Ulster University

Public Attitudes To A Diversifying Society


Dr Philip McDermott

Almost one in three people in NI think racism is likely to worsen over the next five years, according to a new survey report from Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey (NILT) released today.

The NILT Survey is an annual survey conducted by ARK at the University of Ulster and Queen's University Belfast. It records public attitudes to a wide range of social issues.

The report – which surveyed over 1200 people – also reveals conflicting attitudes about immigration, with just under half of people expressing the view that immigration had had a favourable impact on society, with another 47% feeling that immigration into Northern Ireland should be reduced.

The study, by Dr Philip McDermott (pictured) of the University of Ulster, probed attitudes to immigration, minority ethnic communities and the role of the EU in facilitating migration.

Key findings from the research include:

:: the overall impact of immigration to Northern Ireland was viewed as favourable by almost half the respondents. Cultural life was identified as an area of society to have particularly benefitted
:: at the same time, 47% of respondents noted that immigration flows to the region should be reduced ‘a little’ or ‘a lot’. These results contrast with GB where 75% of respondents to the 2012 British Social Attitudes Survey stated that immigration flows should be reduced
:: respondents were most likely to come into contact with Eastern Europeans but less likely to have interaction with members of the Muslim and Irish Traveller populations.
:: racial prejudice was still viewed as a long-term issue for Northern Ireland with almost a third of the responses indicating a belief that this would get worse in the next five years
:: The level of acceptance of mixed race marriages in Northern Ireland is falling: in 2008, 76% said they would accept and member of an ethnic minority group though marriage: in this 2012 survey, the percentage had fallen to 60%
:: 79% of respondents felt that prejudice exists toward members of minority ethnic communities – and that the problem is getting worse.

Dr McDermott said: "In the past decade conflicting responses have been expressed on immigration and cultural diversity and the results clearly show the range of feeling held on an often emotive topic.

“Overall, respondents seemed largely supportive in principle of increasing levels of diversity and the impact of these social changes. However, these feelings appeared to dissipate when participants were faced with the scenario of having closer personal contact with migrants.

“The findings also indicate areas where further research is required to better understand issues around prejudice and racism and to ascertain the best models for good relations between all communities in Northern Ireland.”

The report is being launched at a seminar taking place in Belfast today at NICVA at 12.00 noon and is organised by ARK - Access Research Knowledge.

Full results of all the questions from the 2012 Life and Times Survey are available on the website from www.ark.ac.uk/nilt

Notes to editors:

Dr McDermott is available for interview: contact him via David Young, University of Ulster 07808 911343

The NILT Survey, an annual survey conducted by ARK at the University of Ulster and Queen's University Belfast, provides regular insight into the changing nature of Northern Ireland society.

The 2012 NILT Survey explored attitudes to autism, community relations, minority ethnic groups, migrant workers and asylum seekers, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues, and political attitudes. Full results are available at www.ark.ac.uk/nilt

The NILT module on attitudes to minority ethnic groups was funded by OFMDFM.

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