Canada is a former British colony and the histories of Canada and Great Britain are inextricably linked. The two countries share similar political and healthcare systems, and Queen Elizabeth II is still Canada's head of state. But despite the similarities, a recent Gallup Poll in the two countries* suggests Canadians and Britons tend to have philosophical differences on the subject of religious figures and the afterlife.
The survey presented respondents with a list of items associated with religion and the afterlife -- God, angels, the devil, heaven, and hell -- and asked whether they believe in each. Canadians are substantially more likely than Britons to believe in every item that Gallup asked about.
God, the Devil, and Angels
Canadians are far more likely than Britons to say that they believe in God -- a finding that falls in line with other Gallup data showing higher levels of religiosity among Canadians (see "Britons Lack American Cousins' Piety" in Related Items). Seven in 10 Canadians (71%) believe in God, while 12% say they don't and 16% are not sure. In contrast, barely half (52%) of Britons believe in God and more than a quarter (28%) don't believe, while 19% are not sure.
Canadians are also far more apt to say they believe in angels than are their British counterparts. Fifty-six percent of Canadians believe in angels, compared with 36% of Britons. About one in four Canadians (24%) don't believe in angels, compared with 46% of Britons.
When it comes to the devil, however, Canadian public opinion is somewhat closer to that in Great Britain. Only 37% of Canadians and 29% of Britons believe in the devil, while about half in each country (45% in Canada and 52% in Great Britain) don't believe that the devil exists.
Overall, the data on angels and the devil suggest that Canadians may have a somewhat more optimistic view than do Britons. Canadians are substantially more likely to believe in God and angels than they are to believe in the devil. In fact, the gap in belief about God versus the devil among Canadians is 34 percentage points, while the gap in belief about angels versus the devil is 19 percentage points.
British citizens are also more likely to believe in the "good" figures than the "bad," but to a lesser degree. The gap among Britons in belief about God versus the devil is 23 points, while the gap in belief in angels versus the devil is just 7 points.
Heaven and Hell
Almost 6 in 10 Canadians (58%) believe that there is a heaven; 48% of Britons agree. However, respondents from both countries are less likely to believe in hell -- only 42% of Canadians and 32% of Britons say they believe.
In this case, the gap between the percentages of people in both countries who believe in the "good" place (heaven) over the "bad" place (hell) is identical -- 16 percentage points.
America Weighs In
Canadians may be more likely than Britons to believe in religious figures or eternal destinations, but Americans make even Canadians look like skeptics. Nine in 10 Americans (90%) believe in God and 81% believe in heaven. Seven in 10 U.S. adults (70%) believe in both the devil and hell (see "Eternal Destinations: Americans Believe in Heaven, Hell" in Related Items).
*Results in Canada are based on telephone interviews with 1,005 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Aug. 30-Sept. 6, 2004. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. The survey was conducted by Gallup Canada.
Results in Great Britain are based on telephone interviews with 1,009 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Aug. 25-Sept. 7, 2004. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points. The survey was conducted by Gallup UK.