Nearly half of us think that other people get unfair welfare priorityby Bobby Duffy / February 20, 2004 / Leave a comment
Where we live affects our attitudes and quality of life. This doesn’t just mean the physical environment, it includes the kind of people who live nearby. This may be obvious but it becomes a sensitive issue for public policy when the extent of diversity, and in particular ethnic diversity, appears to have a big impact on our views.
According to a number of surveys, there has been a clear decline in our levels of trust in others. Some dispute whether the scale of the decline is as great as others claim, or whether reported levels of trust gathered through surveys are meaningful. But on balance it seems that there has been a significant fall, particularly if we look at trends since the 1950s.
The reasons for this decline are hotly debated, particularly as there seems to be an “education paradox” – high trust is strongly linked with higher levels of education, yet despite rising levels of education, trust has continued to decline.
One powerful force reducing trust may be mobility and population “churn.” In certain parts of the country, especially big cities, people are less likely to belong to the area or to have grown up there. Both national and international migration have created far more diverse communities, and recent analysis suggests this may have a negative impact on trust.
We need to be careful about how we interpret this information. At least some of the relationship between diversity and trust will be explained by factors such as urban density and deprivation. For example, there is a strong link between ratings of local councils by residents and levels of deprivation. As we might expect, the higher the local level of deprivation, the lower the levels of satisfaction. But when we plot the level of deprivation against ratings of councils, many of those that stand out as higher or lower than we would predict tend to be very diverse (such as Brent) or very homogenous (such as Gateshead and Sunderland).
A new Mori/Prospect poll has explored the impact of diversity on community cohesion further and come up with some varied findings. Nearly four in ten respondents (39 per cent) say they would rather live in an area where people are from the same ethnic background as themselves. This is higher than we might have expected, especially given people’s tendency to give socially desirable responses to these sensitive questions. But, as…