Survey Confronted People's Prejudices; STATE OF THE NATION

South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales), October 31, 2001 | Go to article overview

Survey Confronted People's Prejudices; STATE OF THE NATION


Byline: Greg Lewis Investigations Repor ter

ISSUES involving people of a different sexuality or ethnic backgrounds to ourselves force us to confront our own beliefs and even prejudices.

The Echo's State of the Nation questionnaire took on those issues, as well as looking at asylum seekers and attitudes between the Welsh and English.

We asked readers their opinions of gay and lesbian marriages, and whether they would be happy for their son or daughter to marry someone of a different national or ethnic background.

We had responses from 1,000 readers who were prepared to answer these challenging and personal questions.

Their answers showed some hostility towards asylum seekers - a group which has been at the centre of media attention this year.

More than 40 per cent of respondents felt Britain should no longer take asylum seekers and a further 23 per cent wanted those already in the country to be encouraged to go home.

Some readers added comments to the questionnaires.

One reader said there should be a "moratorium" on the issue while another said "other countries should do more" and "the system is being abused".

Another added: "I believe Britain should continue to take asylum seekers and repatriate those that want to leave."

Richard Jones, of Oxfam Cymru, was saddened by the results because asylum seekers have "endured cruelty unimaginable to us".

He added: "Asylum seekers are men and women like you and me who want to work and contribute to society.

"They are often trained professionals - doctors, nurses, engineers with skills that are in short supply in the UK. We should therefore look at them as a resource not a burden.

"Migrants from all over the world have made South Wales their home. They have enriched our society with their culture, traditions and food. Where would we be without the Indian or Chinese restaurant?"

Another response revealed that 34 years after homosexual acts between men over 21 were decriminalised in England and Wales, four out of 10 people still don't believe gay sex should be legal.

Our survey - which was printed in the paper and on the Echo's website at icwales. co. uk - was based on a national questionnaire published at the turn of the millennium.

Some questions were added with particular relevance to South Wales, and others probed attitudes between the Welsh and English. These questions were composed with help from the Commission for Racial Equality.

They proved the survey's most controversial.

Five readers contacted us to complain about the questions, with one accusing us of "undoubtedly" helping to "promote racism against English people living in South Wales".

One of the survey's aims had been to see how changes in Wales - particularly relating to devolution - had affected our relationship with our closest neighbour.

Over the years, the relationship has often been presented as one of fierce rivalry, particularly through sport. For example, the Welsh media has used the "As long as we beat the English. . ." theme - or similar promotional campaigns - on many occasions.

More recently, we had the debate following TV personality Anne Robinson's comments about Wales.

And just prior to putting together the survey, we had the controversy at the National Eisteddfod.

Former Welsh Language Board chairman John Elfed Jones compared immigration to Wales with the foot-and-mouth epidemic, and Plaid Cymru vice-president Gwilym ab Ioan resigned from the party's ruling executive after claiming Wales was becoming "a dumping ground for oddballs and misfits".

We felt it was therefore certainly worth asking these questions and worth asking them directly.

Views on gay weddings Gay sex and marriage GAY couples in London can hold a wedding ceremony and join a register of same-sex partners, but courts in the UK will not recognise a gay marriage until Parliament passes specific legislation. …

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