Four Country Survey on Racial Discrimination

On 24 January 2011, the Canadian Race Relations Foundation and the Association for Canadian Studies released the results of a four country (Canada, the U.S., Spain, and Germany) survey on racism and discrimination.
Amongst the findings:

• German respondents were more likely than Canadian, American, and Spanish respondents to believe that visible minorities and whites are treated equally in the work place.
• One in three Canadian, American, and Spanish respondents claimed they witnessed a racist incident in the past year.
• Opposition to interracial marriage was lowest in Canada and highest in Spain.
• Spanish and German respondents were more likely than American and Canadian respondents to agree that their national government should take the lead in combating discrimination.

Findings specific to Canada were as follows:

• Canadians were evenly divided over whether racism is on the rise within its borders.
• Québec francophones were more likely to favor living in neighborhoods surrounded by people from the same racial background than any other group in Canada or the U.S. The second most likely to prefer racially homogeneous neighborhoods were white Americans.
• Canadian allophones (who are more likely to include visible minorities) were the most likely to have a preference for racially diverse neighborhoods.

Jack Jedwab, executive director of the Association for Canadian Studies, said the poll results call into question assumptions regarding what motivates a person to select a given neighborhood, stating:

It makes you think about that theory that minorities self-impose segregation on themselves and they are the ones who want to live in clusters or enclaves… This survey suggests the contrary…. It actually suggests that it’s not the allophones or ethnics who prefer living in clusters or enclaves. It is actually the francophones and, to a slightly greater extent than allophones, the anglophones.

Meanwhile, Ayman Al-Yassini, executive director of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation stated

[t]he reality is that Canadians are more aware of the whole issue of racism and discrimination than other countries.

Jedwab concurred, explaining that while the U.S. survey indicates the same proportion of those surveyed view racism as an increasing difficulty, the breakdown within different categories of people produced variations between the countries that are worthy of note.

Canadians were categorized as English, French, or allophone. Half of English Canadians considered racism a growing problem, while that proportion was approximately 40 percent for francophones and allophones. In the U.S., people were categorized as whites, blacks, or Hispanics. Among blacks and Hispanics, more than 55 percent view racism as a growing problem, while 44 percent of whites did. For that reason, Jedwab suggests that Canadians view racism as outside their personal experience, while Americans view the issue more subjectively:

In the United States, it’s more those groups who are expressing the phenomenon through the lens of how they feel they’re affected through those groups. As opposed to in Canada, you’re seeing an assessment being made on the part of English Canadians about what the situation is, not so much as whether they’re affected by it individually.

The study is based on polling by firms in each country. In Canada, Leger Marketing polled 1,707 respondents online between 31 August and 4 September. In the U.S, the online poll of 1,048 respondents was conducted by the Opinion Research Corp. between 30-31 August.

Stephen A. Mutch, Tessa M. Blaikie, Crystal S. Van Den Bussche, and Kyla E. Doll are sociology students at University of Winnipeg (Manitoba, Canada). Kimberley A. Ducey is a faculty member in the Department of Sociology, University of Winnipeg.