This landmark ICM Unlimited poll on behalf of The Guardian shows the extent of the everyday negative experiences and potential bias faced by BAME people in Britain today.
ICM interviewed a representative sample of 1,000 Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people living in Britain. This is a sample size and robustness rarely seen among this audience in publicly available polling and allows for a detailed analysis of the experiences and views of Britain’s BAME population.
The results are stark. A majority (57%) of BAME people agree they have to work harder to succeed in Britain because of their ethnicity. Ultimately, more than 2 in 3 (69%) BAME people think that Britain today has a problem with racism.
In addition to this representative sample of BAME people, we also sourced a ‘comparison sample’ of over 1,700 White people in Britain, drawn from a nationally representative sample of Great Britain. This approach allowed us to ask both White and BAME people in Britain about certain experiences and take a look at the differences between the two groups.
For all six experiences we asked of both the BAME and the White sample, BAME people report being more likely to experience them than White people overall. For each and every experience, BAME people were not only more likely to have experienced this, but were also more likely to report having experienced this more recently compared to White people. This suggests that BAME people are much more likely to face the negative experiences we tested, and are also more likely to have these negative experiences with a greater frequency than the White population overall.
More than 2 in 5 (43%) of BAME people in Britain say they have been overlooked in a job application process or for promotion at work in a manner that felt unfair in the last five years. This is more than double the proportion of White people in Britain who said the same (less than 1 in 5, 18%).
A quarter (25%) of BAME people in Britain report having been refused entrance or asked to leave a restaurant, bar or club for no good reason in the past 5 years. This is almost three times the proportion of White people who have experienced the same, at less than 1 in 10 (9%).
More than 2 in 3 BAME people in Britain (69%) say that a stranger has been abusive or rude to them in public, significantly more than the half (52%) of the White population who say the same thing.
Almost half of BAME people in Britain (47%) say they have been treated like a potential shoplifter in a shop when they hadn’t done anything wrong – more than double the 22% of White people in Britain who say the same. And if some readers might think this is due to events of long ago – legacy racist attitudes which no longer exist – these results pose a real challenge to such views. 15% (around 1 in 7) of BAME people in Britain say they have been treated like a potential shoplifter in the past month alone. The equivalent figure for White people in Britain is only 4% (around 1 in 25).
Other key findings from this study include:
- Two-thirds (66%) of BAME people in Britain have experienced someone assuming they aren’t British on the basis of their ethnicity. 1 in 5 (21%) have had someone assume they aren’t British on the basis of their ethnicity within the last month alone.
- A similar proportion (20%) have experienced someone using racist language in their presence, although not directed at them, in the last month.
- Half (50%) of BAME people in Britain agree that sometimes people don’t realise that they treat them differently because of their ethnicity,
- BAME Muslims are more likely to have recent negative experiences which they perceive were in some way because of their religion of belief, compared to BAME people of other religions and beliefs.
- There are key differences between people of different ethnicities. For example, 45% of Black respondents say they have been unfairly treated like a shoplifter, and the last time they were treated like this it was because of their ethnicity. The equivalent figure falls to 35% among people of mixed ethnicity and more than halves again to 15% among people of Asian ethnicity.
- 2 in 3 Black people (67%) agree they have to work harder to succeed in Britain because of their ethnicity, significantly more than people of Asian (56%), Other (52%) and Mixed (48%) ethnicities.
- There are also important difference by gender. BAME men are more likely to have been stopped by the police (46%) or to have been refused entrance or asked to leave a restaurant, club or bar (39% without a good reason compared to BAME women (29% and 30% respectively). Women are more likely to have been through a greater number of these distinct experiences, and are also twice as likely as BAME men to have most recently experienced a stranger being abusive or rude to them in public in a way which was attributable to their gender (13% vs. 6%).
- Almost 4 in 10 (38%) of BAME people have felt the need to alter their appearance because of their ethnicity. BAME women are more likely to have felt this (42%) compared to BAME men (35%)
- 3 in 5 BAME people (60%) say someone has confused them with another person of the same ethnicity. This rises to more than 3 in 4 Black people (77%)
- While there were only 47 people identifying as Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual in our sample of BAME people, these people are consistently more likely to have had negative experiences than straight respondents.
Alex Turk, Research Manager at ICM Unlimited, comments on the findings.
‘Our findings suggest that the negative experiences asked about, some of which may never have been experienced by many White people in Britain, are all-too-often a frequent occurrence among BAME people living in Britain today. This poll suggests that, at least in terms of the experiences we tested, there is a big difference in the lived-experiences of BAME and White people in Britain today.’
‘The magnitude of some of these differences may come as a shock to some readers – our poll suggests that BAME people may be several times more likely to be at the receiving end of negative experiences compared to their White friends, colleagues and neighbours.’
‘The strong sample size of 1,000, designed to be representative of the BAME population in Britain, allows for a detailed analysis not usually possible on publicly available polling. It allows us to look into the differing experiences and views of subgroups in the BAME and White population. This ultimately helps to disaggregate ‘BAME’ as a broad category – we can look at the differing experiences of Britain’s BAME population by more detailed ethnicity breakdowns, religious belief, age, gender, region, and sexual orientation.’
‘We can also see that young people – whether White or BAME – are more likely to say they’ve had the negative experiences we’ve asked about compared to older people. But while this generational divide exists across all ethnicities, it is still clear that BAME people are more likely to have these negative experiences compared to their White contemporaries.’
‘One of the few possible positive findings is that a majority (57%) of BAME people in Britain say they either have never experienced someone directing racist language at them or, if they have experienced this, it was more than five years ago. This finding could be interpreted as the result of a positive shift in attitudes over the years – where previously it may have been more socially acceptable to direct racist language at BAME people, it is no longer so.’
‘But there are two immediate points that this research raises which can be used in response to this argument. Firstly, it’s still the case that around 1 in 8 (12%) of BAME people have had racist language directed at them in the past month, rising to 1 in 5 (21%) within the past six months, 3 in 10 (29%) within the last year and over 2 in 5 (43%) within the last five years. For many, these figures will still be unacceptably high’
‘Secondly, we have to consider more broadly what this research contributes. Even if we view this possible long-term decline in direct racist language as a positive development, the rest of this research shows that there remains a vast range of negative experiences that BAME people are much more likely to be at the receiving end of compared to White people. These negative experiences might be seen by some as less overt and obvious examples of racist, ethnically biased or structurally unequal outcomes. Nevertheless this research strongly suggests that, in the areas we have tested, BAME people are much more likely to have negative experiences than White people in Britain today.’
‘Ultimately 2 in 3 BAME people agree the Britain has a problem with racism. It’s a stark result and, in light of the broader findings in this research, we fully expect these findings to contribute to the important debate on ethnicity in Britain today.’
Read the main Guardian write up, The Guardian’s data visualisations of the polling results, and Afua Hirsch’s comment article on why this study matters.
Download tables here