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Whether our views flow from prejudice, or from bitter personal experience, many of us judge people by their demographic group. When we encounter a stranger, our initial opinion of them will often depend on their age, gender and ethnic group. This is clear from YouGov’s latest surveys for Prospect. It is also clear that these judgements are seldom racist in the traditional sense. The people we regard as the laziest, rudest, most promiscuous, drunken drug-takers are white men in their twenties.
YouGov explored attitudes to 48 different groups, examining different combinations of ethnic, religious and national groups, age brackets and genders. We asked respondents how likely it was that a group possessed each of five positive qualities, such as intelligence and honesty, and five negative qualities, such as a tendency towards violence, drunkenness, or drug-taking.
With such exercises, there is a danger that if people are asked to compare groups, some will veer towards giving the politically correct answer and score different groups the same. To avoid this, we conducted 48 separate surveys—one for each group. The graphic, overleaf, shows the main findings. The figures show the net scores: the percentage giving positive responses minus the percentage giving negative responses. The numbers show that most of us regard most groups on most attributes positively rather than negatively. But the extent to which that is so varies substantially.
Those variations are not just big but complex. Gender matters more than age or ethnicity. Look at the overall scores, where we combine responses to the five virtues. Five of the top six scores are women; five of the bottom six are men. Age and ethnicity also elicit different reactions, but normally within a narrower range. Three of the top six are Chinese, Jewish and black Caribbean, while white men in their twenties only just avoid last place. This is held by Pakistani-born men in their twenties. In particular, they are seen as less likely than any other group to be honest or to help others.
The lousy reputation of young white men is one of the most striking things to emerge from our surveys. When we look at individual characteristics, white men in their 20s…