Is ethnic prejudice declining in Britain? Change in social distance attitudes among ethnic majority and minority Britons

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  • University of Manchester


Most literature on racial prejudice deals with the racial attitudes of the ethnic majority and ethnic minorities separately. This paper breaks this tradition. We examine the social distance attitudes of white and non-white British residents to test if these attitudes follow the same trends over time, whether they are driven by the same social processes and whether they are inter-related. We have three main findings. Firstly, social distance from other ethnic groups has declined over time for both white and ethnic minority Britons. For the white majority there are both period and cohort elements to this decline. Secondly, we see some evidence that social distance between the majority and minority groups is reciprocal. Specifically, minorities who experience rejection by the white British feel a greater sense of distance from them. Thirdly, we find that all groups share the perception of the same ethnic hierarchy. We see evidence of particularly widespread hostility towards Muslim Britons from all ethnic groups suggesting that Muslims are singled out for negative attention from many British residents of all other backgrounds, including a large number who do not express hostility to other groups.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)410-434
Number of pages25
JournalBritish Journal of Sociology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 29 Apr 2017


  • anti-Muslim bias, Britain, ethnic hierarchy, ethnic prejudice, interethnic marriage, racial discrimination, social attitude trends, social distance

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