FFE Magazine

Is racial prejudice on the rise in Britain?

29may racial prejudice


A yearly survey that aims to measure the instance of racial prejudice among Britons turned out more questions than clarifications on the issue of racism in Britain.


In the British Social Attitudes survey, social research firm NatCen revealed that 30% of Britons are racially prejudiced; a ‘troubling’ find said Chief Executive Penny Young. The number is similar to that recorded 30 years ago and supports a trend toward racial prejudice that has been increasing since the year 2000.


Young said that the increasing trend toward racial prejudice in the 21st century may be the result of the 9/11 attacks and concerns over rising immigration in Britain and the EU.


According to the survey which asked 2,000 people to rate themselves on racial prejudice, 3% said they were ‘very prejudiced’ while 27% were ‘a little bit prejudiced.’ The total number of 30% is a 4% increase from last year’s 26%. Here are the other results that show great differences among social groups:


  • 19% of graduates while 38% of people without qualifications said they are prejudiced
  • 26% of professionals and managers while 41% of unskilled workers are prejudiced
  • 16% of residents in London while 35% in West Midlands are prejudiced
  • 25% of people aged 17–34 while 36% of over 55 are prejudiced


Despite the revealing numbers, many observed that the survey doesn’t show conclusive evidence of increasing racism. Director Sunder Katwala of the identity and integration think tank British Future emphasised that racial prejudice was a ‘difficult measure to use.


‘People who said they were not at all prejudiced in 1983 often held quite tough views about race.’


University of Manchester politics lecturer Dr Rob Ford added that ‘The problem is there is no definition of “prejudice” offered in the question.’


BBC correspondent Mark Easton argued that ‘today’s figures are not evidence of rising racism. In fact the trend is of flat or declining levels of self-reported racial prejudice.


‘We need a few more years of data before we can tell whether that fall is real or not. But to suggest that the latest figures represent a return to the racism levels of the 80s is clearly premature.


‘Police figures of reported racist incidents are not a perfect proxy for racism levels either.’


Easton further suggested that racial prejudice depends on how native residents see foreigners, whether as a threat or opportunity.



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