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Personal Contact With Minorities Helps Break Down Biases: Survey

Jan 6, 2005
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada

Personal contact with minorities helps break down biases: survey
Randy Boswell CanWest News Service

Monday, September 10, 2007

Does familiarity breed contempt? Not according to a new survey of post-9/11 attitudes toward three cultural minorities in Canada, which shows unambiguously that the more people get to know members of the country's Jewish, Muslim and Sikh communities, the more they like them.

"It's very clear that exposure to others breaks down stereotypes," said Jack Jedwab, executive director of the Association for Canadian Studies, which released results of the poll to CanWest News Service on the eve of Tuesday's sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S.

"We begin to realize that the differences between us and other groups are interesting and positive, rather than negative."

The findings show that the number of Canadians with favourable feelings toward each of the three minority groups jumps by at least 20 percentage points for respondents who have regular contact with Jews, Muslims or Sikhs.
In the national survey of 1,500 Canadians, conducted Aug. 22-28 by Leger Marketing, respondents were asked whether they had a favourable or unfavourable impression of each group. They were also asked whether they had regular or occasional contact with members of the three communities, or had little or no interaction with them.

The poll found that only 44 per cent of those surveyed said they often or occasionally had contact with Jews. Some personal interaction with Muslims was reported by 37 per cent of respondents, and just 21 per cent said they had regular contact with Sikhs.

However, the survey found that people who had had at least some personal contact with members of the minority group tended to have more favourable impressions.

For instance, 90 per cent of respondents who reported occasional or regular interaction with Jewish Canadians said they had favourable opinions of the group, compared with just 68 per cent of those who rarely or never had contact with Jews.

Eighty-one per cent of respondents who were personally familiar with Muslims expressed favourable attitudes, while just 50 per cent of those with little or no contact had positive opinions about the community.

And 80 per cent of Canadians who reported at least occasional contact with Sikhs said they were favourable toward the group. Only 47 per cent of those who didn't really know any Sikh Canadians said they had positive feelings about the community.

The survey also revealed that the strength of respondents' positive impressions - "very favourable" rather than "somewhat favourable" or negative - increased markedly among those reporting significant personal contact with the minority groups.

For example, 45 per cent of those who have some interaction with Jewish Canadians had "very favourable" opinions, while just 17 per cent who rarely or never encountered Jews had such strong, positive feelings.

"It is apparent that in the case of all three groups, persons with more contact have a more favorable opinion," concludes the Association for Canadian Studies' analysis of the poll.

The survey, the basis for a series of studies by the national research organization, is considered accurate to within 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

© CanWest News Service


Sep 10, 2007
North Carolina
I know this to be true. I have a Jewish background & always made an effort to meet & talk to people from diverse backgrounds.
If you are open & friendly & approachable..you create friendships.