One of my most widely-read blog posts in the last year was this one, which used data from the 2011 Welsh Election Study surveys to explore attitudes, and levels of prejudice, towards various groups in society.
The analysis was based around answers to a question which asked survey respondents “[U]sing a scale from 0 to 10, where 0 means very unfavourable and 10 means very favourable, how do you feel about…”.
This question was repeated in this year’s Welsh Election Study pre-election wave survey (which was run in March, before the formal campaign period for the election began). This time, we asked the question about the following groups:
– Gay and lesbian people
– Muslim people
– Black people
– White people
– Transgender people
– Jewish people
– People who speak Welsh
– People from England who come to live in Wales
– People from Eastern Europe who come to live in Wales
– People who come to live in Wales as refugees from conflict zones like Syria
(Those items listed above in italics were repeated from the survey in 2011; those not in italics were added in 2016 as new groups about which to explore attitudes).
So what did we find? First, I’ll give four sets of figures for the overall sample:
- The percentage of WES respondents giving 0 out of 10 for that group (in short, those expressing the maximumdegree of unfavourability to members of that group)
- The percentage of WES respondents giving between 0 and 4 for that group (so, those rating that group somewhere on the unfavourable side of the 0-10 scale)
- The percentage of WES respondents giving 10 out of 10 for that group (in short, those expressing the maximumdegree of favourability to members of that group)
- The percentage of WES respondents giving between 6 and 10 for that group (so, those rating that group somewhere on the favourable side of the 0-10 scale)
Got that?! Here are the findings:
|Gay & Lesbian||5%||13%||25%||58%|
So what can we make of these findings? Well, on the positive side, all groups attract a greater number of favourable than unfavourable attitudes. And for all groups that we also asked about in 2011, attitudes have become more favourable – with the minor exception of a very small decline in favourability towards ‘white people’ – who are, in any case, a category that attract very little negative sentiment.
On the negative side, however, we still see quite substantial amounts of negative sentiment evident towards Gay and Lesbian people, Transgender people, Muslims, those from Eastern Europe and – most of all – Refugees. I can’t imagine it is much fun being a member of a social group to which a quarter or even a third of a society harbour negative views.
I thought it would also be interesting to look at the breakdowns by supporters of the different main political parties. I was particularly interested in level of hostility towards the different groups among supporters of the parties. So below is another table of figures, where I have looked at attitudes amongst those who identify with each of the four largest parties in Wales.
There are lots of numbers in the following table. To explain: for each party, in relation to each group, there are two percentage figures reported. The first number is the percentage of identifiers with that party who rated that particular social group at the lowest possible level: at 0 out of 10 on the favourability scale. The second, larger number will be the percentage of identifiers with that party who rated that group at somewhere between 0 and 4 out of 10 on the scale: so those who had some degree of negative sentiment towards that group.
|Gay & Lesbian||2% / 8%||6% / 18%||5% / 12%||13% / 30%|
|Muslim||6% / 20%||11% / 35%||7 % / 25%||32% / 61%|
|Black||1% / 4%||2% / 11%||2% / 6%||8% / 20%|
|White||<1% / 2%||1% / 3%||1% / 5%||<1% / 4%|
|Transgender||3% / 11%||8% / 26%||6% / 19%||17% / 35%|
|Jewish||1% / 6%||1% / 8%||4% / 10%||3% / 15%|
|Welsh speakers||1% / 7%||3% / 12%||<1% / 2%||6% / 18%|
|From England||1% / 6%||<1% / 4%||7% / 28%||1% / 12%|
|Eastern Europe||5% / 20%||10% / 38%||9% / 29%||25% / 58%|
|Refugees||7% / 25%||12% / 40%||10% / 30%||38% / 69%|
The results suggest that Labour identifiers, on average, harbour the most ‘progressive’ attitudes in general. However, even for Labour identifiers we see evidence of quite substantial negative sentiments towards at least some groups – most obviously Muslims, those from Eastern Europe and Refugees. There are somewhat higher levels of negative sentiment towards most groups evident among Conservative identifiers; and also, to some degree among Plaid Cymru identifers. The latter result may be something of a surprise, given the public attitudes taken by Plaid leadership figures. But there remains a socially conservative element to at least some of Plaid’s support base. Plaid identifiers are also the most likely to harbour negative sentiment towards English incomers to Wales – although this is still an attitude held very much by a minority of them.
However, for most of the social groups asked about in this survey, the differences between Labour, Conservative and Plaid identifiers are minor compared to the differences between them all and identifiers with UKIP. Indeed, with regard to some groups UKIP identifiers are almost off the scale, showing in particular much higher levels of dislike towards Gay and Lesbian people, Muslims, Black people, Transgender people, Welsh speakers, those from Eastern Europe and Refugees than identifiers with any other party. These attitudes are still expressed by a minority of UKIP identifiers in some cases. But an absolute majority express some degree of unfavourability towards Muslims, those from Eastern Europe and Refugees.
When commenting on the evidence from our 2011 survey, I observed that “This evidence does not suggest that Wales is quite as tolerant a place as some of us might sometimes like to think it is”, and also that “much of this data from 2011 perhaps helps us to understand why UKIP’s message on immigration has found a receptive audience in parts of the Welsh electorate in subsequent years.” I think those statements very much still hold true. While Wales may long have voted more for parties of the centre-left than has England, it does not necessarily follow that our attitudes are more politically progressive or more pro-European. We saw that on June 23rd this year; with this data, I think we see it again today.