“A longitudinal study of ethnic minorities’ perceptions of prejudice in Britain” – A summary of my conference presentation

Towards the end of last month, I delivered a presentation at the Social and Political Research Cluster’s inaugural conference at the University of Manchester. Since August I had been working on some research looking into ethnic minorities’ perceptions of prejudice in Britain. The conference provided an opportunity to present my findings, which I have summarised below in this post.

To investigate this topic, I selected data from the Home Office Citizenship Survey (HOCS) during the years of its lifespan, between 2001 and 2011. The HOCS had two advantages; firstly, it contains a high number of ethnic minority respondents and secondly, rather than ask its respondents their views about levels of racial prejudice in present-day Britain, it asks them to make their assessment of levels of racial prejudice in the country over the previous five-year period. Had it, in their view, increased, decreased or stayed the same? To make the data more representative of the wider UK population, a weight was first selected and then applied. As this research focused on ethnic minorities, respondents who identified as belonging to one of the white groups (British, Irish or Other) were excluded from the analysis.

Figure 1 shows the results from this initial part of the investigation. The most intriguing part can be observed between 2007-8 and 2010-11, where the proportion of respondents who believe that prejudice has remained the same increases dramatically. At the same time, the proportion who claimed that levels of racial prejudice had grown falls by a noticeable margin. The who selected ‘Don’t Know’ (DK) as their response climbs steadily between 2001 and 2010/11.

Fig. 1


At this stage of the investigation, it occurred to me that a number of high-profile events and phenomena that occurred between 2001-11, such as the so-called War on Terror, the invasion of Iraq, the July 7 London bombings and the rise of the British National Party (BNP) had perhaps disproportionately affected Muslims by placing individual Muslims and Islam under greater scrutiny than before. Therefore, I decided to track black and minority ethnic (BME) Muslims’ [1] perceptions of religious prejudice and compare them to non-Muslims who also belonged to an ethnic minority group, to see whether there were any distinct changes that took place over time. I reasoned that we would witness more significant changes among BME adherents of Islam than among ethnic minority followers of other faiths. Figure 2 illustrates that there was, in fact, little difference between Muslims and non-Muslims in their perceptions of religious prejudice, a question which first appeared in the Citizenship Survey in 2005. Muslims were, however, more likely to believe that there was more religious prejudice in each of the three surveys analysed.

Fig. 2


In the final part of the study, my objective was to determine the nature of the association between minorities’ perceptions of racial and religious prejudice and the strength of belonging to Britain. One might assume that attachment to the country would be lower among those who believe that levels of prejudice have increased. One might also expect to see a fluctuation across time in how people assess their feelings of belonging to the nation. Citizenship Survey data (see Figure 3) suggests that Britain’s ethnic minorities have been rather consistent in their feelings of attachment to Britain.

Fig. 3


Muslims from a minority ethnic background, as shown in Figure 4, have likewise exhibited similar levels of attachment to Britain as non-Muslims from ethnic minority backgrounds. However, as highlighted in the graph, figures are not statistically significant at the 5% level. In other words, there is a greater probability that these figures could have come as a result of pure chance.

Fig. 4


As the correlation coefficients found below in Figures 5 & 6 reveal, there is only a very weak, almost non-existent, positive correlation between both perceptions of racial and religious prejudice and strength of personal belonging to Britain. The correlation matrixes figures from the 2005 and 2007-8 surveys were not statistically significant at the 5% level, with the exception being those from the 2010-11 survey, which included a larger number of cases (see Figure 6).

 Fig. 5


Fig. 6


In concluding my talk, I offered some thoughts on how this research might be developed further. One could include other measures of disaffection and alienation apart from attachment/belonging to the country. The Citizenship Survey, for instance, includes other variables, such as one’s own attachment to their neighbourhood and local area. Moving beyond the Citizenship Survey, one could turn to other surveys which include questions on trust in British democracy and institutions, such as Parliament, the police and the criminal justice system.


[1] According to the 2011 Census, 8 percent of UK Muslims identify as white (3 percent White British, 8 percent Other White). As I am only interested in collecting the views of Britain’s ethnic minorities here, all ‘White’ cases have been excluded from all sections this study.