Islamophobia Unveiled

A new opinion poll on British attitudes to Muslim women wearing full face veils was released on 8 July 2010. It is the third to be published this year.

It was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International on behalf of the Pew Global Attitudes Project. 750 Britons aged 18 and over were interviewed by telephone between 15 April and 2 May 2010.

A report on the poll is available to download at:

Only one question was posed, whether the respondent would approve or disapprove of a ban on the wearing of full face veils in public places, including schools, hospitals and government offices.

62% of adult Britons approved of such a ban, 32% disapproved and 6% expressed no opinion or refused to answer.

Approval varied considerably by age, with 71% of those aged 55 and over in favour of a ban, compared with 61% of the 35-54s and 52% of the 18-34s.

There were also differences of political ideology. Those categorized as being on the right were most supportive of a ban (69%), with centrists on 63% and leftists on 55%.

By contrast, variations by gender, education and income groups were negligible in Britain.

Approval of a ban was 34% higher in Britain than in the United States. It was also 3% more than in Spain.

However, it was 9% less than in Germany and 20% less than in France (the country which has been making the running over the ban, and where a parliamentary vote on the subject is expected on 13 July).

There are some indications that opinion in Britain may be hardening on the issue, although variations in question-wording can make comparisons difficult.

In January this year only 36% of people interviewed by ComRes wanted it to be unlawful to wear a burka in any public place (although 52% wanted some legal restrictions).

In February 2010 Harris Interactive found that 57% of Britons backed a ban on the burka veil in this country.

Even further ago, in October-November 2006 at the height of the controversy ignited by Jack Straw (then a Labour minister), who criticized the full veil as a psychological and practical barrier to integration, just over one-half the population agreed with his views, although a clear majority opposed a complete ban on wearing the veil in public.

For more information, see the BRIN news posts of 1 February and 3 March 2010 on ‘Should the burka be banned in Britain?’

British Religion in Numbers: All the material published on this website is subject to copyright. We explain further here.

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