Britain is more accepting of Muslims, Pew poll finds

The majority of Britons hold favourable views towards Muslims, according to the latest research from Pew.

Roughly seven-in-ten adults in the UK (72 per cent) hold a favourable view (a split of 22 per cent for ‘very favourable’ and 50 per cent for ‘somewhat favourable’).

But nearly of fifth of adults surveyed registered an unfavourable view (a split of 11 per cent for ‘mostly unfavourable’ and 8 per cent ‘very unfavourable’). With nearly 10 per cent unsure and/or unwilling to answer. Nor should we discount that the poll took place after the terrorism in Paris.

PewresearchThe static nature of unfavourable views suggests a deeper and latent dislike of Muslims. Between the autumn of 2009 and the latest poll, ‘very unfavourable’ views steadily declined from 10 to 8 per cent. But on the flip side, the same is also true of more favourable views.

In terms of methodology, the poll used a 999-sized sample (with a margin of error of 3.7 per cent) and relied upon telephone conversations (a split of 75 per cent landline and 25 per cent mobile phone).

To their credit, Pew offers a detailed breakdown of their use of Random Digit Dialling (RDD). RDD intends to capture a better representation of young people within each household as interviewers ask to speak to “the youngest female [or male], 18 years of age or older, who is now at home.”

That stance is not applied to individuals contacted via a mobile phone, as no effort is made to interview other members of the household, and Pew acknowledge the issue of individuals who share mobile phones.

The question also might explain how we arrived at the results:

I’d like you to rate some different groups of people in (survey country) according to how you feel about them. Please tell me whether your opinion is very favorable, mostly favorable, mostly unfavorable or very unfavorable. c. Muslims

Other research highlights how young people are more accepting of minorities, including Muslims. But acts of terrorism and negative media portrayals exacerbate prejudice across all age categories. Therefore, encouraging a greater youth involvement in polls (though positive) potentially skews figures. Without a detailed poll breakdown it a remains a speculative point.

Racialisation helps us distinguish between two distinct forms of anti-Muslim sentiment. One is driven by a view that Muslims are ethnically and culturally different. Others hold a specific anti-Muslim prejudice but demonstrate a greater tolerance towards other ethnic minorities. These latent prejudices can mineralise over time into acts of violence or discrimination.

In isolation, the Pew poll is welcome but a closer inspection raises important caveats. In many ways, Britain affords Muslims many opportunities to peacefully observe their faith when compared to parts of Europe. Not to discount the obvious fault lines and tensions. Yet, the Pew poll makes for interesting and potentially positive reading.

Attitudes to Britain’s Jewish communities remain positively high but not for Romani communities.