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
5 Overt and Subtle Expressions of Difference

98 page PDF

1.3 MB

5 Overt and Subtle Expressions of Difference

Key points

  • Orange Order and Irish republican marches are not widely supported by the Scottish public. Only 14% supported the right of loyalist organisations and 11% the right of republican organisations to march along public streets in Scotland. More than half opposed the right of each kind of organisation to march.
  • Catholics are the most likely to oppose both loyalist and republican marches. 72% of Catholics opposed the rights of loyalist organisations to march, and 69% opposed the rights of Irish republican organisations. A majority (albeit smaller) of Protestants also opposed the right of each kind of organisation to march (54%/61%). In contrast, lower proportions (49%/50%) of those with no religion opposed each type of march.
  • Overall, 43% of people in Scotland oppose denominational schools, while 25% support them. Opposition has fallen in recent years, from 50% in 2007.
  • Catholics were much more likely to support denominational schools than other groups. 62% of Catholics supported denominational schools, while 18% opposed them.
  • While only 5% thought that jokes about Catholics or Protestants were always acceptable, a further 34% thought they were acceptable if they did not offend anyone who heard them. Catholics and Protestants themselves were more likely to think such jokes acceptable, as were older people.
  • Most people found sectarian language unacceptable, and the majority of those who did so reported that they would say something about it if someone used these terms. Only 8-9% thought that the terms 'Hun' and 'Fenian' were acceptable.
  • Very few respondents (1-2%) admitted they would be unhappy if a Catholic or a Protestant married into their family. Previous SSA reports found that people are much more likely to feel unhappy about the prospect of people from other religious groups, including Muslims and Hindus joining their family.
  • Christians, be they Protestant or Catholic or neither, were less likely to say they feel more comfortable around people of similar religious beliefs (or none) than were people of no religion or non-Christian religions. 34% of those with no religious beliefs and 45% of those of non-Christian religions compared with 15% of Protestants, 16% of Catholics and 22% of other Christians agreed that they felt more comfortable with people of similar beliefs to themselves.
  • Men, those living in the West of Scotland, people who said that their religion (or lack of it) was an important part of their identity, and people who attended religious services regularly were all more likely to say they felt more comfortable around those of similar beliefs to themselves.

5.1 This chapter focuses on attitudes to religious difference in Scotland. Expressions of difference do not in themselves necessarily equate to or contribute to sectarianism in Scotland (though sectarianism does depend on a - misdirected - sense of difference). However, we have already seen that some public expressions of religious identity - namely marches and denominational schools - are viewed by some as contributing to sectarianism. Marches and denominational schools could both be described as overt expressions of difference, as they make or highlight distinctions on the basis of religion, or historical connections with Ireland. This chapter explores in more detail attitudes to both these overt expressions of difference. It also explores attitudes to expressions of difference that may occur in private between friends, but which it could be argued also perpetuate religious divisions. In particular, it looks at attitudes towards the acceptability of sectarian language and jokes. Finally, it examines how comfortable people feel with religious difference in their own social and family lives, including how happy people would be if someone of the Protestant or Catholic faiths married into their family, and how comfortable people feel around people of a different religious orientation to themselves. Again, while neither of these measure sectarian attitudes directly, people's level of comfort with religious difference in their own lives might be seen as part of the social and cultural context that either allows sectarianism to persist, or may help ensure Scotland can become sectarianism-free.

Public attitudes towards Orange Order and Irish Republican marches

5.2 The 2003 report on Sectarianism in Glasgow (NFO) asked people whether they thought Orange Walks and Catholic Parades should be banned. In both cases, more than half the respondents agreed, with Catholic respondents being more likely to agree that both types of march should be banned. In SSA 2014, a slightly different pair of questions was asked:

How much do you support or oppose the right of loyalist organisations, such as the Orange Order, to march along public streets in Scotland?

And how much do you support or oppose the right of Irish republican organisations, such as Cairde na hÉireann, to march along public streets in Scotland?

These questions were designed to try and make people focus on the rights of the organisations involved, and to avoid responses that might be made on the grounds of inconvenience (for example, saying marches should be banned because they cause inconvenience for local people or businesses). However, this difference in wording in fact made little or no difference. 53% of SSA 2014 respondents opposed the right of loyalist organisations and 56% opposed the right of Irish Republican organisations to march. These figures exactly match those in the 2003 Glasgow report, in which 53% agreed that Orange Walks should be banned, and 56% agreed Catholic parades should be banned.

5.3 Only 14% of respondents said that they supported the right of loyalist organisations to march along public streets in Scotland. 11% said they supported the rights of Irish Republican organisations. These figures might perhaps be viewed as very low, given that the questions were framed in terms of rights. Under article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, there is a right to peaceful assembly, although the Public Order Act 1986 does allow for restrictions to be placed on marches, including the banning of them in specific areas for up to 3 months. In any case, the low level of support for an unqualified right to march highlights the contentious status of Orange Order and Irish Republican marches in Scotland.

5.4 There was a strong correlation between views on the two different types of march. 93% of those who supported the right of Irish Republican organisations to march also supported the right of loyalist organisations to march. 92% of those who opposed Irish Republican organisations marching also opposed loyalist organisations marching.

5.5 Variation in the level of support or opposition for loyalist and republican marches across the regions of Scotland was not significant - those in the West, where more marches take place each year, were no more or less likely to oppose the rights of loyalist or republican organisations to march than were those in other parts of the country. Those in the West, however, were slightly more likely to have a definite opinion in favour or against loyalist marches (Tables 5.1 and 5.2).

Table 5.1: Support or opposition to right of loyalist organisations to march in public streets in Scotland, by region, 2014

North East West South Total
% % % % %
Support 12 14 15 10 14
Neither support nor oppose 33 35 26 33 31
Oppose 52 49 56 56 53
Don't know / refused 4 2 2 1 2
Sample size 356 502 471 172 1501

Base: all adults

Table 5.2: Support or opposition to right of Irish republican organisations to march in public streets in Scotland, by region, 2014

North East West South Total
% % % % %
Support 9 12 13 8 11
Neither support nor oppose 32 33 26 31 30
Oppose 55 54 58 59 56
Don't know / refused 4 2 2 2 2
Sample size 356 502 471 172 1501

Base: all adults

5.6 As in the 2003 Glasgow report (NFO), Catholics were more likely to oppose both loyalist and republican marches than were those of other religions. 72% of those who identified themselves as Catholics said they opposed the right of loyalist organisations to march, compared with 54% of Protestants, and 49% of those who had no religious beliefs. Similarly, 69% of Catholics opposed the right of Irish republican organisations to march, compared with 61% of Protestants and 50% of those with no religion (Figure 5.1). Perhaps this higher opposition to both types of marches among Catholics is connected with their increased sensitivity to sectarianism more generally (as noted in earlier chapters of this report).

Figure 5.1: Opposition to right to march, by religious identity

Figure 5.1: Opposition to right to march, by religious identity

Sample sizes: Protestant=520; Catholic=200; Other Christian=251; No religion=475

5.7 The strength of respondents' religious views was not significantly associated with opinion on the right to march, except that Catholics who described themselves as 'very' or 'fairly' religious were more likely to oppose marches than those who described themselves as 'not very' religious or 'not at all' religious. 79% of more strongly religious Catholics opposed loyalist marches and 77% opposed Irish Republican marches. The equivalent figures for Catholics who felt less strongly religious were 60% and 57% respectively.

5.8 Unsurprisingly, people who thought marches contributed to sectarianism were more likely to oppose the right to march. 61% of those who thought that Orange Order marches contributed to sectarianism opposed the right of loyalist organisations to march, compared with 32% of those who did not think Orange Order marches contributed to sectarianism. Similarly, 66% of those who thought that Irish Republican marches contributed to sectarianism, compared with 40% of those who did not, opposed the right of Irish Republican organisations to march. Perhaps the more surprising finding here is the proportion of those who do not think that marches contribute to sectarianism who nevertheless oppose them. Presumably for these people their opposition to the right to march is based on concerns about issues other than sectarian tensions - perhaps relating to disorder or disruption to local communities and businesses. In their report on the community impact of public processions, Hamilton-Smith et al (2015) highlight anti-social behaviour, delays and noise as among the concerns local people expressed about Loyalist and Irish Republican parades.

Public attitudes towards denominational schools

5.9 In Scotland, 'denominational schools' can be considered almost synonymous with 'Catholic schools'.[20] The policy of such schools is that children who were baptised into the Catholic faith take precedent over others if places are over-subscribed. The 2003 report on sectarianism in Glasgow (NFO) noted that, while few blamed faith schools for breeding sectarianism, some people thought that the existence of such overt divisions between Catholics and non-Catholics made divisions on religious grounds seem normal.

5.10 SSA 2014 asked people:

How much do you support or oppose having some schools that are linked to a particular religious denomination, such as Roman Catholic?

5.11 This question was also asked in SSA 2007. In 2014, 25% of adults supported the existence of denominational schools and 43% opposed them. While support has remained fairly constant (24% in 2007), opposition has fallen, from 50% in 2007, with more people saying they 'neither support nor oppose' such schools (Figure 5.2).

Figure 5.2: Support for and opposition to denominational schools, 2007 and 2014

Figure 5.2: Support for and opposition to denominational schools, 2007 and 2014

Sample sizes: 2014=1501; 2007=1508

5.12 Support for denominational schools was, not surprisingly, much more common among Catholics. Overall, 25% of adults in Scotland supported the existence of denominational schools; among Catholics, this figure was 62%. Protestants and those with no religious beliefs were the most likely to oppose the existence of these school: 52% of Protestants and 49% of those with no religious beliefs said they were opposed, compared with 18% of Catholics (and 43% overall) (Figure 5.3).

Figure 5.3: Support for and opposition to denominational schools, by religious identity

Figure 5.3: Support for and opposition to denominational schools, by religious identity

Sample sizes: Protestant=520; Catholic=200; Other Christian=251; No religion=475

5.13 Support for denominational schools was also more common among those who had attended them. Around three quarters of Catholics had attended a denominational school. 69% of this group supported them, although sample sizes are too small to make any proper comparisons between this group and those Catholics who did not attend a denominational school.

5.14 Those who thought denominational schools contributed to sectarianism were more likely to oppose them. 68% of those who felt that denominational schools contributed to sectarianism were opposed to such schools, compared with 28% of those who did not think denominational schools contributed to sectarianism in Scotland.

Just a joke? Attitudes to jokes about religious groups

5.15 The language we use when we talk about religion and the jokes we make about it have the potential to perpetuate or sustain divisions on religious lines. The 2003 Glasgow report noted that the most common forms of sectarianism in Glasgow were jokes between friends and the use of sectarian language. SSA 2014, asked people (in the self-completion section of the survey[21]):

Would you say that jokes about Protestants or Catholics are … always acceptable, acceptable if they don't offend anyone who hears them, or never acceptable?

The same question was also asked with respect to jokes about Muslims, as a point of comparison.

5.16 Around a third of respondents (35%) thought that jokes about Catholics or Protestants were never acceptable. A similar proportion (34%) said they were acceptable if they did not offend anyone who hears them, while 5% said they were always acceptable. By comparison, 42% said jokes about Muslims were never acceptable, 29% said they were acceptable if they don't offend anyone who hears them, and 4% said they were always acceptable (Figure 5.4).

Figure 5.4: Acceptability of jokes about different religious groups

Figure 5.4: Acceptability of jokes about different religious groups

Sample size: 1428 - all who completed the self-completion

5.17 Older people were more likely to find jokes about Catholics and Protestants acceptable. 52% of those aged 65 or above said that jokes about Protestants and Catholics were always acceptable, or acceptable if they do not offend anyone who hears them, compared with 29-31% of those aged 18-39 (Table 5.3). For those who believe that such jokes can help perpetuate sectarianism, this lower tolerance among the younger generation is clearly a positive finding.

Table 5.3: Acceptability of jokes about Protestants or Catholics, by age

18-29 30-39 40-64 65+ Total
% % % % %
Always acceptable 5 3 6 4 5
Acceptable if they don't offend anyone who hears them 26 26 33 48 34
Never acceptable 42 38 35 29 35
(It depends) 21 21 21 14 20
(Can't choose / refused) 6 12 5 5 6
Sample size 179 212 646 390 1428

Base is all who completed the self-completion. Total includes one adult whose age was not known

5.18 People who were themselves either Protestant or Catholic were more likely than others to say that jokes about Protestants or Catholics were acceptable if they don't offend anyone who hears them. This could reflect a reluctance on the part of some who belong to a particular group to express disapproval of jokes directed at themselves, perhaps because of concerns about being seen to take themselves too seriously. Alternatively, it could reflect the fact that some Catholics may themselves make jokes about Protestants, and vice versa. Those who identified themselves as Christian, but neither Protestant nor Catholic were the most likely to say such jokes were never acceptable (Figure 5.5).

Figure 5.5: Acceptability of jokes about Protestants and Catholics, by religious identity

Figure 5.5: Acceptability of jokes about Protestants and Catholics, by religious identity

Base: Those who completed the self-completion
Sample sizes: Protestant=492; Catholic=188; Other Christian=240; No religion=459

Sectarian language

5.19 In addition to asking about jokes which might be regarded as sectarian, SSA 2014 asked[22] about the acceptability of two terms which may also be regarded as such:

Imagine a friend who was not Catholic came round to your home and casually used the term "Fenian" during the course of the conversation to describe someone who was Catholic. Would you find it acceptable or unacceptable?

And what if a friend who was not Protestant casually used the term "Hun" during the course of the conversation to describe someone who was Protestant? Would you find this was acceptable or unacceptable?

5.20 The vast majority of respondents viewed both terms as unacceptable. Only 9% said the casual use of the term 'Fenian' by someone who was not Catholic was acceptable, and 8% said the use of the term 'Hun' by someone who was not Protestant was acceptable. Most of those who found the terms unacceptable said they would say something to this effect to the person using the term (Figure 5.6). These findings are in line with those from the Glasgow report, which found that both terms were unacceptable to a majority of people in the city (NFO, 2003).

Figure 5.6: Acceptability of the use of the terms 'Fenian' and 'Hun' in casual conversation

Figure 5.6: Acceptability of the use of the terms 'Fenian' and 'Hun' in casual conversation

Sample size: 1428 - all who completed the self-completion

5.21 Differences in responses by age were not significant, except that those aged 18-24 were more likely to say they had never heard of the term 'Fenian' (23%, compared with 11% of those aged 40 and above). This could be viewed as an encouraging sign that the term may be in less common use among the younger generation. Differences according to the religious identity of the respondent were not significant.

Faith, family and friends

5.22 The final section of this chapter considers respondents' feelings about social connections with people of different religious beliefs to themselves. Those who did not identify themselves as Catholic were asked (in the self-completion part of the questionnaire):

How would you feel if a close relative of yours married or formed a long-term relationship with a Catholic?

Those who did not identify themselves as Protestant were asked:

And how would you feel if a close relative of yours married or formed a long-term relationship with a Protestant?

5.23 Similar questions were asked in SSA 2010, with respect to Christians in general (as opposed to Catholics and Protestants specifically) as well as a number of other religious and non-religious groups.

5.24 Very few respondents to SSA 2014 said they would be unhappy if someone of either the Catholic or Protestant faiths joined their families - just 2% of those who were not Catholic said they would be unhappy if a close relative married, or formed a long-term relationship with, a Catholic, while only 1% of those who were not Protestant said the same about Protestants.

5.25 This is in line with findings on attitudes to Christians in general in 2010, when just 2% of those who were not Christian said they would be unhappy if a close relative married, or formed a long-term relationship with, a Christian (Figure 5.7).

Figure 5.7: Proportion who would be unhappy or very unhappy about different groups marrying / forming long-term relationship with a family member

Figure 5.7: Proportion who would be unhappy or very unhappy about different groups marrying / forming long-term relationship with a family member

All figures are from SSA 2010, except those for Protestants and Catholics, from SSA 2014
Base 2010: All respondents (except for religions, which exclude those from that religious group)
Base 2014: Those who completed the self-completion, excluding those from that religious group
Sample size: Protestant (all those not Protestant)=936; Catholic (all those not Catholic)=1240; Christian (all those not Christian)=725; Other=1477-1495

5.26 Figure 5.7 indicates that this type of discriminatory feeling against Christians, be they Protestant or Catholic, is very unusual compared with feelings about other religious groups. In 2010, 9% said they would be unhappy if a close relative married or formed a long-term relationship with a Jew, 18% with a Hindu, and 23% with a Muslim. Unhappiness about other, non-religious, groups joining people's families was even more common - for example, 55% said they would be unhappy if a close relative married or formed a long-term relation with someone who cross-dressed in public, while 30% would be unhappy about close family members forming same sex-relationships. In this context then, people in Scotland appear far more comfortable with religious difference than with other kinds of difference, and with Christianity than with other religions. This may, in part, be because people are more comfortable with the familiar; most people in Scotland, whatever their beliefs, have been exposed to Christianity.

5.27 SSA 2014 also asked about how comfortable people are with religious difference in a social context. Everyone who identified themselves with any religion was asked how much they agreed or disagreed that:

I am more comfortable around people with similar religious beliefs to my own.

While those who said that they had no religious beliefs were asked how much they agreed or disagreed that:

I am more comfortable around people with no religious beliefs.

5.28 Protestants and Catholics were less likely than those of other faiths or none to express discomfort about socialising with people whose religious beliefs differ from their own. Just 15% of Protestants and 16% of Catholics agreed that they were more comfortable with people of the same beliefs as themselves, compared with 22% of other Christians, 45% of those of non-Christian faiths[23], and 34% of those with no religion (Figure 5.8). The figures for those who said they had no religion may suggest a certain degree of secular discomfort with religion.

Figure 5.8: % agreeing or disagreeing that they feel more comfortable with people with similar religious beliefs (or no religious beliefs), by religious identity

Figure 5.8: % agreeing or disagreeing that they feel more comfortable with people with similar religious beliefs (or no religious beliefs), by religious identity

Base: Those who completed the self-completion.
Sample sizes: Protestant=492; Catholic=188; Other Christian=240; Other Religion=43; No religion=459

5.29 In addition to religious identity, a number of other factors were significantly and independently associated with feeling more comfortable around people of similar beliefs.[24] Men were more likely to agree - 30% of men, compared with 19% of women, said that they felt more comfortable around people of similar religious beliefs (or none).

5.30 People living in the West of Scotland were more likely to say they feel more comfortable around people of similar beliefs (29% compared with 21% of those living in other parts of Scotland). Those who regularly attended services or meetings associated with their religion also felt more comfortable with similar people - 33% of those who attended such services or meetings at least once a month felt more comfortable around those with similar religious beliefs to themselves, compared with 18-22% of those who attended church less regularly.

5.31 Similarly, those who said that being of a particular religious group (or none) was an important part of their identity were more likely to agree that they felt more comfortable with people of similar religious beliefs. 38% of those who agreed strongly about the importance of their religion (or lack of it) to who they were, falling to 10% of those who disagreed strongly (Table 5.4).

Table 5.4: % agreeing/disagreeing that they feel more comfortable with people of similar religious beliefs, by how important religion is to the respondent

Being of my religion (or no religion) is an important part of who I am
Agree strongly Agree Neither agree nor disagree Disagree Disagree strongly Total
I feel more comfortable around people of similar religious beliefs (or none) % % % % % %
Agree 38 26 18 18 10 24
Neither agree nor disagree 40 40 52 45 42 44
Disagree 19 31 27 31 45 28
Don't know / refused 3 3 3 5 3 4
Sample size 222 463 393 285 56 1428

Base is all adults who answered the self-completion. Total includes those who answered don't know or did not answer the question on importance of religion


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