Do you remember the ascent on the right? First Brexit, then Trump, then a wave of right-wing populism broke out in Europe. There were dozens of news articles about the “rising tide of anti-immigrant sentiment.”

Except it turns out that in the West, 2016 was a high water mark for such views. This is true of almost all Western countries, but the most drastic changes have been in the US. more than a half from 66 percent on the eve of the EU referendum to 31 percent last year.

Chart showing attitudes towards diversity and immigration have softened rapidly in much of the west since 2016, especially in the UK

These trends may be a direct reaction to the rise of right-wing populism, according to a new article by political scientists James Denison and Alexander Kustov. They theorize that the unexpected success of anti-immigration policies may have shocked previously complacent moderates into expressing support for diversity.

We see similar changes in the attitude of the general public towards members of other ethnic groups and religions. Just 3 percent of Americans and 2 percent of Britons say they wouldn’t want someone of a different race as a neighbor, with only Sweden scoring lower in the developed world. Discomfort with people of other faiths drops to just 3 and 1 percent in the US and UK, respectively.

Chart showing British and American attitudes towards immigrants and members of other races and religions are among the most positive in the world

The data paints a picture of countries that are increasingly diverse, and increasingly relaxed about that fact. However, it can often seem like things are going backwards. Mentions of terms suggesting ethnic bias have skyrocketed in Western media over the past six to seven years, according to new research by David RozadoAssociate Professor at the New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology.

In the West, concern about racial injustice is rising faster and faster in the UK, US and Canada, three countries where prejudice has reportedly fallen the fastest and fastest. It is a progressive paradox: the section of society whose values ​​are clearly winning out remains deeply uneasy.

So why is this progress so rarely and grudgingly recognized?

Graph showing there has been a sharp increase in media attention on racism in the US, UK and Canada in recent years

One likely factor is the link between diversity and the resulting solidarity with different racial groups. A 2020 study They showed that the more ethnic diversity someone encounters, the more they view people of different races positively. Racial stereotypes and hostility are created when someone only encounters people from a few, if any, ethnic groups.

Given that Britain, the US and Canada are among the most diverse countries in the West and have been for some time, the concomitant rise in racial solidarity could be why they have seen the steepest increases. in concern for racial injustice.

But since right-wing politicians use inflammatory racial language when diversity increases, aggregate levels of tolerance and isolated incidents of bigotry will often increase simultaneously.

Dennison and Kustov suggest that while populist phenomena such as Brexit and the election of Trump led moderates to reaffirm their support for diversity, they also emboldened the more prejudiced, as measured by increases in hate crime.

My analysis of the World Values ​​Survey data suggests that this may be a particular problem in the United States. Despite the fact that Americans overall are among those most comfortable with diversity, 12 percent of ethnic minorities in the US say they encounter racist behavior “very often” in their neighborhood, the highest number among the 19 countries surveyed.

Graphic showing that despite overall high levels of racial tolerance in the US, racism is still relatively common by international standards

In the UK, that figure is 5 percent, the lowest in Europe, but still 5 percent too high.

Statistics like these sum up the progressive paradox. Britain, along with other Western nations, has made great strides and is now one of the most happily diverse societies in the world, but greater racial cohesion brings with it greater sensitivity to racial injustice. What is sometimes divisively referred to as the “great awakening” is, in fact, a rational response to a positive trend., @jburnmurdoch

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