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Attitudes to Discrimination in Scotland

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ATTITUDES TO DISCRIMINATION IN SCOTLAND

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

INTRODUCTION

1. This research has been instigated and developed collaboratively by a team involving representatives from the Commission for Racial Equality, Disability Rights Commission, Equal Opportunities Commission, Stonewall Scotland, the Scottish Executive and NatCen Scotland.

2. The research is designed to answer three questions:

  • What do Scots themselves believe is the extent of discriminatory attitudes in Scotland?
  • What is the extent and character of discriminatory attitudes in Scotland?
  • Why do people hold discriminatory attitudes?

3. A discriminatory attitude is defined in the research as an attitude that directly or indirectly suggests that some social groups may not be entitled to engage in the full panoply of social, economic and political activities that are thought to be the norm for most citizens. The term is used interchangeably with the word 'prejudice'.

4. The research comprises an analysis of the results of a module of questions that was included in NatCen Scotland's 2002 Scottish Social Attitudes survey. These questions covered attitudes towards four groups: women, minority ethnic groups, disabled people, and gay men and lesbians. While these topics have been addressed individually in previous survey research, they have rarely been studied in combination, and very little work has focused specifically on Scotland. This study therefore provides a unique insight into whether those who hold discriminatory attitudes in Scotland do so in respect of a wide range of groups or whether such attitudes vary according to the group in question.

WHAT DO SCOTS THEMSELVES BELIEVE IS THE EXTENT OF DISCRIMINATORY ATTITUDES IN SCOTLAND?

5. Some groups are more likely to be thought to be the subject of prejudice than others. For example, while 56% consider there to be a lot of prejudice against minority ethnic groups and 49% against gay men and lesbians, just 31% think there is a lot of prejudice against disabled people and 20% against women. Only 5% say that none of the groups suffer any kind of prejudice at all.

6. In the main, younger people are more likely to think that prejudice exists than are older people. For example, 63% of those aged 18 to 24 years say that there is a lot of prejudice against minority ethnic groups compared with 43% of those aged 65 and over.

WHAT IS THE EXTENT AND CHARACTER OF DISCRIMINATORY ATTITUDES IN SCOTLAND?

7. On almost all of the questions included in the survey, only a minority of people expressed a discriminatory attitude themselves. For example, 26% say sometimes there is good reason to be prejudiced whereas 68% say that Scotland should do as much as it can to get rid of all kinds of prejudice.

8. For example, Figure S1 shows that just 3% of respondents say that equal opportunities have gone too far for disabled people, 6% for women, 18% for minority ethnic groups and 19% for gay men and lesbians. In contrast, 58% say that equal opportunities for disabled people have not gone far enough while 41% say the same for both minority ethnic groups and women. However, only 26% express this view in respect of gay men and lesbians.

Figure S1 Attitudes towards equal opportunities

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9. Overall, the proportion of people in Scotland who have negative views on the promotion of equality for all four groups is very small, with only 1% saying that attempts to give equal opportunities have gone too far in respect of all four groups. In contrast, 13% say that attempts to give equal opportunities have not gone far enough for all four groups. It seems that the balance of opinion is in favour of further action, at least for some of the groups in question.

10. The research examines the extent of discriminatory attitudes in respect of politics, the labour market, access to goods and services, and relationships and family life. So far as politics is concerned, just 4% express a preference for a male rather than a female MP or for an MP who is not disabled. Meanwhile 11% say they would prefer a white MSP and 18% one who is not gay or lesbian.

11. One indication of a discriminatory attitude so far as the labour market is concerned is whether members of some groups are thought unsuitable for particular kinds of jobs. Thirty-two percent say that a wheelchair user would be very or fairly unsuitable as a primary school teacher but 61% say they would be very or fairly suitable. Forty-eight per cent say that a gay man or lesbian would be very or fairly unsuitable as a primary school teacher, but 43% say they would be suitable. Meanwhile, 28% of respondents think that women are more suitable than men for the job of primary school teacher.

12. Overall, 77% say that shops and banks should be forced to make themselves easier to use, even if this leads to higher prices. Meanwhile 62% say that local councils should spend money on groups that help women find work, and 59% say they should publish information about their services in languages other than English. However, only 30% say that local councils should give money to organisations that provide support to gay men and lesbians.

13. A further measure of people's perceptions of how much prejudice exists in Scotland emerges from asking respondents about the attitudes of most people in Scotland to prejudice and then asking about their own attitudes. As Figure S2 shows, 52% of respondents think that most people in Scotland would mind either a lot or a little if one of their close relatives were to marry someone from a different racial or ethnic background, while 17% say they themselves would mind.

Figure S2 Attitudes to marriage between people from different ethnic backgrounds

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14. Views are divided about gay and lesbian relationships. Forty-one per cent of respondents agree that gay and lesbian couples should have the right to marry, while 30% disagree. Thirty eight percent of respondents agree that a lesbian couple can make just as good parents as a man and a woman while 32% say the same about a gay male couple; 33% and 39% respectively disagree with this statement.

15. Overall the results indicate that discriminatory attitudes are more likely to be expressed in respect of gay men and lesbians and minority ethnic groups than they are either women or disabled people.

WHY DO PEOPLE HOLD DISCRIMINATORY ATTITUDES?

16. Three possible explanations of why people hold discriminatory attitudes are examined. One, a sociological explanation, suggests the explanation lies in differences of social background and experience. The second, an economic one argues that concerns about competition for resources lead people to hold such views. The third, a psychological one, argues that the reason lies in the identities that people have and the images they have of those they perceive to be different from themselves.

17. While evidence is found to support all three forms of explanation, the psychological explanation appears to be the most important. In particular people who say they prefer to live in an area with different kinds of people are less likely to express discriminatory attitudes than are those who say they prefer to live in an area with similar kinds of people. For example, 11% of those who prefer to live in an area with different kinds of people say that ethnic minorities take jobs away from other people in Scotland, while 28% of those who prefer to live in an area with similar kinds of people say the same. Similarly, 27% of people who prefer to live in an area with different kinds of people state that gay male couples are not as capable of being good parents as a mixed sex couple. This compares with 52% of people who say they prefer to live in an area with similar kinds of people.

18. Discriminatory attitudes are usually less likely to be expressed by those with higher levels of educational attainment and by young people, two groups who are also likely to prefer to live in an area with different kinds of people. For example, 75% of those with a degree think Scotland should do all it can to get rid of prejudice compared with 62% of those with no qualifications. Only 65 of those aged 18 to 24 years say that they would mind if a close relative of theirs were to marry someone of a different racial background compared with 29% of those aged 65 and over. Meanwhile, those who say that they are struggling to live on their current income are also more likely to express discriminatory views. Of those in this position 56% say that prejudice should be eliminated compared with 71% of those who are living comfortably or coping on their current income .

19. When it comes to attitudes towards disabled people and women, views vary somewhat less from one section of Scottish society to another. For example the 15% of people aged 65 or more who do not believe that shops and banks should be forced to make themselves accessible even if it puts prices up is no higher than the 17% figure amongst those aged 18 to 24 years. Similarly, just 8% of those with no educational qualifications say that equal opportunities for women have gone too far, little higher than the 4% of those with a degree who say so.

20. The report concludes that, with psychological factors having the most immediate influence on attitudes to discrimination, those who wish to influence discriminatory attitudes need either to persuade people that other people are like themselves or else encourage them to enjoy a diverse society.