Publication - Research and analysis

Scottish Social Attitudes Survey 2014: Public Attitudes to Sectarianism in Scotland

Published: 20 Feb 2015
Part of:
Research
ISBN:
9781785441059

This report sets out key findings from the 2014 Scottish Social Attitudes survey (SSA) on public attitudes to sectarianism in Scotland.

98 page PDF

1.3 MB

98 page PDF

1.3 MB

Contents
Scottish Social Attitudes Survey 2014: Public Attitudes to Sectarianism in Scotland
3 General Perceptions of Sectarian Prejudice and Discrimination in Scotland

98 page PDF

1.3 MB

3 General Perceptions of Sectarian Prejudice and Discrimination in Scotland

Key points

  • There is a widespread perception of religious prejudice against Catholics and Protestants in Scotland, though more people believe that Catholics are the subject of at least some prejudice (54%) than say the same of Protestants (41%).
  • However, people are much less likely to believe that more explicit examples of anti-Catholic or anti-Protestant discrimination are commonplace in Scotland today.
  • Employment discrimination and general discrimination and harassment against Catholics are still viewed as more common than is such discrimination against Protestants.
  • However, this difference disappears when respondents are asked about discrimination and harassment in their own area - fewer than 1 in 10 people think that either Catholics or Protestants are likely to experience such discrimination in the area the respondent lives in.
  • In spite of this, the vast majority of people in Scotland believe that sectarianism is a problem for our country (88%), though 69% view it as a problem for specific areas of Scotland, with just 19% seeing it as a problem throughout Scotland.
  • Glasgow and the West of Scotland generally were the most commonly mentioned areas where people saw a problem with sectarianism - around a third (34%) thought it was only a problem for Glasgow or the West of Scotland. However, those who actually live in the West of Scotland were more likely to see sectarianism as a problem across the whole of Scotland.
  • Views on whether or not Catholic-Protestant relationships have improved over the last decade were divided - 47% thought they had, while 40% thought they had stayed the same. Only 3% felt relationships had worsened.
  • Whether or not people think inter-faith relationships have improved over recent years, there is some scepticism about whether it will ever be possible to completely eradicate sectarianism in Scotland - 66% agreed that 'Sectarianism will always exist in Scotland'.
  • Two-thirds of those who believe Catholic-Protestant relationships have improved and over half of those who think that there is little or no general prejudice against Catholics or Protestants in Scotland nowadays nonetheless thought that sectarianism will always exist here.

3.1 This chapter explores people's perceptions of prejudice and discrimination towards Catholics and Protestants in Scotland. It discusses whether people in Scotland consider sectarianism a problem and, if so, which parts of Scotland they think it affects. The final part of the chapter looks at perceptions of how intractable a problem sectarianism is for Scotland - do people think relationships between Catholics and Protestants have become better over time and do they believe sectarianism will always exist?

Prejudice against Catholics and Protestants in Scotland

3.2 The belief that both Catholics and Protestants in Scotland experience prejudice is quite widespread, although more people believe there is at least some prejudice against Catholics (54% thought there was either 'a great deal', 'quite a lot' or 'some' prejudice) than against Protestants nowadays (41% - Figure 3.1). There is also a greater degree of perceived prejudice against Catholics - 21% said there is a great deal or quite a lot of prejudice against Catholics, compared with 12% who said the same of Protestants.

Figure 3.1: Perceptions of levels of prejudice against Catholics and Protestants

Figure 3.1: Perceptions of levels of prejudice against Catholics and Protestants

Sample: All respondents (n = 1,501)

3.3 That anti-Protestant prejudice is viewed as less widespread or severe than anti-Catholic prejudice is confirmed by cross-tabulating views on the two. Almost all (93%) of those who said there is 'a great deal' or 'quite a lot' of prejudice against Protestants also said there is a similar level of prejudice against Catholics. However, of those who believe there is 'a great deal' or 'quite a lot' of prejudice against Catholics, more than half (54%) consider the levels of prejudice towards Protestants to be less severe.

3.4 A belief in the existence of both anti-Catholic and anti-Protestant prejudice was expressed by people who identify with different religious faiths and none. However, Catholics were the group most likely to believe that there is at least some prejudice against Catholics (68%, compared with 55% of Protestants and 54% of those with no religion). Differences by religion in views of prejudice against Protestants were not statistically significant.

3.5 Those who agreed or strongly agreed that religion is an important part of their identity were more likely to think that there is at least some prejudice against both Catholics and Protestants than those who did not consider religion as important for their identity. More than half (54%) of those who agreed that religion is an important part of their identity thought that there is a degree of prejudice against Catholics, compared with 48% among those who disagreed with this statement. Equivalent figures for prejudice against Protestants were 41% and 37%.

Who is most likely to think that there is prejudice against Catholics and Protestants?

3.6 Perceptions of the extent of sectarian prejudice in Scotland vary significantly depending on where in Scotland people live. Half (50%) of people living in the West of Scotland thought that there was at least some degree of prejudice against Protestants in Scotland compared with 31-36% of those living in other regions of Scotland. Similarly, 62% of people in the West thought there was at least some degree of prejudice against Catholics compared with 43-52% for other regions of Scotland. The area of Scotland most frequently associated in the media with sectarian tensions thus also seems to be the area where people themselves are most conscious of sectarian prejudice as a current issue for Scotland.

3.7 Those with family connections to Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland were also more likely to think there was prejudice against both Catholics and Protestants in Scotland[9] - 49% of those with family connections with Ireland thought there was at least some prejudice against Protestants compared with 38% of those without such links. The equivalent figures for Catholics were 64% and 51%. Perhaps such links to Ireland, with its history of sectarian division, heighten people's sensitivity to apparent sectarian prejudice in Scotland too.

3.8 Perceptions of prejudice against Protestants (but not Catholics) also varied significantly and independently with area deprivation - 46% of people in the two most deprived quintiles (fifths) of Scotland compared with 37% of people in the three least deprived quintiles thought there is at least some prejudice against Protestants in Scotland.[10] So perceptions of anti-Catholicism appear to be similar across deprived and affluent areas, but those in deprived areas are more likely than those in affluent areas to think there is at least some anti-Protestant sentiment in Scotland. Regression analysis, which controls for the inter-relationships between different factors that might affect people's views (for example, controlling for the interactions between education and area deprivation), found that perceptions of anti-Catholic/Protestant prejudice did not vary significantly by other socio-demographic factors, including age, gender, education, religious identity/upbringing, church attendance, how religious they consider themselves to be, football club support or social ties to Catholics/Protestants.[11]

Perceptions of discrimination and harassment

3.9 Although there is a fairly widespread perception of prejudice against Catholics and against Protestants in Scotland, people are less likely to believe this prejudice manifests itself in either employment discrimination or in other direct forms of harassment. However, again, people are slightly more likely to think that Catholics experience such discrimination than to say the same of Protestants.

3.10 When asked how often, if at all, they think being Protestant or Catholic stops someone from getting a job or promotion they deserve, a majority think this hardly ever or never happens in Scotland today (67% for Catholics and 75% for Protestants - Figure 3.2). However, a substantial minority of people thought this kind of employment discrimination did happen, either some of the time or a lot of the time (24% for Catholics and 17% for Protestants).

Figure 3.2: Perceptions of frequency of job discrimination against Catholics and Protestants

Figure 3.2: Perceptions of frequency of job discrimination against Catholics and Protestants

Sample: All respondents (n = 1,501)

3.11 Meanwhile, when asked about Scotland as a whole, most people did not think it was likely that either Catholics or Protestants would be harassed or threatened because of their religious identity (Table 3.1). 35% thought it very or quite likely that Catholics would experience such treatment, while 28% thought the same for Protestants.

Table 3.1: Perceptions of likelihood of harassment for being Catholic / Protestant in Scotland more widely and in respondent's local area

Scotland Local area
Harassed for being Catholic Harassed for being Protestant Harassed for being Catholic Harassed for being Protestant
% % % %
Very likely 4 4 2 2
Quite likely 31 25 7 6
Quite unlikely 39 42 31 29
Very unlikely 18 22 56 59
Don't know 7 7 4 4
Refused * * * *
Sample size 1501 1501 1501 1501

3.12 Research on perceptions of crime and anti-social behaviour often finds a gap in peoples' perceptions of the prevalence of such behaviour at a local and a national level. For example, Ormston and Anderson (2010) found that while 87% of people thought anti-social behaviour was a 'very' or 'quite' a big problem for Scotland as a whole, just 27% said it was a problem for their local area. In order to assess whether people's views of sectarianism vary similarly, SSA 2014 also asked people how likely or unlikely they thought it was that someone would be harassed or threatened for being Catholic/Protestant in their local area.

3.13 People's perceptions of what happens around them were indeed quite different to their perceptions of what happens in Scotland more widely (Table 3.1). When asked about their own local area, the proportion who thought Catholics or Protestants were likely to experience harassment or threatening behaviour dropped considerably (9% for Catholics and 8% for Protestants). Moreover, in relation to their local area people no longer thought that a person who is Catholic was at a greater risk than a person who is Protestant of experiencing harassment or threatening behaviour.

Variations in perceptions of anti-Catholic / anti-Protestant discrimination

3.14 Catholics were more likely to think that employment discrimination against Catholics happened at least some of the time (38% of Catholics thought this compared with 12-25% of those with other religious identities). Catholics were also more likely than Protestants to think that both themselves and Protestants were likely to be harassed or threatened in their local area. (18% of Catholics compared with 9% of Protestants thought a Catholic is likely to experience harassment, 15% of Catholics compared with 7% of Protestants thought the same about a Protestant).

3.15 As with attitudes to sectarian prejudice more generally, people in the West of Scotland were more likely than those in other areas to think that anti-Catholic and anti-Protestant employment discrimination happened at least some of the time. 30% of those in the West compared with 19-22% of those in other areas of Scotland thought being Catholic might stop someone getting a job or promotion. The equivalent figures for Protestants were 22% (West) and 10-15% (other regions).

3.16 There was little regional variation in the perceived likelihood of someone being harassed or threatened for being Catholic or Protestant in Scotland as a whole, but there were some differences when people were asked about their own local area. 15% of people in the West of Scotland thought it very or quite likely that people in their area could be harassed or threatened for being Catholic, while 12% thought it likely Protestants could experience the same. Those living in other parts of Scotland thought it much less likely that this would happen where they live (2-8% for Catholics, 2-7% for Protestants).

Table 3.2: Perceptions of likelihood of harassment for being Catholic / Protestant in respondent's local area, by region

Harassed for being Catholic Harassed for being Protestant
North East West South North East West South
% % % % % % % %
Very likely * 2 3 3 * 2 2 1
Quite likely 2 6 12 1 1 5 10 2
Quite unlikely 20 31 37 27 19 28 35 25
Very unlikely 74 57 44 66 76 61 48 69
Don't know 4 4 4 3 3 4 4 2
Refused - 1 * - - 1 * -
Sample size 355 498 466 170 355 498 466 170

3.17 People living in the most deprived areas of Scotland were also more likely than those living in more affluent areas to think that harassment of both Protestants and Catholics is very or quite likely in their area.

Figure 3.3: Perceptions of likelihood of harassment and threats in respondent's local area by area deprivation

Figure 3.3: Perceptions of likelihood of harassment and threats in respondent's local area by area deprivation

Sample size: 1501 (all adults)

Do people think sectarianism is a problem for Scotland?

3.18 So far this chapter has examined perceptions of prejudice against Catholics and Protestants in Scotland. While such prejudice might be deemed sectarian in nature, since it is directed at people because of their religious tradition, none of the questions reported above actually used the term 'sectarianism'. They cannot therefore reveal whether or not people themselves actually consider this behaviour to be sectarian. Moreover, the fact that people believe that prejudice against Catholics and Protestants in Scotland is widespread does not necessarily imply that they think there is a problem with sectarianism in Scotland - they may consider such prejudice to be relatively minor. In order to examine perceptions of sectarianism as a problem more directly, SSA 2014 introduced the following definition of sectarianism:

'As you may know, sectarianism is a term used to describe division, bigotry and discrimination rooted in religion. For the purposes of this survey, I would like you to think only about divisions between followers of different Christian traditions, such as Protestants and Catholics.'

3.19 Respondents were then asked whether they thought sectarianism was:

  • A problem throughout the whole of Scotland
  • Only a problem in parts of Scotland
  • Not a problem in Scotland at all.

3.20 Responses show that while there is a consensus that sectarianism is a problem in Scotland (88% think this), most people think it is so only for parts of the country (69%). A further 1 in 5 (19%) think sectarianism is a problem throughout the whole of Scotland, while just 8% think that sectarianism is not a problem in Scotland at all.

3.21 Respondents who said that sectarianism is only a problem in parts of Scotland were then asked which parts of Scotland they had in mind (they could give as many answers as they wished). Their responses reflect the perceived association between sectarianism and the West - 7 in 10 said that sectarianism was a problem in Glasgow, while 38% said it affected the West of Scotland generally (See Table A.21 in Annex).

3.22 Combining responses to these two questions shows that:

  • 88% think that sectarianism is a problem in Scotland
  • 8% do not think sectarianism is a problem for Scotland
  • And 4% do not know whether or not it is a problem
  • 19% think it is a problem throughout Scotland
  • 12% think sectarianism is only a problem in Glasgow
  • 21% think it is a problem in the West of Scotland[12]
  • And 32% think it is a problem across various parts of Scotland.[13]

3.23 People actually living in the West of Scotland were, however, much more likely to think that sectarianism is a problem throughout the whole of Scotland (28% compared with 9-15% in other regions - Figure 3.4). Moreover, they did not tend to think that it is a Glasgow-only issue (6% compared with 15%-22% in other regions). Half of those in the North thought that sectarianism is a problem in various parts of Scotland.

Figure 3.4: In which parts of Scotland sectarianism is seen as a problem, by region

Figure 3.4: In which parts of Scotland sectarianism is seen as a problem, by region

Sample size: North =355; East=498; West= 466; South=170

3.24 People's views on where in Scotland sectarianism happens also differed to some extent with age. A clear majority in all age categories said that sectarianism was only a problem in parts of Scotland. Those in the older age groups were most likely to respond in this way (60% of those aged 18-39 compared with 74-75% of those aged 40+).

Figure 3.5: Whether sectarianism is a problem throughout the whole of Scotland, in parts, or not at all, by age

Figure 3.5: Whether sectarianism is a problem throughout the whole of Scotland, in parts, or not at all, by age

Sample sizes: 18-24=100; 25-39=302; 40-64=661; 65+=423

Is sectarianism seen as an intractable problem for Scotland?

3.25 Although most people think that sectarianism remains a problem for at least some parts of Scotland, views on whether there has been any change in the relationships between Protestants and Catholics in the last 10 years were mixed. Nearly half (47%) said that relationships are better now than 10 years ago, while 40% were of an opinion that they have remained the same. However, only 3% of people said relationships had become worse in the last decade.

3.26 Interestingly, given the perceived association between Scottish football and sectarianism, those who supported a Scottish team were more likely than those who did not to believe that relationships between Catholics and Protestants have improved in the last decade (55% of Scottish football fans[14] compared with 41% of those who do not support any Scottish team). As discussed in Chapter 1, the Scottish Government has an explicit aim of eradicating sectarianism from Scotland. However, there appears to be some scepticism among the public about how realistic this aim may prove to be - 66% of people in Scotland agree that 'sectarianism will always exist in Scotland', while just 17% disagree (13% neither agree nor disagree).

3.27 Protestants were particularly likely to agree with this statement (78%, compared with 66% of Catholics, 64% of other Christians and 62% of those with no religion).[15] Meanwhile, although they were more likely to think that Catholic-Protestant relationships had improved in the last decade, fans of Celtic and Rangers were less likely to believe in the possibility of a sectarianism-free future for Scotland than were fans of other Scottish football clubs or none (80% of Rangers fans, 76% of Celtic fans 69% of fans of other Scottish teams and 60% of those who do not support any Scottish club).

3.28 In terms of demographic variations, younger people and those with higher levels of education tended to be slightly more optimistic about the prospects for eradicating sectarianism from Scotland. 22% of those aged 18-24 disagreed that sectarianism will always exist compared with 12% of those aged 65 and over.[16] Similarly, 24% of those educated to a degree level disagreed with this statement compared with 9% of those with no qualifications.[17] This pattern by education may perhaps reflect the fact that those who have been through higher education tend themselves to be more tolerant and embracing of diversity (see for example findings in Ormston et al, 2011), and are thus perhaps more optimistic about the potential for society as a whole to move in that direction. Those in less deprived areas were also more optimistic than were those in the most deprived areas (23% in the most deprived quintile compared with 11% in the least deprived quintile disagreed that 'sectarianism will always exist in Scotland').

3.29 Those who think there is currently a high level of prejudice against either Catholics or Protestants in Scotland are more likely to think sectarianism is an intractable part of Scottish life - for example, 24% of those who said there was a great deal or quite a lot of prejudice against Protestants in Scotland agreed strongly that sectarianism will always exist, compared with 7-10% of those who thought there was 'some' prejudice, 'not very much' or 'none at all' these days. Similar figures were apparent in relation to perceived prejudice against Catholics.

3.30 However, the view that sectarianism will always exist was also supported by over half of those who believe there is little or no general prejudice, employment discrimination, or harassment targeted at Protestants or Catholics these days. Moreover, a clear majority (66%) of those who think that relationships between Catholics and Protestants have improved in the last 10 years nonetheless agree that sectarianism will always exist. This may suggest that, although many people apparently believe some level of sectarianism will always exist in Scotland, they also believe things have improved and do not necessarily expect the level of sectarianism to equate to serious anti-Catholic or anti-Protestant prejudice, discrimination or harassment. It also raises questions about how people conceptualise and understand sectarianism - what does it tell us about the perceived nature of sectarianism that so many people appear to think it is endemic, even if they feel there is little actual prejudice against Catholics and Protestants in Scotland?

Figure 3.6: Whether sectarianism will always exist in Scotland by people's views on the current levels of prejudice against Protestants and Catholics

Figure 3.6: Whether sectarianism will always exist in Scotland by people's views on the current levels of prejudice against Protestants and Catholics

Sample sizes:
Prejudice against Catholics: A great deal/quite a lot= 298; Some = 509; Not very much =486; None at all= 94
Prejudice against Protestants: A great deal/quite a lot= 165; Some = 423, Not very much =628; None at all= 176


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