Research and analysis

Changing attitudes to equality: Key findings

There is a broad consensus on equality values, but not attitudes - data suggests that there has never been consensus of attitudes, with complexity…



There is a broad consensus on equality values, but not attitudes - data suggests that there has never been consensus of attitudes, with complexity and diversity at the individual level still remaining today.  However they are changing in the longer term and in some areas quicker than others:

  • UK society values equality as a concept

A significant majority prioritise an equal and just society with strong values of equality as a goal, and this proportion is slowly increasing but remains slightly lower than EU averages (See slide 1 in the presentation below). There is a complex dis-connect between this and the attitudes on equality people held.

  • People are likely to feel there is more prejudice than there actually is

Perceived prejudice is much higher than prejudicial attitudes even considering that people are likely to hide prejudice.  This suggests that there appears to be much more negative equality attitudes in UK society than is actually the case (See slide 2 in the presentation below).

  • Different people hold different levels of prejudice to various groups (Inter-group prejudice)

    • Prejudice is not permanent and can be changed - Differences in prejudices are founded on beliefs, attitudes and feelings and so are open to influence,  reconsideration and therefore are changeable.
    • ** Why people feel discriminated against is changing -** What people feel is the reason they are discriminated against appears to be changing over a short period of time. Colour/race and religion are now dominant reasons cited significantly more frequently than any other. (See slide 4 in the presentation below).

Not all groups have the same proportions of prejudiced individuals.  For example, Black people are more likely to be prejudiced against gay men and lesbians compared to other groups.  Whilst attitudes in general are improving there is still differences between individuals and groups where, for some, progress is slower than others. These groups are not always intuitive (See slide 3 in the presentation below).

  • We often do not say what we really feel (self censorship)

Prejudicial attitudes are mostly hidden and therefore may not be obvious (people keep it to themselves or do not admit to it publicly). Most attitudes are recorded in a way that enables this prejudice to be hidden (See slide 5 in the presentation below).

  • It is unclear whether government is driving, or responding to change in attitudes

The evidence is unable to indicate specific government effect on attitude change, but positive attitude change is happening within the context of new equality laws and rights, as well as increased representation and significant events and media stories.

Insight provided by these findings is of significance for the Government Equalities Office under its strategic objective; ‘changing culture and removing barriers’

Date: Mon Aug 13 10:27:01 BST 2012

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