The Vicar of Dibley has topped a poll of the fictional clergy who would be most trusted to lead Great Britain through a crisis such as the coronavirus pandemic.
Of those British adults who picked from a list of tested Christian faith leaders from TV or film, almost two in five (37%) said they would most trust Geraldine Granger (played by Dawn French) – who returned to our screens last week – to provide moral or spiritual leadership to the nation.
Next in line was the only other female TV vicar included in the poll – Sister Evangelina (Pam Ferris) in Call the Midwife (15%), potentially demonstrating the unique role that female faith leaders play as trusted members of the community.
The top five also comprised Father Ted Crilly (Dermot Morgan) from sitcom Father Ted (15%), Rev Sidney Chambers (James Norton) from Grantchester (10%) and Rev Francis Seaton (Paul Chahidi) from This Country (6%).
Women who selected a Christian faith leader were more likely than men to say they would most trust Sister Evangelina (23% vs. 7%) and Rev Sidney Chambers (12% vs. 8%), while men who selected a Christian faith leader are more likely than women to say they would most trust Father Ted Crilly (23% vs. 8%), Father Michael Kerrigan (6% vs. 2%) and Rev Timothy Farthing (4% vs. 1%).
The poll was carried out by international development agency Christian Aid ahead of Christian Aid Week (10-16 May) which this year will raise money for poor and marginalised communities who will be significantly impacted by the spread of coronavirus.
The charity commissioned Savanta ComRes to carry out the research among a nationally representative sample of GB adults to demonstrate the unique role that faith leaders can play during times of crisis, as it witnessed on the ground during previous crises such as the Ebola epidemic where involving religious leaders in the response led to acceptance of the issue and community ownership of the measures needed to slow the spread.
A separate national poll commissioned by Christian Aid and carried out by Savanta ComRes found that three in five (61%) British adults agree that faith leaders have a role to play in providing moral guidance and spiritual leadership during times of national crisis such as the Coronavirus crisis, including one in five (18%) who say they strongly agree. Conversely, just a quarter (24%) of British adults say they disagree.
Amanda Khozi Mukwashi, CEO of Christian Aid, said:
“With 84 per cent of the world’s population associating with a faith, religious communities all over the world hold significant power and trust. Religious actors can play a key role in providing accurate public health information to people, and faith communities have a strong base from which to promote physical distancing to reduce the transmission of Covid-19 while keeping a sense of solidarity.
“As debate takes place around the world about the success of female global leaders in tackling the coronavirus, it is interesting to note that female fictional clergy top the poll of most trusted when it comes to providing leadership and guidance during crises. Christian Aid’s work on women’s rights, including through being part of Side by Side – a movement of faith-based actors for gender justice –will be especially important as women and girls in the poorest countries are being uniquely hit by coronavirus and its economic effects.”
This month, the World Health Organization produced guidelines highlighting the special role that religious leaders and faith-based organisations can play in saving lives and reducing illness related to Covid-19. It said:
“They are a primary source of support, comfort, guidance, and direct healthcare and social service, for the communities they serve.
“They can provide pastoral and spiritual support during public health emergencies and other health challenges and can advocate for the needs of vulnerable populations. Religious leaders are integrated into their communities through service and compassionate networks and are often able to reach the most vulnerable with assistance and health information and identify those most in need. Religious leaders are a critical link in the safety net for vulnerable people within their faith community and wider communities.”
The Christian Aid poll also found, however, that two in five British adults (41%) say they would not trust any of the tested Christian faith leaders from film or TV to provide moral or spiritual leadership to the nation at a time of crisis.
Ms Mukwashi said:
“In Great Britain, we are grateful for the real-life clergy who are playing a vital role in keeping their communities together as we deal with the effects of the pandemic, we should therefore not underestimate the way in which religious leaders – albeit fictional – could play in providing moral leadership and spiritual guidance at the most difficult times. Actors who wear dog collars and wimples on our TV screens may be household names up and down the country, but there are unsung heroes among faith leaders in real-life communities who are forces for good in times of crisis. They are there right now, for those mourning their loved ones, for those who want to get married, for those who want to talk, for those who have no one else to reach out to them. They are frontline workers providing the inner strength that helps us build the resilience we need to get through such a time as this.
“In the poorest countries around the world, faith leaders are on the frontline of tackling this deadly virus. Our faith calls us to seek justice and this pandemic challenges each of us to step up and stand together for a just world. And as we launch our Christian Aid Week appeal to provide life-saving support to poor and marginalised communities around the world who will be significantly impacted by coronavirus, we urge you support this appeal. Christian Aid Week is the longest-running UK fundraising event, uniting 50,000 volunteers to give, act and pray for an end to poverty. While this year, we are challenged to fundraise in new ways, our call for justice has never been greater.”
Survey 1: Savanta ComRes interviewed 2,032 GB adults aged 18+ online between 22-23 April 2020. Data were weighted to be nationally representative of all British adults by key demographic categories including age, gender, region and social grade.
Survey 2: Savanta ComRes interviewed 2,021 GB adults aged 18+ online between 29-30th April 2020. Data were weighted to be nationally representative of all GB adults by key demographic characteristics including age, gender, region and social grade.
Savanta ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full data tables for both surveys are available on www.comresglobal.com.
Donate now and save lives. Support Christian Aid Week: https://www.christianaid.org.uk/appeals/key-appeals/christian-aid-week