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How is our work influencing life in Northern Ireland and delivering equality? Learn more about our policy, legal and research work.
 
 

Equality Awareness Surveys

Attitudes and perceptions

What you need to know

Attitudes

Perceptions

 

Equality Awareness SurveysSpeech bubble


The Equality Commission carries out regular equality awareness surveys which look at:
 
  • attitudes to equality groups
  • perceptions and support for equality issues
  • awareness of equality and anti-discrimination issues, rights and protections
  • confidence in the Equality Commission

How we did it 

Two equality awareness surveys were undertaken in 2016. Social Market Research conducted the fieldwork for the survey of the general public in July/August 2016 on a face-to-face basis with an achieved sample of 1,143 adults aged 16 years and over. Interviews were conducted in respondents’ homes using Computer Assisted Personal interviewing.  The survey used stratified random sampling to ensure  the sample was  fully representative of the Northern Ireland adult population (aged 16 years and over).

Ipsos MORI conducted a survey to give us insight into the attitudes and perceptions of those who use or could use our services to employers and service providers. We asked them about awareness of and confidence in the Commission, satisfaction with its services and the impact those services had on their organisations.  We took our 1,220 sample respondents from our database of employers registered with us for the purposes of the Fair Employment and Treatment (Northern Ireland) Order 1998.

What we found 

The findings of these surveys build on previous similar surveys undertaken in 2005, 2008 and 2011 and are as follows:

 - A question of attitude

 
 - Perception of equality Issues and knowledge of rights
 
 - Working for change
 
  • Views from employers, service providers and members of the public on the services provided by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland - Download publication: Working for Change (pdf, 2018)

The complete findings from our Equality Awareness Surveys undertaken in 2016 are available in the following reports:
 

A Question of Attitude


Question of AttitudeWe asked respondents a series of 'social distance' questions to assess public attitudes towards ten equality groups. The scenarios explored how comfortable people felt with varying degrees of closeness to a member of a 'different' group. Respondents were asked whether they 'would mind' or 'would not mind' having a member of each group as a work colleague, a neighbour or if one of the group members were to marry a close relative.

Overall, attitudes were positive towards all equality groups across all three social distance scenarios. Negative attitudes (the proportion of those 'who would mind') towards all the equality groups, and for all three social distance scenarios, decreased between 2011 and 2016.

The proportions of respondents who 'would mind' a person from a specific equality group increased as social distance decreased, from work colleague, to neighbour, to in-law.

Who do we think is unfairly treated?

To understand perceptions of unfair treatment against particular equality groups, we asked which groups of people think they are treated unfairly in Northern Ireland. Half of respondents (50%) were of the opinion that no groups were treated unfairly compared to other groups in Northern Ireland.

However, the group most likely to be perceived as being treated unfairly was lesbian, gay or bisexual people (17%), followed by disabled people (10%) and people over 70 years (9%).

Perceptions of unfair treatment for all equality groups have decreased since 2011, with the proportion of people who feel no groups are treated unfairly increasing from 17% to 50%.

Survey graph
 

Focus on Race

  • All five of the most negatively viewed groups were racial groups: Travellers, Roma, asylum seekers and refugees, migrant workers and minority ethnic groups.
Group
 Negative
      Neither +/-    
 Positive
Traveller
 19% 
 15% 
 66% 
Roma
 18% 
 15% 
 68% 
Asylum seekers & refugees
 15% 
 15% 
 71% 
Migrant workers
 11% 
 12% 
 77% 
Minority ethnic groups
 10% 
 14% 
 77% 
 
  • Travellers, Roma, migrant workers and minority ethnic groups were also the equality groups with the highest proportions of respondents who 'would mind' them as a work colleague, a neighbour or as an in-law.
Proportion of people who 'would mind' having people from these groups as:
 
Group
 Work colleague
      Neighbour     
 In-law
Traveller
 25% 
 33% 
 33% 
Roma
 23% 
 27% 
 29% 
Migrant workers
 16% 
 19% 
 20% 
Minority ethnic
 16% 
 18% 
 20% 
 
  • While these results show clearly that racial groups attract the highest level of negative attitudes, they also show that respondents did not feel that racial groups were treated unfairly compared to other equality groups.
 
Proportion of people who believe these groups are treated unfarily compared to other groups in NI:
Group
 %
Minority ethnic groups
 7% 
Refugees & asylum seekers
 7% 
Travellers
 6% 
Migrant workers
 5% 
Roma
 3%
 

Focus on Travellers

Overall, attitudes to Travellers were not as negative as in previous surveys, but they were still the equality group that attracted the most negative attitudes across all areas that we surveyed.
 
  • In general, how positive or negative do you feel towards Travellers?
Year
  Negative %
   Neither -/+ % 
  Positive %
2008
 28% 
 26% 
 46% 
2011
 30% 
 30% 
 40% 
2016
 19% 
 15% 
 66% 
 
  • Would you personally mind a Traveller as a work colleague/a neighbour/an on-law?
Group
   2005 
   2008
   2011
   2016
Work colleague  
   24% 
   38% 
   35% 
   25% 
Neighbour
   41% 
   51% 
   54% 
   33% 
Close relative
   38% 
   51% 
   55% 
   33% 
 
More people responded with negative attitudes to Travellers in all three social distance scenarios than to any other group. The closer the relationship, proportionally more people minded. One quarter would mind working alongside a Traveller, and a third would mind a Traveller as a neighbour or a relative by marriage.
 
  • Which equality groups are treated unfairly, compared to other groups, in Northern Ireland?
Percentage of those surveyed who answered 'Travellers':
 
Year
    %
2008
  18%
 
2011
   16% 
 
2016
  6% 

While 50% of respondents said that no groups were treated unfairly in NI, 6% said that Travellers were treated unfairly.
 
  • Which is the most unfairly treated group in Northern Ireland?
Percentage of those surveyed who answered 'Travellers':
 
Year
   %
 
2005
  11% 
 
2008
 16% 
2011
 8% 
 
2016
 6% 
 
 

Focus on Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual people and Transgender people

Overall, attitudes towards lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) were more positive than in previous surveys.
 
  • In general, how positive or negative do you feel towards LGB and Trans people?
 
Trans  
  Negative%   
 Neither +/-   
   Positive%
2011
 22% 
 30% 
 48% 
2016
 9% 
 13% 
 78% 
 
LGB    
  Negative%   
  Neither +/-
    Positive%
2008
 21% 
 22% 
 57% 
2011
 15% 
 28% 
 57% 
2016
 6% 
 11% 
 83% 
 
  • How much would you personally mind a LGB person as a work colleague/a neighbour/an in-law?
 
LGB    
  2005   
  2008 
  2011 
  2016 
Work colleague  
 14% 
  23% 
  22% 
   9% 
Neighbour
 14% 
  23% 
  27% 
  10% 
Close relative
 29% 
  35% 
  42% 
  14% 
 
Trans    
  2011 
  2016   
Work colleague  
  35% 
 14% 
 
Neighbour
  40% 
 15% 
 
In-law
  53% 
 22% 
 
 
Across all the social distance scenarios, respondents were less likely to say they would mind LGB and Trans people as a work colleague, a neighbour or as a close relative than in previous equality awareness surveys. But still more than a fifth of respondents said they would mind a Trans person as a close relative by marriage.
 
 

 

 
< Social attitudes and good relations
< Addressing inequality
 

Perceptions of Equality - Equality Matters


Equalty MatterTo understand how people perceive equality in Northern Ireland, we asked respondents to tell us how important they considered equality issues to be to them in 2016 compared to 12 months before.

We found that overall 68% of people said that equality issues were as important or more important to them than previously.

When we explored the answers given we discovered that the importance placed on equality was different among the various groups of people whom we asked. We found, of those respondents who provided an opinion, 16% said that equality issues were more important to them compared to 12 months before.

Those most likely to say that equality issues had become more important to them included:


   • 28% of Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual peoplecompared to 16% of Heterosexual people
   • 27% of people with a household income of £15-25,999k compared to 11% of people who have a household income of less than £15k
   • 23% of people with third level qualifications compared to 14% or 16% of people who have post primary or no qualifications respectively
   • 22% of people aged between 30-44 years old compared to 12% of people who were either 16-29 or over 65 years old

There was no significant difference in responses between those people who identified as Catholic, Protestant, or Other/No Religion.

What equality issues are particularly important to people in NI?

Equality covers a breadth of areas and grounds in Northern Ireland and is often a topic of discussion and debate. We wanted to investigate what people really thought were the equality issues that were particularly important to them. From the answers they gave us, it is clear that religion is the most important issue.

 

Areas protected by anti-discrimination laws in NI

In order to get a sense of the level of awareness of the areas protected by antidiscrimination laws in Northern Ireland, we presented respondents with a list of six areas that are currently covered by law. We asked them to choose the areas under which they thought they were protected. This is what they told us:

Graph 1



Generally, for all areas, people who were over 65 years old, people with no qualifications, and those from a lower social class (C2DE) were least likely to know an area covered by anti-discrimination law.







We then presented the seven equality grounds which are protected by various laws to those respondents who had been aware of the areas covered by anti-discrimination law. We asked them if they knew under which of those seven grounds the law protects people in Northern Ireland.

Graph 2














While religion was again the most commonly identified ground, our analysis showed that those over 65 years old, people with a disability, those with no qualifications and those who are economically inactive were less likely to be aware of some grounds covered by anti-discrimination legislation. These included race, gender, sexual orientation and political views.
 

What people in NI really think about equality and good relations

To understand what people in Northern Ireland really think about equality and good relations here, we asked them if they agreed or disagreed with these statements.

This is what we discovered:

“There are benefits of having a more equal society in Northern Ireland”


   • 57%  agree
   • 12%  neither agree nor disagree
   • 2%    disagree
   • 29%  don’t know

“There is equality for all in Northern Ireland”

   • 33%  agree
   • 15%  neither agree nor disagree
   • 20%  disagree
   • 33%  don’t know

“More needs to be done to promote equality of opportunity”

   • 49%  agree
   • 11%  neither agree nor disagree
   • 4%    disagree
   • 36%  don’t know

“More needs to be done to promote good relations between people of different backgrounds”

   • 52%  agree
   • 10%  neither agree nor disagree
   • 4%    disagree
   • 34%  don’t know
 

Attitudes to and support for equality and anti-discrimination laws in NI

“There is a need for equality and anti-discrimination laws in Northern Ireland”

   • 54%  agree
   • 9%    neither agree nor disagree
   • 3%    disagree
   • 34%  don’t know

“Equality and antidiscrimination law should be strengthened?”

   • 47%  agree
   • 11%  neither agree nor disagree
   • 3%    disagree
   • 39%  don’t know
 
 

 

 
< A Question of Attitude
< Equality Awareness Surveys
 
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