Northern Ireland most bigoted place, survey reveals

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Northern Ireland has the highest proportion of bigoted people in the western world, according to research from the University of Ulster.

Not only does the province have the highest proportion of bigots, but the bigots are on average more bigoted than those in other countries.

The main target of Northern Irish prejudice is the gay community, with over a third of respondents saying they did not want gay neighbours.

The study was carried out by Vani Borooah, Professor of Applied Economics at the University of Ulster and John Mangan, Professor of Economics at the University of Queensland and is to be published in the prestigious economics journal, Kyklos.

Nearly 32,000 people in 19 European countries as well as in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA were asked the question: Would you like to have persons from this group as your neighbours?

The five groups were people of another race, immigrants or foreign workers, Muslims, Jews and gay people.

In Northern Ireland 44% of the 1,000 respondents did not want persons from at least one of the five groups as their neighbours.

The province was closely followed by Greece (43%).

The lowest proportion of bigots were found in Sweden (13%), Iceland (18%), Canada (22%) and Denmark (22%).

The percentage of respondents in Northern Ireland who would not like them as neighbours was gay people (35.9%), immigrants or foreign workers (18.9%), Muslims (16%), Jews (11.6%) and people of a different race (11.1%).

For the same groups, the average of all the countries surveyed was respectively 19.6%, 10.1%, 14.5%, 9.5% and 8.5%.

Homophobia was by far the main source of bigotry in most western countries: over 80% of bigoted persons in Northern Ireland and Canada and 75% of bigots in Austria, the USA, Great Britain, Ireland and Italy would not want homosexuals as neighbours.

The exceptions to this were the Scandinavian countries in which the main target of bigotry was Muslims: 74% of bigoted Danes, 68% of bigoted Swedes and 63% of bigoted Icelanders did not want Muslims as neighbours.

The corresponding proportions for homosexuals in these countries were, respectively 37%, 44% and 43%.

The study also explored who among the various countries’ populations were most likely to be bigots. It found:

· Women are less likely to be bigoted than men.

· The young (15-29 years) and middle-aged (30-49) were less likely to be bigoted than those aged over 50.

· People who were unhappy were more likely to be bigoted than those who were not unhappy.

· Some evidence that financial dissatisfaction might also be a source of bigotry.

· Right wingers, especially those who felt their government’s priority should be “maintaining order in the nation,” were more likely to be bigots than those whose politics were middle-of-the-road or left-wing.

· Students were less likely to be bigots than non-students.

· Those in socio-economic classes A-B (upper and upper-middle class); C1 (middle class, non-manual) and C2 (middle, manual) were less likely to be bigoted than those in D-E (unskilled manual).

The study also explored attitudes towards three of the groups – Muslims, immigrants and homosexuals. People in a number of countries, Belgium, France, Finland, Greece, Italy and Luxembourg, were more likely to be bigoted towards Muslims than Northern Ireland citizens.

However in every country, except Greece and Italy, people were significantly less likely to be bigoted towards immigrants and homosexuals than people in Northern Ireland.

Along with Greece, Northern Ireland was the most homophobic country in the western world.

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