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Religion - a personal matter PDF Print E-mail
Written by GFK   
09 Dec 2004

Religion - a personal matter

Findings of the GfK survey on religious attitudes in Europe

Nuremberg/Frankfurt, 10 December 2004 - In Europe and the USA, an average of three in four people indicated that they belonged to a religion. However, there are considerable differences within Europe. At 80 per cent, the number of believers is above average in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. In Western Europe, two in three people identified with a specific religion, irrespectively of whether they live in rural or urban areas. These are the findings of a survey carried out in autumn 2004 by GfK Custom Research Worldwide on behalf of the The Wall Street Journal Europe.

The percentage of religious people is particularly high in Romania (97 per cent), Turkey (95 per cent) and Greece (89 per cent). While the majority in Greece (98 per cent) and Romania (88 per cent) belong to the Orthodox Church, almost all people in Turkey stated that they were Muslims. The Czech Republic is the least religious nation with 63 per cent indicating that they did not believe in any particular religion. At 53 per cent, the situation is similar in the Netherlands. Four in ten respondents in Belgium and Germany said they did not believe in any particular religion.

In 13 of the 21 countries surveyed, the majority of religious people are Roman Catholics. Italy (98 per cent), Poland (98 per cent), Spain (93 per cent), Slovenia (93 per cent) and Belgium (90 per cent) are almost exclusively Catholic. In Denmark, Finland and Sweden, however, Protestants dominate with a 90 per cent share. The only European country in which the share of Catholics and Protestants are approximately the same is Germany, with 48 per cent indicating that they are Catholic and 43 per cent Protestant.

75 per cent of respondents believe in God

Around seven in ten Western Europeans confirmed that they believed in God or some supernatural creator. Almost eight in ten Central Europeans believe in such a force and so do 86 per cent of Americans. The least likely to believe in such a creator were the Czechs (32 per cent), followed by the Nordic countries of Denmark and Sweden (45 and 49 per cent respectively). It emerged that in all of the countries surveyed far more women are religious than men. In Western Europe, for example, two in three men believe in God, but for women the proportion is three in four.

People in Central and Eastern Europe are regular Churchgoers

There were also marked differences between various nationalities in the responses to the survey question about religious services (excluding family events such as weddings, christenings and funerals). One in four religious people in Western Europe, including Germany, indicated that they attend at least one religious service a week. However, around 50 per cent attend a service no more than four times a year. Italians are the exception among Western Europeans, with almost 40 per cent attending a religious service at least once a week. People in Sweden and Denmark are less inclined to attend Church services, with around 50 per cent indicating that they hardly ever go to a service. In Central Europe, religious services are more popular. Almost four in ten, and in the Catholic stronghold Poland even six in ten, respondents said that they attended a service at least once a week.

Western Europeans believe that anti-Semitism has increased

Responses to the question as to whether people have the impression that anti-Semitic feeling has grown in their country over the past five years showed that one in three Western Europeans thought this was true. One in three thought there had been no change and 13 per cent expressed that in their opinion, anti-Semitic feeling had decreased. The number of respondents who felt that anti-Semitic sentiment had increased in their country was particularly high amongst Belgians (52 per cent), Dutch (46 per cent) and Swiss (44 per cent). In Germany and the USA, almost four in ten respondents felt that there had been an increase in anti-Semitism in the past five years. The same proportion thought that nothing had changed. In Central and Eastern Europe, the numbers are quite different, with 17 per cent on average believing that anti-Semitism had increased in their country in the period indicated. The same percentage believed that anti-Semitic sentiment had decreased and one in three thought that there had been no change. However, at 30 per cent the number of respondents replying "Don't know" was above-average in this region.

Most Western Europeans believe that Muslims living in Europe are viewed with suspicion

Over fifty per cent of Western Europeans thought that Muslims living in Europe today are viewed with suspicion. This is particularly true of Sweden (75 per cent) and the Netherlands (72 per cent). However, two in three respondents agreed in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. Among the Western European nations, the lowest number of people who felt this way was in the UK. Just four in ten believe that there are strong anti-Muslim feelings in Europe. Almost the same number of British people indicated that there was a slight dislike and 13 per cent expressed that they saw no anti-Muslim sentiment at all. According to Central and Eastern Europeans, this is even less of a problem in their countries. Only three in ten believe that Muslims living in Europe are unwelcome. In Bulgaria, three in ten respondents thought there was no anti-Muslim feeling at all.

The survey

The survey on "Religion" covered 21 countries, where people were asked about their attitudes to religion, in particular the different religions and denominations, faith in God, anti-Semitism and their Muslim fellow country people. Among the many question in the survey, respondents were asked which religion they belonged to, whether they believe in God and how they viewed the degree of anti-Semitism and the attitude towards Muslims in their country. As part of this survey, which was carried out by GfK Custom Research Worldwide on behalf of the The Wall Street Journal Europe with the financial support of GfK-Nürnberg e.V., 21,102 respondents from 21 countries were surveyed from September to October 2004.

The GfK Group

The GfK Group is the No. 5 market research organization worldwide. Its activities cover five business divisions, Consumer Tracking, HealthCare, Retail and Technology, Media and Custom Research. In addition to 15 German subsidiaries, the company has over 120 subsidiaries and affiliates located in 57 countries. Of a current total of around 5,500 employees, approx. 1,500 are based in Germany. For further information, visit our website:

The Wall Street Journal Europe (

The Wall Street Journal Europe was established in 1983 and its current daily circulation in Brussels amounts to 87,018 copies (ABC January to July 2004). In addition to the The Wall Street Journal Europe, Dow Jones & Company publish The Wall Street Journal (USA), The Asian Wall Street Journal and The Wall Street Journal Online, the biggest subscription-based online news website in the world. The overall circulation of the various formats of The Wall Street Journal exceeds 2.6 million copies worldwide.


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