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Public opinion surveys

Equality in Northern Ireland

What you need to know

Equality in Northern Ireland – Public Opinion Surveys

The Commission’s Public Opinion Surveys on Equality in Northern Ireland support the development, monitoring and evaluation of data and performance measures aligned with the delivery of our Corporate and Business planning outcomes.

Our Public Opinion Surveys are currently being under taken in the Autumn/Winter of each year, with publication on this website in the following Spring.  The surveys use a quota-based sampling approach of 500 completed telephone interviews.

Aspects of Life in Northern Ireland
A number of questions and statements were presented to participants covering various aspects of life in Northern Ireland, including views and attitudes to equality, discrimination, workplaces, education and public services.

Our latest Public Opinion Survey obtained responses to the following questions and issues:

Awareness and understanding of equality

When asked what the term ‘equality’ means to participants, thinking specifically about Northern Ireland (NI), the most commonly cited response is that it means religious equality (17%).

Over one in ten (15%) hold a negative view of equality or feel that equality in NI is lacking.

Attitudes to equality

Less than a third of participants agree that the term ‘equality’ is meaningless to them and not something they think about day to day (29%), marking a significant decrease on the previous year (36%).

Equality status and Covid-19

The group identified most frequently as having been more negatively affected by the broader impacts of COVID-19 were those over the age of 75 (63%). Those living with a disability or underlying health conditions (31%) and those suffering from physical or mental illhealth (26%) were also cited.

In terms of settings, participants identified that people have been most negatively impacted by COVID-19 at work (31%), in accessing primary or community care (23%) and in education (22%).

Views on equality in Northern Ireland

The majority of participants agree that antidiscrimination laws in NI are necessary (83%).

In terms of workplaces, the majority also agree that workers are generally treated with respect (53%), although this has decreased significantly since 2018-19 (62%).

In general, the majority agree that workplaces in NI are welcoming and inclusive (54%) but this has also significantly declined since 2018-19 (62%).

As in 2019, just over a third of participants are worried that laws to help protect them from discrimination and to promote equality will not be as strong as for others in Great Britain or the Republic of Ireland (34%). A growing proportion of participants are not concerned on this issue (35% in 2020-21 compared to 30% in 2019) or are not sure (5% in 2020-21 compared to 10% in 2019).

Personal experiences of unwanted behaviour

Of those in work, the majority report that they have not personally experienced a situation where they were not treated with dignity and respect in the workplace based on personal characteristics (82%).

Almost one-fifth (18%) report that they have experienced this. Just under a quarter of participants who are in work report witnessing a situation where others in the workplace were not treated with dignity and respect based on their personal characteristics (27%).


In 2018-19, just over a third of participants agreed that workplaces tend to employ people with disabilities (35%). This has declined significantly over time, with less than a quarter (22%) now feeling this is the case in 2020-21.

A higher proportion feel that workplaces support employees with disabilities (45%) however this has also seen a decline since 2018-19 (53%).

Four in ten participants agree that workplaces rarely support employees with mental ill-health (40%), while a third disagree (33%). This is consistent with previous findings.

In 2019, participants were asked if employers should employ people according to a job being seen as a man’s or a woman’s job and 67% did not agree. In 2020-21, this has increased to 78% of participants disagreeing that this should be the case.


Nine in ten participants agree that pre-school should meet the needs of all children, including those with disabilities or those whose first language is not English (90%).

The government provides funding to schools to meet the needs of some pupils, such as those with disabilities. The majority of participants agree that how this funding is spent should be monitored by government (65%).

In terms of where government funding should go, 62% agree that the focus should be on those groups which do less well at school.

Local Area

Almost three-quarters of participants agree that they would consider participating in voluntary or community work (73%), which marks a significant increase on the previous year (67%).

A smaller proportion say they would consider applying to sit on a public board, such as a school’s board of governors or a board for a publicly funded body (44%).

Public figures and public services

When planning public services, 43% of participants agree that the needs of different groups of people are taken into account, while 28% disagree.

The majority of participants disagree that public figures show leadership on equality matters (51%). Just under a quarter agree that leadership is demonstrated (24%).

Download the full findings from our Winter 2020 survey :
Download the full findings from our Winter 2019 survey :
Download the full findings from our Winter 2018 survey:

Related information


If you require this information in an alternative format please contact Leanne Brown, email: or Tel: 02890500607


< Social Attitudes & good relations
< Addressing inequality

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