ATTITUDES TO DISCRIMINATION IN SCOTLAND
CHAPTER THREE WHAT IS THE EXTENT AND CHARACTER OF DISCRIMINATORY ATTITUDES IN SCOTLAND?
One possible consequence of a society whose members hold discriminatory attitudes is that it may be less willing to support public policies designed to reduce discrimination - though of course that need not necessarily mean that governments will not implement such policies, especially if they believe that changing the law might itself influence attitudes. Meanwhile the incidence of discriminatory attitudes is also likely to be one of the influences on the prevalence of discrimination itself. The second key question addressed by this project therefore was to measure the extent and character of discriminatory attitudes.
3.1 Support for initiatives to reduce discrimination
To examine this topic we asked the following series of questions:
Now I want to ask about some changes that have been happening in Scotland over the years.
For each one, please tell me whether you think it has gone too far, or not gone far enough. How about attempts to give equal opportunities to (disabled people / women / people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds / gay men and lesbians) in Scotland?
As Figure 3-1 shows, very few people say that equal opportunities for women (6%) or disabled people (3%) have "gone too far", whereas around one in five (18%) say this of ethnic minorities and of gay men and lesbians (19%). Meanwhile nearly six in ten (58%) think that equal opportunities for disabled people have not gone "far enough" or "nearly far enough", while the equivalent figure is lower for the other three groups.
Figure 3-1 Attitudes towards equal opportunities
People's views about attempts to promote equal opportunities evidently then vary from group to group. However, Table 3-1 shows this means the proportion of people in Scotland who have negative perceptions of the promotion of equality for all of the four groups is very small. Barely 1% say that attempts have gone "too far" or "much too" far in respect of all four groups. Equally, the proportion who say that attempts have "not gone far enough" for all four is fairly small at 13%. Still, the balance of opinion seems to be in favour of further action, at least for some of the groups in question.
Table 3-1 Numbers of groups for whom equal opportunities are perceived to have gone too far, and not gone far enough
Number of groups
% who say equal opportunities have gone "too far"
% who say equal opportunities have "not gone far enough"
4 (all of them)
But, is it the case that those who think prejudice exists are also the most likely to think that equal opportunities have not gone far enough? There is certainly some evidence to support this. In Figure 3-2 we show the responses to our questions about equal opportunities given by only those people who believe that there is a lot of prejudice against the group in question. By comparing the figures in this chart with those for the general population (as shown in Figure 3-1) we can see that three quarters (77%) of those who think that there is a lot of prejudice against disabled people also think that equal opportunities have "not gone far enough", far higher than the 58% who take this view amongst Scots as a whole. Similar differences can be found in respect of the other three groups.
Figure 3-2 Attitudes towards equal opportunities for a group amongst those who think there is a lot of prejudice against that group
On the other hand, another important point to take from Figure 3-2 is that thinking that there is a lot of prejudice against a group does not necessarily mean that someone automatically supports action to secure greater equal opportunities for that group. For example, amongst those who think that there is a lot of prejudice against gay men and lesbians, no more than just over a third (37%) believe that attempts to give equal opportunities have not gone far enough, while the corresponding figure for ethnic minorities is just over half (51%). Meanwhile we find that for both of these two groups around a fifth of those who think that a lot of prejudice exists towards them actually think that equal opportunities have gone too far.
3.2 Attitudes towards social and public participation
As we noted in the introduction, the underlying assumption of this survey was that a discriminatory attitude is one that directly or indirectly suggests that some social groups may not be entitled to engage in the full range of social, economic and political activities that are thought to be the norm for most citizens. In short, it is an attitude that openly or tacitly legitimates some form of social exclusion. To examine how far this attitude exists we asked our respondents various questions designed to gauge their attitudes towards the four groups' participation in a number of different social, economic and public roles.
3.2.1 Political engagement
The extent to which various groups in Scotland have a voice in how Scotland is run is a topic of some debate. For some the fact that 37% of the first Scottish Parliament were and 39% of the second are women is a cause for celebration, for some disappointment and for others a matter of indifference. Meanwhile, many have noted that no-one from any of Scotland's visible minority ethnic communities has yet become an MSP. But how much do these issues concern members of the public in general?
We started with a question which asked whether any of the four groups should have "more say in decisions about how Scotland is run" or whether "things are fine as they are". We were not explicit about the possible ways in which the groups could have more say, instead the question was asked at a very broad level. As Figure 3-3 illustrates, the most common answer is "things are fine as they are" (56%). Only one in ten (11%) say that all four groups should have a greater role in decision making. People are least likely to think that gay men and lesbians should have more say (just 2% say this), and most likely to think that disabled people (22%) should.
Figure 3-3 Who should have more say in how Scotland is run?
We then asked the following question:
I'd now like you to think about the kind of person you would like to have as your local MSP, that is your Member of the Scottish Parliament. Leaving aside what party they were in, would you prefer to have a male MSP, a female MSP, or, would you not mind either way?
This was followed by the examples of a disabled MSP, a black or Asian MSP and an openly gay or lesbian MSP. As the final column in Table 3-2 shows, most people say that these characteristics make no difference to them when it comes to who they would prefer to represent them. In particular, very few people express any preference as to the gender or disability of their MSP. For example, 4% prefer a male MSP and 3% a female MSP, while 4% would prefer an MSP who is not disabled and 1% would prefer an MSP who is disabled. However, just over one in ten express a preference about their MSP's ethnic background, with 11% preferring to have a white MSP and just 1% opting for a black or Asian MSP. Twice as many people expressed a preference when it came to their MSP's sexual orientation, with just under one in five (18%) preferring an MSP who is not openly gay or lesbian, and 2% saying the opposite.
Table 3-2 People's preferred kind of MSP
% who would prefer to have…
% who would not mind
A male MSP
A female MSP
A white MSP
A black / Asian MSP
An MSP who is not gay / lesbian
A gay / lesbian MSP
An MSP who is not disabled
A disabled MSP
3.2.2 Labour market participation
A large part of the survey focused on aspects of employment and the labour market. One set of questions asked respondents how suited men, women, wheelchair users, and gay men and lesbians are to the job of being a primary school teacher. Here we used the specific example of a wheelchair user because respondents who took part in the pilot testing of the questionnaire found it difficult to answer this question when we asked about a disabled person without specifying their disability. These questions serve two purposes. Firstly, they help us to assess whether people believe that everyone in society is entitled to follow the career path of their choosing, or, whether they feel that some occupations are not suited to certain types of people. Secondly, they enable us to look at the extent to which one particular occupation, primary school teaching, a profession whose members are predominantly female, is associated with a gender stereotype.
As Figure 3-4 shows, it is certainly the case that primary school teaching is overwhelmingly perceived to be a career which particularly suits women, with two-thirds of respondents (67%) saying that women are "very" suitable and a further one in five (21%) saying that they are fairly suitable for the job of primary school teacher. In contrast, less than half (41%) think that men are "very" suitable, and a similar proportion (37%) say they are "fairly" suitable. A useful measure of gender stereotyping can be gained by combining the responses to these questions and discovering what proportion of people think that women are more suitable than men for the job of primary school teacher. Altogether just over a quarter (28%) say that women are more suitable than men for this job (we look at this in greater detail in Section 4.5).
Meanwhile there are also clear limitations to the degree that people accept that anyone should have the right to become a primary school teacher. Significantly lower proportions are prepared to say that gay men and lesbians or wheelchair users are "very" suitable than say the same of either men or women. In both cases fewer than one in four say they are "very suitable" (24% in respect of wheelchair users, 21%, gay men and lesbians). Even so, we should also note that many more people say gay men and lesbians are suitable (43%) than actually say they are unsuitable (26%).
Figure 3-4 Who would make a suitable primary school teacher?
Note to figure:
3% said that men would be very / fairly unsuitable, 1% said this of women
Table 3-3 shows that opposition to gay men and lesbians becoming primary school teachers is more common among some groups than others. Older people and those with no qualifications are the most likely to say that gay men and lesbians are unsuitable for this kind of work. For example, a little over a third (36%) of those aged 65 and over say gay men and lesbians are unsuitable as primary school teachers, whereas around one in ten of those aged 25 to 39 (9%) and 18 to 24 (13%) years say this. People with no qualifications are almost three times as likely as someone with higher education to take this view (28% and 11% respectively). In contrast, parents of primary school age children themselves (who of course are younger) are less likely to think that gay men and lesbians are very unsuitable (13%) for this kind of work.
Table 3-3 Attitudes towards gay men & lesbians' suitability for primary school teaching, by age, sex, education, presence of school aged children in the household
% who think gay men and lesbians are "very unsuitable" for the job of primary school teaching
Degree / Higher education
By primary school aged children in household
None aged 5-11
At least one child aged 5-11
Respondents were also asked a question about participation in the labour market that is of particular relevance to disabled people. People were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the following statement:
The main problem faced by disabled people at work is other people's prejudice, not their own lack of ability
Seven in ten people (70%) agree with this statement, while just under one in ten (9%) disagree, with the remainder saying they can't choose.
Meanwhile we were also able to ask a further wider question about gender stereotyping. Respondents were invited to agree or disagree with the following statement:
A man's job is to earn money; a woman's job is to look after the home and family
Eleven percent agree with this statement, with men (13%) slightly more likely to do so than women (10%). However, 30% of those aged 65 and over agree compared with 6% of those aged 18 to 24 years. That this difference is a generational one is strongly suggested by the trends that have occurred across Britain as a whole over the last twenty years. For example, in 1984 the British Social Attitudes Survey found that 41% of women and 45% of men agreed with this statement. By 2002 these figures had fallen to 20% and 15% respectively (see Crompton et al, 2003 forthcoming).
3.2.3 Access to goods and services
The support for disabled people we saw in response to our question about labour market participation is also evident in attitudes towards disabled people's access to goods and services. Most importantly, this remained the case even when it was suggested that the costs of making adaptations to banks and shops might be borne by all consumers. Respondents were asked their views on the following statement:
Shops and banks should be forced to make themselves easier to use, even if this leads to higher prices
Over three-quarters (77%) of people agree with this statement. There is little difference in views on this particular issue between those in different social groups. For example, young people are as likely to agree with the statement as older people (82% and 80% respectively agree with this statement). Similarly, those with higher education (77% agree) and those with no qualifications (78% agree) hold identical views.
We also looked at public service provision, focusing on three areas where local councils might spend money on services on what some might call minority or equality groups. The idea that providing these kinds of services would have an economic impact was explicitly highlighted in the questions:
I'm now going to ask you about some things which some people say local councils in Scotland should be providing for their residents, but others believe are a waste of taxpayers' money.
Using this card please tell me whether you think local councils should publish information about their services in other languages for people who don't speak English very well, or do you think this is a waste of money?
And … please tell me whether you think councils should give money to organisations and groups in their area which help women find work, or do you think this is a waste of money?
And … whether you think councils should give money to organisations and groups in their area which offer support to gay men and lesbians, or do you think this is a waste of money?
As Figure 3-5 shows, around six in ten people support the principle that councils should translate their information into other languages for people who do not speak English (59%), and that councils should support groups that help women find work (62%). However less than one in three (30%) are happy to see councils spend their money on support groups for gay men and lesbians.
Figure 3-5 Service provision for equality groups
3.2.4 Relationships and family life
The survey also asked about attitudes towards relationships and families. We started by asking about marriage between people from different ethnic backgrounds:
Do you think that most people in Scotland would mind or not mind if one of their close relatives were to marry someone from a different racial or ethnic background?
And you personally? Would you mind or not mind?
As Figure 3-6 shows, just over half of our respondents thought that most people in Scotland would mind "a lot" or "a little" if this were to happen. In contrast, fewer than one in five (17%) say they would themselves mind, while more than three quarters (78%) say they would not. This form of questioning is quite common in surveys attempting to address sensitive or controversial topics. Giving respondents the opportunity to comment on what they think the majority of people might say should make it easier for them to openly voice their own opinion on the matter. It also gives us another useful insight into people's perceptions of how much this kind of prejudice exists in Scotland.
Figure 3-6 Attitudes to marriage between people from different ethnic backgrounds
People's views on mixed ethnicity marriage did not vary enormously according to their gender, social class or educational background. However, as Figure 3-7 highlights, there is a clear difference between different age groups: 29% of people aged over 65 say they would mind if a relative was to marry someone from a different racial background, five times as many as the 6% of 18 to 24 year olds who say this. We would anticipate that this is a generational phenomenon, meaning that the views that younger people currently have about this kind of issue will stay with them through life, rather than changing as they age and their life circumstances alter.
Figure 3-7 Attitudes towards mixed ethnicity marriages, by age
We also asked about the rights of gay men and lesbians to marry and about their suitability as parents. As Table 3-4 shows, 41% agree that gay couples should have the right to marry. Amongst 18 to 24 year olds a majority (65%) are in favour, as are 52% of 25-39 year olds. This finding indicates why sexual orientation is currently often the subject of fierce debate. Attitudes to this subject have become more liberal over the last two decades, leaving public opinion heavily divided on the subject (see Park, 2002). The very large generational differences only contribute further to the heated nature of the debates on the subject.
Thirty eight percent agree that a lesbian couple can make just as good parents as a man and a woman while slightly fewer (32%) say this about a gay male couple. Again younger people are far more likely to take this view. Attitudes to both gay marriage and parenting also vary according to education with half (49%) of those with a degree supporting the principle of gay marriage compared with a third (32%) of those with no qualifications. In addition, men are slightly less likely than women to agree with gay marriage or to think that gay couples can be good parents.
Table 3-4 Attitudes towards gay and lesbian marriages and parenting, by age, gender and education
% who agree
Gay or lesbian couples should have the right to marry
A lesbian couple are just as capable of being good parents as a man and a woman
A gay male couple are just as capable of being good parents as a man and a woman
Degree / Higher education
3.3 Is Prejudice Acceptable?
Perhaps the simplest indicator of the extent of discriminatory attitudes in our survey can be found in the responses to the following question. It asked people to say which of the following two statements came closest to their view:
Scotland should do all it can to get rid of all kinds of prejudice
Sometimes there is good reason for people to be prejudiced against certain groups
Prejudice was not defined for the respondents, but as this question came at the very end of our questions about discrimination, responses to this are likely to have been framed by the questions that had preceded it. A quarter (26%) say that there is sometimes good reason to be prejudiced, while just over two-thirds (68%) say that Scotland should get rid of all kinds of prejudice. Around one in twenty (5%) say it depends or that they don't know. Evidently some kinds of prejudice are still socially acceptable for a considerable minority of people in Scotland.
Table 3-5 looks at who is more or less likely to say that prejudice is sometimes acceptable. Once again we see that age is a significant factor shaping attitudes. However, this time it is the 25 to 39 year olds who stand out as the least prejudiced, with one in five (20%) of this group taking this view compared with one in three (35%) of the 65 and over age group. We see that education is important too, with one in five (19%) people with a degree and one in three (31%) people with no qualifications saying that prejudice is acceptable. People's party political identification also makes a difference; supporters of the Conservative party are more likely than average to say that prejudice is sometimes acceptable, whereas Liberal Democrat and Labour supporters are less likely to do so. We shall return to what this tells us about why people hold discriminatory attitudes in Chapter 5.
Table 3-5 Is prejudice acceptable in some circumstances? By age, education and party political identification
% who agree
Sometimes there is good reason to be prejudiced against certain groups
Degree / Higher education