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Reform Magazine | May 11, 2021

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How we get along

How we get along

What unites us, what divides us, and how to build friendship? Ed Kessler presents the findings of a major report into diversity in the UK

It is common to read in the media that our increasingly diverse society – particularly where ethnicity, nationality and religion are concerned – is becoming more polarised and divided. This, it is feared, will lead to further marginalisation and prejudice.

In recent years, the government developed a range of policies and interventions designed to tackle polarisation and its consequences, and to foster better relations between diverse groups. Such interventions require significant amounts of money, time and human resource. In a time of pressures on finances and public services, local and national governments need to know whether or not the interventions they are funding are successful.

The Woolf Institute, which seeks to improve the relationship between religion and society through education, addressed the issues raised by these concerns and conducted the largest ever study of attitudes towards diversity. Over two years, from 2018 to 2020, we examined the relevant existing research, surveyed the views of more than 11,000 adults in England and Wales, and undertook interviews. We collected the data needed to understand how people perceive and experience diversity in their neighbourhoods, towns and cities, and how this compared to an overall national picture. Our analysis is focused on personal, not institutional, attitudes towards diversity – in sum, what divides and what unites us.

The good news is that we are generally a tolerant and inclusive society. Our report, ‘How We Get Along: The diversity study for England and Wales’, was published at the end of 2020 and suggests there is an emerging national consensus. By three to one, in fact, we think ethnic diversity is good for Britain. By more than two to one, we think migrants are good for British society…

Ed Kessler is Founder Director of the Woolf Institute, Cambridge, and principal investigator for ‘How We Get Along: The diversity study for England and Wales’

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This is an extract from an article published in the February 2021 edition of Reform

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