Numbers about religion

Eid Mubarak to Muslims in the Philippines, as well as worldwide, on the feast of Eid al-Fitr that celebrates breaking the fast at the end of Ramadan, which this year was last Tuesday, May 3. I appreciate the rigor of the fast, and the joy of ending it, from having worked in Indonesia (1970-71, 1981) and Malaysia (1977-78).

My latest estimate of the Muslim proportion in the Philippine adult population is 4.8 percent, from the June 23-26, 2021 Social Weather Survey. Applying that to the projected national total of 70.84 million adults (voting age, 18+) gives 3.36 million. They are No. 2 in size after Roman Catholics, who are an estimated 79.9 percent or 56.6 million. The Muslims are enough to elect two party-list representatives by voting in unison.

After the Muslims come No. 3, Born Again (4.1 percent), and No. 4, Protestants (2.7 percent), who are also enough to elect their own party-list reps. Then come No. 5, Iglesia ni Cristo (1.5 percent), No. 6, United Pentecostals (1.5), and No.7, Baptists (1.3 percent), whose party-list-eligibility would depend on Comelec’s arithmetic, which could be exotic. Other denominations have less than 1 percent each. Only 0.5 percent say they have no religion. The religion-terms are as stated by the respondents, not pre-listed to choose from.

The national sample size of the June 2021 survey is a small 1,200 adults, so the decimals are quite rough. Nevertheless, it shows Iglesia ni Cristos (INCs) as only fifth in size, some 1.1 million, after self-identified Catholics.

Bloc-voting. The reason that politicians tend to take INCs seriously is their reputation for bloc-voting. Several SWS exit polls from previous elections have found that INC bloc-voting means about 75 to 80 percent obedience to their hierarchy’s prescription. It’s not perfect compliance, but it could matter for the last one or two slots in the senatorial race.

(An exit poll asks its respondents on election day itself—after they have already voted and before they get any report of the election outcome—questions as to who they voted for, when they decided on their vote, and any factors that could have affected their vote; the voter’s religion is a standard backgrounder. There seems to be no prospective exit polling for the 2022 election, or else the media companies should have announced it by now. SWS did such polls, for various media sponsors, in every election from 1995 to 2016, the last one sponsored by TV5.)

Given their massive numbers, it’s the votes of Catholics that determine the outcome of every national election. If the Catholic hierarchy and lay leadership get united in recommending their candidates, and if, say, half of the electorate heeds the Catholic influencers, then the Catholic vote would be fearsome. These are big IFs, which haven’t happened, so far.

Religious intensity. The June 2021 SWS survey allows a comparison of the members of various denominations in terms of their frequency of attendance at religious services, frequency of prayer, and self-assessed religiosity.

It found that those attending religious services at least once a week were: 87 percent of INCs, 86 percent of Pentecostals, 74 percent of Born Agains, 64 percent of Muslims, 54 percent of Protestants, and 33 percent of Catholics.

With respect to prayer, the survey had a separate question for Muslims, who are supposed to pray the salah five times a day. It found that 75 percent prayed it five times a day, 6 percent prayed it a few times a day, and the rest prayed it less often.

Among non-Muslims, the survey found those praying at least once a day were: 94 percent of Protestants, 93 percent of Born Agains, 83 percent of INCs, 80 percent of Pentecostals, and 79 percent of Catholics.

Those considering themselves Very Religious (rather than Moderately Religious, Slightly Religious, or Not Religious) were: 74 percent of INCs, 64 percent of Pentecostals, 34 percent of Muslims, 29 percent of Born Agains, 26 percent of Protestants, and 26 percent of Catholics.

This shows Catholics as relatively disadvantaged in terms of religious intensity. Could this have a bearing on their capacity to form an effective voting bloc?