Multiculturalism is unpopular with the majority – even though it makes for happier societies : Democratic Audit UK

Interesting study looking at multiculturalism policies and their impact on majority populations in Europe:

With data from the European Social Survey for 14 western European states, we used multiple and logistic regression to investigate whether the eight “rights” areas within Banting and Kymlicka’s (2013) composite Multicultural Policy Index (MCP) differentially satisfied or unsettled members of the three self-identified groups.  The “rights” areas include: constitutional/legislative/parliamentary affirmation of multiculturalism; school curriculum; media sensitivity and representation; dress-code exemptions; dual citizenship; funding of ethnic group organisations’ cultural activities; bilingual education; and affirmative action.

To assess individuals’ unease and satisfaction, we looked at their sense of being in a group that is discriminated against, whether they felt safe walking alone locally after dark, their satisfaction with life and with the government.

We found that all but two of the nine measures of state multicultural orientation increase the majority’s sense that people like them are being discriminated against – even when background characteristics are controlled.  The impact is more consistent for the majority than for either of the self-identified minority respondent groups.  Multicultural policies affecting the school curriculum, media, dress-code exemptions, in the form of dual citizenship, in funding for ethnic group cultural preservation and in the form of affirmative action all increase the sense of discrimination indicated by majority group members.  They were also more likely to report lower feelings of safety when walking alone near home in states with greater multicultural orientation, even when background factors were controlled.  In particular, multicultural policies relating to the media, dress code exemptions and affirmative action had a negative impact on how safe majority groups felt.

Muslims were less likely to feel discriminated against in states with more pro-multicultural policies (after controls for background characteristics) and, in particular, where dress code exemptions were available and affirmative action policies in place.  At the same time, Muslims were more afraid of victimisation in countries with dress code exemptions, underscoring the precariousness of the religious minority’s position.  When their cultural lifestyle claims (to wear headscarves, for example) are legitimised, this increases their visibility and sense of vulnerability.

Our findings about satisfaction with life and with the national government show the complicated political terrain politicians face.  Majority group members are more satisfied with both in states that have embraced multiculturalism. These findings represent a quandary for political leaders, who face short-term pressure from nativists – but a population that, in the long term, will be unhappier if they take an isolationist approach. By making them available to everybody, politicians may try to avoid the negative reactions to multicultural policies that fan the flames of support for far-right parties.

But the growth in extreme-right support across Europe suggests that by backing away from a rigorous defence of multiculturalism, public officials left space for far-right groups, permitting majorities to feel justified in articulating their unease at the presence of minorities and dissatisfaction with the benefits intended to support them.  Xenophobia has moved to the fore. The claims made by Muslims and ethnic minorities who seek rights commensurate with their status as citizens in Europe, and asylum applications by migrants at risk of harm, are no longer seen as legitimate.

Europe’s pressing need for immigrant labour and population growth mean the political establishment and the press will have to change direction if they want to maintain current prosperity.  They will have to explain why global economic systems need diversity, and provide for the security of voters who feel that they have lost out to globalisation.  Programs to counter violent extremism (CVE) among young people who show signs of alienation from Europe should focus not only on Muslim youth attracted to Islamic State and al-Qaeda, but also on majority group members who show signs of violence against those of migrant background.  Broadening the focus of CVE programmes to all extremists is a logical and necessary step where mainstreaming has replaced multiculturalism in public policy.

Source: Multiculturalism is unpopular with the majority – even though it makes for happier societies : Democratic Audit UK

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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