Surveys and Prejudice

The Guardian has just reported on a survey by Stonewall, headlining the article “Homophobia rife in British society, landmark equality survey finds”. However, the results quoted in the article are all the percentages of gays and lesbians who would expect to encounter prejudice if they did something. It’s not even how many of them think they have actually encountered prejudice in those situations.

I can’t help thinking that this sheds next to no light on the subject. There is good evidence that a lot of white people think that councils and the like are prejudiced against them, and would expect to be discriminated against if they applied for council housing or benefits. This is not, however, evidence that the British authorities are actually biased against white Britons.

A quick look at the original survey shows that Stonewall was actually investigating expectations of prejudice. This is an important thing to investigate: expectation of prejudice can prevent participation even when there would not, in fact, be any prejudice were you to try. However, without an investigation into actual levels of prejudice, it’s no use at all, for anything.

The actual level of prejudice could be higher, lower, or the same. Suppose it’s the same. In this case, the gay and lesbian community is remarkably perceptive, and there are good reasons to believe that, if prejudice were reduced, they would notice, and take advantage of the new atmosphere.

Suppose it’s higher. In that case, gays and lesbians are unrealistically trusting. In this case, and the previous one, all the action to be taken should be directed at the wider community.

Finally, suppose it’s lower. In that case, gays and lesbians are seeing prejudice where it doesn’t exist, and the need is for an education campaign aimed at gays and lesbians, to remove their prejudice against heterosexuals.

So, really not very good reporting at all. Much worse than the Guardian normally manages.

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One Comment

  1. And is there a moral imperative against prejudice or discrimination in the first instance?

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