Islamophobia Post-Woolwich

Muslims in Britain are in the public opinion spotlight again following Wednesday’s brutal murder on the streets of Woolwich of Drummer Lee Rigby at the hands of two alleged Islamist terrorists. Post-event attitudes are explored in a YouGov poll published in two sections today, and conducted online among a representative sample of 1,839 Britons aged 18 and over on 23 and 24 May 2013. The poll included questions asked on behalf of The Sunday Times and Matthew Goodwin of the University of Nottingham.

The Sunday Times survey replicated one of the questions posed in the immediate aftermath of the London bombings of 7 July 2005. Then YouGov found that 10% believed that ‘a large proportion of British Muslims feel no sense of loyalty to this country and are prepared to condone or even carry out acts of terrorism’. The proportion now stands at 14%, peaking at 36% of UKIP supporters, with 19% among manual workers and residents of northern England; and 16% among men, the over-40s, and Londoners. Most Britons (60%) consider that the great majority of British Muslims are peaceful and law-abiding but that there is a dangerous and disloyal minority predisposed to terrorism, while 20% argue that practically all British Muslims are peaceful and law-abiding who deplore Rigby’s murder as much as everyone else. However, fully one-half of respondents feel that a significant number of the leaders of Britain’s Muslim communities are turning a blind eye to terrorism, rising to 81% of UKIP voters and 61% of the over-60s, and only 28% concede that they are doing their best to fight it (Liberal Democrats being most optimistic on 46%). The data tables are available at:

Goodwin replicated questions which he had asked in an earlier poll, in this case in November 2012, and focusing on violent conflict and the English Defence League (EDL), as well as on attitudes to Muslims. The number of Britons anticipating a ‘clash of civilizations’ between British Muslims and native white Britons increased by 9% over the six months, from 50% to 59%, now being highest among UKIP supporters (86%) and the over-60s (70%); those in disagreement fell from 26% to 21%. 5% more (48% versus 43%) concur that differences in culture and values make future conflict between British-born Muslims and white Britons inevitable (UKIP 77%, over-60s 57%), the optimists being 3% fewer (25% against 28% previously). The proportion contending that British Muslims pose a serious threat to democracy rose from 30% to 34% (and to 72% of UKIP voters and 47% of the over-60s), with dissentients reduced from 41% to 37%. Those believing that British Muslims are part of an international plot to abolish Parliament grew from 12% to 17%, albeit 53% refute the suggestion.

At the same time, opinion was more stable as to whether Muslims overall are good British citizens (62% agreeing in November and 63% today, with just 12% taking the contrary line); whether they make an important contribution to British society (41% then, 40% now, with 23% disagreeing); whether they share the culture and values of the majority society (36% then, 38% now, with 31% disagreeing and 24% neutral on each occasion); and whether their influence in the media constitutes a threat to free speech (44% then, 45% now, with 32% and 30% disagreeing). Paradoxically, there was a decrease of 8% in Britons considering Muslims to be incompatible with the British way of life, from 48% to 40%, albeit a majority of UKIP voters (73%) and over-60s (52%) subscribe to this position; there was a corresponding increase, from 24% to 33%, in those arguing that Muslims are compatible with the British way of life. Only one-fifth say they would endorse planned demonstrations against ‘Muslim terror’ in the aftermath of Woolwich, with 51% negative towards such protests in general and 60% towards demonstrations organized by the EDL and British National Party.

Goodwin’s own interpretation of the data, reflected in quotations in Daniel Boffey’s coverage of the poll on yesterday’s The Guardian website and in Goodwin’s commentary in today’s edition of The Observer, is reasonably hopeful about public attitudes to Muslims: ‘in the aftermath of events that could well have triggered a more serious backlash, the direction of travel remains positive and suggests that there has not been a sharp increase in prejudice’. Goodwin further highlights that negativity is concentrated among the over-60s, with 18-24s most tolerant; and that Britons overwhelmingly reject the EDL’s ‘toxic brand of politics’. His commentary can be read at:

The data tables are on the YouGov website at:

A further post-Woolwich poll was undertaken by Survation for the Mail on Sunday on 24 May 2013, in which 1,121 Britons aged 18 and over were interviewed online. It included a couple of questions touching on Islam. One asked whether people who express extreme Islamic views, such as Anjem Choudary (former leader of the now banned al-Muhajiroun group), should be allowed to appear on television news programmes or not. In reply, 59% affirmed that such individuals should not be given this kind of news platform, including 70% of over-55s and Conservative voters, and 73% of UKIP backers; 30% favoured their appearance on television news, with 10% undecided. The second question enquired whether organizations holding extreme anti-Islamic views, such as the EDL, should be given airspace on television news; 49% were against such media coverage (66% of Conservatives), 38% in favour (53% of UKIP supporters), and 13% uncertain. Data tables can be found at:


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  1. Pingback: The Problem No One Wants To Talk About &laguo; Sam Hailes

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