An international poll has revealed the world’s least tolerant countries – with Hong Kong at the top of the list and Britain near the bottom.
The global social attitudes study claims that the most racially intolerant populations are all in the developing world, with Bangladesh, Jordan and India in the top five.
By contrast, the study of 80 countries over three decades found Western countries were most accepting of other cultures with Britain, the U.S., Canada and Australia more tolerant than anywhere else.
The data come from the World Value Survey, which has long been measuring the social attitudes of people in different countries, as reported by the Washington Post.
The survey asked people what types of people they would refuse to live next to, and counted how many people chose the option ‘people of a different race’.
Researchers have suggested that societies where more people do not want neighbours from other races can be considered less racially tolerant.
The country with the highest proportion of ‘intolerant’ people who wanted neighbours similar to them was Hong Kong, where 71.8 per cent of the population would refuse to live next to someone of a different race.
Next were Bangladesh on 71.7 per cent, Jordan on 51.4 per cent and India with 43.5 per cent.
Racist views are strikingly rare in the U.S., according to the survey, which claims that only 3.8 per cent of residents are reluctant to have a neighbour of another race.
Other English-speaking countries once part of the British Empire shared the same tolerant attitude – fewer than five per cent of Britons, Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders showed signs of racism.
People in the UK are also tolerant of other differences such as speaking a foreign language or practising an alternative religion – for example, fewer than two per cent of Britons would object to having neighbours of a different faith to them.
Similarly, fewer than one in 20 people in most South American countries admitted harbouring prejudice against other races.
The Middle East, which is currently dealing with large numbers of low-skilled immigrants from south Asia, seems to be a hotbed of racial tension, however.
Europe is remarkably split – the west of the continent is generally more tolerant than the east, but France is a striking outlier with 22.7 per cent of the French rejecting neighbourhood diversity.
Some have pointed out problems in the survey data, claiming that because the polls span a long period of time they are an unreliable guide to current attitudes.
However, a more serious flaw could be the fact that in most Western countries racism is so taboo than many people will hide their intolerant views and lie to the questioners.
Max Fisher of the Washington Post suggested that maybe ‘Americans are conditioned by their education and media to keep these sorts of racial preferences private, i.e. to lie about them on surveys, in a way that Indians might not be’.