British Social Attitudes: New findings reveal young people are less tolerant of religious extremists
11 August 2015
New findings published by NatCen’s Social Research today show that almost half of people think religious extremists should definitely not be allowed to hold public meetings.
The biggest change in attitudes came from those aged 18 to 24, despite typically being a group known for holding more liberal attitudes. The number who said religious extremists should "definitely not be allowed to hold public meetings" has more than doubled over the last ten years, rising from 20% in 2004 to 43% in 2014.
The results from NatCen's British Social Attitudes survey shows that overall 47% of people think that religious extremists should definitely not be allowed to hold public meetings, compared to 34% ten years ago.
Attitudes to other 'extreme' groups remain constant
Despite a marked decrease in tolerance towards those considered religious extremists, attitudes towards people who are racially prejudiced or who want to overthrow the government have remained constant over the past decade. Findings show:
- In 2014 just under half (48%) of people said that people who are racially prejudiced should definitely not be allowed to hold public meetings, much the same as the 46% who said this in 2004.
- In 2014 over half (53%) said that people who want to overthrow the government should definitely not be allowed to hold public meetings, similar to the 55% ten years before.
- Those aged18-34 were less likely to say that people who want to overthrow the government should not be allowed to hold public meetings: in 2014, 39% said this, compared to 72% of over-65s.
The survey also reveals that the public's attitudes vary according to their political allegiance. For example in 2014, 50% of Labour supporters were in favour of a ban on public meetings for racist groups, compared to 44% of Ukip supporters.
The percentage of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats who supported a ban on public meetings for groups who wanted to overthrow the Government by force increased from 56% and 47% in 2004 to 68% and 57% respectively in 2014, the fourth year of the coalition government.
Naomi Jones, Head of Social Attitudes, NatCen Social Research: "We know that events can change people's attitudes and it is very likely that terrorist attacks motivated by religious extremism and carried out on UK soil are the biggest factor in this decline in tolerance. Prior to the terrorist attack in London 2005 people felt they had less to fear from religious extremism.
But why have views changed more among young people? We can’t be certain from this data, but it may just be their views catching up with those of the rest of the population in reaction to the heightened terrorist threat and increased international media coverage in this area. They remain slightly less likely to say meetings of religious extremists should definitely not be allowed.
What is also interesting is that we know that young people, in fact most people in society, have become more socially liberal over the past 30 years. As a nation, we are more accepting of other people’s beliefs, relationships and lifestyles than we used to be. This data reminds us that there is a limit to this tolerance when people perceive there to be a potential threat from one group's actions"
Data tables available for download here.
NatCen Social Research is an independent, not for profit organisation. We believe that social research has the power to make life better. By really understanding the complexity of people’s lives and what they think about the issues that affect them, we give the public a powerful and influential role in shaping decisions and services that can make a difference to everyone.
Sample and approach – The 2014 survey consisted of 2,878 interviews with a representative, random sample of adults in Britain. Interviewing was mainly carried out between August and October 2014, with a small number of interviews taking place in November 2014. Addresses are randomly selected and visited by one of NatCen Social Research’s interviewers. After selecting one adult at the address (again at random), the interviewer carries out an hour long interview. Most questions are answered by the participant selecting an answer from a set of cards.