a majority of Canadians do not consider religion important to them, though two-thirds of the population say they believe in God.

Just 42 per cent of those polled agreed with the statement "religion is an important part of my life," with women (46 per cent) more likely to value religious activity than men (37 per cent) by a clear margin.

The online survey of 1,522 people, commissioned by the Montreal-based Association for Canadian Studies, also showed relatively low levels of trust in religious leaders, with 48 per cent of respondents attributing the trait of trustworthiness to clergy.

By contrast, 67 per cent of those surveyed said they trusted "people who are religious" in general and even more respondents - 73 per cent - expressed trust in "people who are not religious."

There were significant regional differences in the results, with Canadians from Manitoba and Saskatchewan most likely to consider religion important to their lives (54 per cent) and most likely to express a belief in God (79 per cent).

Respondents from Quebec, meanwhile, were least likely to agree that religion is important to them (33 per cent) and least likely to say God exists (62 per cent), though British Columbia residents also expressed the same relatively low level of belief in God (62 per cent).

Religion was deemed important to 47 per cent of those from Atlantic Canada, 45 per cent of Ontarians, 43 per cent of respondents from Alberta and just 37 per cent of British Columbians.

Belief in God was expressed by 71 per cent of women and 64 per cent of men. Seventy per cent of respondents in both Ontario and Atlantic Canada said they believe God exists, while agreement on the question was slightly lower in Alberta (67 per cent).

ACS executive director Jack Jedwab, writing in an overview of the findings, highlighted a significant generational divide over religion in Canada: "Younger Canadians appear far less convinced about the existence of God than does the oldest cohort."

Only 30 per cent of those aged 18 to 24 agreed religion is important to their life, while respondents aged 65 and older were most likely (56 per cent) to consider religion a force in their life. An expressed belief in God was lowest (56 per cent) among the youngest group of respondents and highest (79 per cent) among the oldest.

Jedwab said he was not surprised that less than half of the Canadian population considered religion important to their lives, noting that the result is consistent with previous polling on the subject that shows a clear contrast between Canadians' ambivalence toward formal religion and Americans' stronger commitment to religious activity.

"We're not as engaged religiously," he told Postmedia News.

"Our population is more spiritual, if you like, than actually religious in an organized fashion."

The survey, carried out by the firm Leger Marketing during the week of March 26, is considered accurate to within 2.9 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

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