A common refrain in the aftermath of Islamist activity is that all must guard against a “rising tide of Islamophobia“. But the warnings have been overstated, according to new research by the Pew Research Center, which shows that anti-minority sentiment is not necessarily rising across the continent.
The research conducted by Pew was collated after the Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket killing spree in January. In the six EU nations surveyed (Italy, Poland Spain, Germany, France and the UK), there was no evidence that the terrorist attack had sparked new public antipathy directed at Muslims, in reality the favourability of Muslims actually improved in some areas.
In France, 76 per cent of adults voiced favourable views of Muslims, a figure relatively unchanged in the last year. In Germany it sat at 69 per cent, an 11 point rise since last year and in the UK it was up eight points to 72 per cent. Only Italy and Poland expressed negative opinions that outweigh the positive – 61 per cent negative to 31 per cent positive in Italy, 56 to 30 per cent in Poland.
In France, sympathy towards Jewish people increased. Only seven per cent of people in the UK expressed an unfavourable opinion of Jews, compared to the 86 per cent who said they have a favourable opinion. In France seven per cent of people also expressed an unfavourable opinion of Jews, but a larger 92 per cent said their opinion was favourable, the highest of the six countries polled. 80 per cent of Germans hold a favourable opinion of Jews.
There is, however, one minority against which the Pew research shows real and widespread – the Roma (surveyed as ‘Gypsies’ in the UK).
Anti-Roma views are strongest in Italy where they are 86 per cent unfavourable, and France (60 per cent).
In Spain (58 per cent favourable), the UK (54) and Germany (52) opinions are mostly positive towards Roma. Low favourability ratings were recorded in France (39 per cent) and Poland (41 per cent) but neither come near to the worst results of all – just 9 per cent of Italians regard the Roma favourably.