Majority of the people in the advanced economies across the world reveal that having people of different backgrounds (diversity) improves their society even as some say racial or ethnic discrimination is a problem. However, there is also a widespread and growing sense that societies are more divided now than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study by the Pew Research Centre .
About six-in-ten or more in 17 economies except that of Japan and Greece had the opinion that diversity improved their society. At least eight in ten people in Singapore, New Zealand, the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom Australia and Taiwan said that they benefited from living with people of different ethnic groups, religions and races.
The study shows that a median of 61 per cent of the people across the advanced economies are now more divided the before the outbreak.
Apart from this diversity benefits, the PEW Centre noticed that most people opined that racial or ethnic discrimination was a problem in their society. Half or more people in almost every country surveyed describe discrimination as a serious issue. About half in eight surveyed publics pointed out their society as one with conflicts between people of different racial or ethnic groups. The United States is the country with the largest share of public saying there is racial or ethnic conflict
The PEW Centre study found that racial and ethnic divisions were not seen as the most salient cleavage. On the other hand, people reported conflicts between people who support different political parties than conflicts between people with different ethnic or racial backgrounds. In the US and South Korea, ninety per cent of the people surveyed point out to strong conflicts between those who support different parties. Half or more say these conflicts are very strong. Around two-thirds of the people in France, Taiwan and Italy say political conflicts in their society are strong. In some places, this acrimony has risen to the level that people think their fellow citizens no longer disagrees simply over policies, but differ over basic facts. In France, the U.S., Italy, Spain and Belgium, half or more think that most people in their country disagree on basic facts more than they agree. Across most societies surveyed, those who see conflict among partisans are more likely to say people disagree on the basic facts than those who do not see such conflicts.
When it comes to perceived political and ethnic conflicts, no public is more divided than Americans. About ninety per cent of the people point out conflicts between people who support different political parties and 71 per cent say the same when it comes to ethnic and racial groups. It also found that 71 per cent of Americans think conflicts between party coalitions are very strong and about 20 per cent say they are somewhat strong.
In terms of divisions between people who practice different religions and between urban and rural residents, the Americans consistently rate as one of the three most divided publics. Some of these perceived divisions differ by racial and ethnic background. As an example, the study sees that more Black adults (82 per cent) see conflict between people with different ethnic or racial backgrounds than White (69 percent) or Hispanic (70 per cent) adults.
Democrats and independents leaning toward the Democratic Party are much more likely to see conflict between people of different racial and ethnic groups than are Republicans and republican leaning independents. There are also partisan differences in opinion over whether people who practice different religions or those who live in urban and rural areas have conflicts.
The adult population in France thinks that conflicts divide the society and the highest share in France perceives divisions between rural and urban residents. Supporters of the Republicans, a right-of-center party, see more conflicts than supporters of the Socialist Party or the ruling En Marche. French women are also more likely to see conflicts in many parts of their society than are men.
In South Korea, more people talk about conflicts between people who practice different religions (61 per cent). About 90 per cent of South Koreans say conflicts are very strong. On issues between ethnic and racial groups and between rural and urban residents, South Korea is consistently one of the top three most divided publics. When talking of conflicts between rural and urban people, the survey found that people with low income are more likely to identify conflicts than those with higher incomes. Young South Koreans say there are racial or ethnic conflicts in their society than are older people, and those with higher education levels also agree relatively to those with lower education levels.
The Pew Centre noted that Singapore is one of the least divided societies surveyed. Despite ethnically and racially diverse, fewer Singaporeans (25 per cent) talked about conflicts between people of different ethnic and racial backgrounds. They are also among the least divided religiously with only 21 per cent saying there are conflicts between people who practice different religion. However, ethnic Indians and Malays are more likely to see political, ethnic and religious conflicts than ethnic Chinese. Similarly, Muslims are somewhat more likely to see conflicts both between those who practice different religions and those of different racial and ethnic groups than are self-reported Buddhists or Christians.
Spaniards are least divided among the advanced economies. Only 12 per cent of the people who participated in the survey said that there are conflicts between rural and urban residents. Only 19 per cent report conflicts among those who practice different religions. Only around a third see conflicts between those with different racial and ethnic backgrounds. Still, when it comes to partisan differences Spaniards see more conflicts.
DIVERSE SOCIETY SEEN POSITIVELY
When majority of the advanced economies say that diversity enlivens the society, about half of Greek and Japanese adults say that having a diverse society makes their country a worse place to live.
The percentage of people who say having people of many different backgrounds makes their society a better place to live has increased significantly. Younger and those with a higher education are significantly more likely than older people and those with less education to hold the opinion that diversity is good. The survey found that 84 per cent of Italians aged 18 to 29 say having people of many different backgrounds makes their country a better place to live. Italy also has the largest attitudinal gap between those with a post-secondary education or more and those with less than a post-secondary education. Wealthier people express more positive views of diversity than those with lower incomes.
DISCRIMINATION A SERIOUS PROBLEM
When it comes to racial and ethnic discrimination, a median of 67 per cent say it is a serious or very serious problem in their own society. Majority of the 17 advanced economies witness conflicts between people with different ethnic or racial backgrounds. People in the US (71 per cent), France (64 percent) and Italy (57 percent) are particularly likely to view these tensions as strong, with around a quarter in each country who say they are very strong. While majorities in South Korea and Germany also say there are strong conflicts in their society, only around one-in-ten rate them as very strong. In Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands, people talk of strong conflicts between people from different ethnic or racial backgrounds than between people who support different political parties. Women are more likely than men to say that there is friction between people from different ethnic backgrounds.
CONFLICT BETWEEN PEOPLE WHO PRACTICE DIFFERENT RELIGIONS
Fewer people see strong religious conflicts, compared with conflicts based on politics or race. A median of 36 per cent across the 17 economies surveyed say there are strong conflicts between people who practice different religions in their society. South Korea and France are the only countries where more than half of the people talk of strong divisions based on religious beliefs. In France, almost a quarter says these conflicts are very strong. Roughly half of Americans say there are strong conflicts between people who practice different religions in their country. In Europe, people in Spain are by for the least likely to say there are strong religious tensions. Only 19 per cent of Spaniards hold this view. Koreans are nearly twice as likely as those in Japan, which has the second-highest share in the Asia pacific region, to say there are religious tensions in their country. In contrast, roughly three-in-ten in Singapore and Taiwan say there are no religious conflicts at all.
PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN CITIES AND RURAL AREAS
A median of just 23 per cent talk about strong or very strong conflicts between people who live in cities and people who live in rural areas. Half say there are not very strong conflicts and 20 per cent say there are no conflicts at all between these groups. France, South Korea and the US stand out as particularly divided. About 45 per cent in each country say there are strong or very strong tensions based on geography. Elsewhere, no more than three-in-ten share this sentiment. Spaniards are the most likely to say that there are no conflicts at all between those who live in cities and those who live in rural areas. In Europe, at least a quarter in Belgium, Italy and Greece say the same. Similarly, many in the Asia-Pacific region with the exception of South Korea say there are not very strong or no conflicts based on what type of area people live in. Roughly one-in-five or more in New Zealand, Australia, Japan and Taiwan say there are no divisions at all between city-dwellers and people who live in rural areas.