This report presents the results from a new Eurobarometer survey on discrimination. It was commissioned by the Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers (DG JUST) and coordinated by the Directorate-General for Communication (DG COMM).
Three previous Eurobarometer surveys examining discrimination have been conducted in the past: in 2006, 2009 and 2012. The 2015 survey repeats several questions asked in previous years in order to provide insight into the evolution of perceptions, attitudes, knowledge and awareness of discrimination in the European Union. A number of new questions have been added to further explore social acceptance of some groups at risk of discrimination.
The report is structured as follows:
- Setting the context, including whether citizens think of themselves as belonging to
a group at risk of discrimination and the diversity of their social circles;
- Perceptions of discrimination, covering the perceived extent of discrimination in
respondents’ countries, personal attitudes toward different groups at risk of
discrimination and representations of diversity in the media;
- Spotlight on attitudes towards LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender)
people, covering public attitudes towards sexual orientation and gender identity;
- Experience of discrimination and knowledge of the law;
- Views about equal opportunities in employment;
- Measures and policies to fight discrimination, including willingness to provide
sensitive personal information and attitudes towards diversity information being
provided at school.
This survey was carried out by TNS Opinion & Social network in the 28 Member States of the European Union between 30 May and 8 June 2015. Some 27,718 respondents from different social and demographic groups were interviewed face-to-face at home in their mother tongue on behalf of Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers.
Setting the context
- The social circles of Europeans are steadily becoming more diverse. An increasing
proportion of respondents have friends or acquaintances that belong to most
groups at risk of discrimination, ranging from 70% having friends belonging to a
different religion or with different beliefs (+3 percentage points since June 2012)
to 9% having friends who are transgender or transsexual (+2). The proportion
who have Roma friends or acquaintances has remained stable.
- Around one in eight respondents (12%) consider themselves part of a group at
risk of discrimination: 5% consider themselves being part of a religious minority,
4% of an ethnic minority, 3% of a minority in terms of disability, 2% of a minority
with regards to sexual orientation and 2% from any other group at risk of discrimination.
Perception of discrimination in the EU
- Discrimination on the grounds of ethnic origin continues to be regarded as the
most widespread form of discrimination in the EU (64%), followed by
discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation (58%), gender identity (56%),
religion or belief (50%), disability (50%), age (being over 55 years old, 42%) and
- The proportion of respondents that think discrimination is widespread has
generally increased since 2012, especially for the grounds of sexual orientation
(+12), gender identity (+11) and religion or beliefs (+11). For discrimination on
the grounds of being over 55 years old, a decrease of respondents believe this to
be widespread (-3).
Attitudes towards groups at risk of discrimination
- Europeans are becoming increasingly more comfortable with the possibility of
electing someone to the highest political position from a group at risk of
discrimination. The proportions of respondents at ease10 with the election of a
member of a group at risk of discrimination to the highest political position vary
from 92% for a woman (+7 percentage points from 2012), to 53% for a
transgender or transsexual person (+10).
- Most respondents say they would be at ease if one of their work colleagues
belonged to a group at risk of discrimination; 87% say they would be comfortable
or indifferent in relation to a person with disabilities, although the proportions are
lower for other groups: a Roma person (63%), a transgender or transsexual
person (67%), or a Muslim person (71%).
- Respondents are generally less at ease with the possibility of one of their sons or
daughters having a relationship with someone from a group at risk of
discrimination. Less than half of respondents would be comfortable or indifferent if
their son or daughter had a relationship with a Roma person (45%) or a
transgender or transsexual person (38%).
- The majority of respondents express tolerant or supportive views in relation to
gay, lesbian and bisexual people having the same rights as heterosexual people
(71% agree) and with regards to same sex marriages being allowed throughout
Europe (61% agree). This latter opinion has increased steeply since 2006, when
just 44% agreed that ‘homosexual marriages should be allowed throughout
- Most respondents also believe that transgender or transsexual persons should be
able to change their civil documents to match their inner gender identity (63%).
- Most respondents think that diversity is sufficiently reflected in the media, in
terms of gender (73%) and young people aged under 25 (66%). However, this is
less likely to be the case for other groups at risk of discrimination, such as people
with disabilities (52%), people aged over 75 (50%) and gender identity (41%).
Experience of discrimination and knowledge of the law
- Around a fifth of respondents (21%) report that they have personally experienced
discrimination or harassment in the previous 12 months: 16% have experienced
discrimination on the basis of one of the grounds analysed in the survey, and 5%
on multiple grounds.
- Respondents who describe themselves as being part of a minority in terms of
disability (37%) and those who say they belong to a minority with regards to
sexual orientation (32%) or to an ethnic minority (30%) are most likely to say
they have experienced discrimination.
- Just under half of respondents (45%) say they would know their rights should
they fall victim to discrimination or harassment, an increase from the 2012 survey
(+8 percentage points).
Equal opportunities in employment
- Many Europeans perceive that discrimination exists in recruitment practices. Over
half (56%) believe that a job applicant’s age, if over 55, would be a disadvantage.
This is followed by a candidate’s look, manner of dress or presentation (52%),
skin colour or ethnic origin (46%), a disability (46%) and the candidate’s general
physical appearance (45%).
- There is widespread support for measures in the workplace to foster diversity,
such as training on diversity issues (80%), monitoring of recruitment procedures
(77%), and monitoring the composition of the workforce (69%).
- Most European workers feel that enough is being done to promote diversity in
their workplace for young people (58%) and in terms of gender (58%). However,
respondents are less likely to think that enough is being done in relation to other
characteristics, in particular sexual orientation (42%) and gender identity (33%).
Measures and policies to fight discrimination
- There are mixed views on the effectiveness of national efforts to fight
discrimination: 27% believe that efforts are effective, 36% say they are
moderately effective and 26% ineffective. Views have become more positive since
the 2012 survey, with an increase in the proportion saying efforts are effective
(+5 percentage points).
- The majority of respondents (62%) say that new measures should be introduced
to raise the level of protection for groups at risk of discrimination, while 27%
think that new measures are not necessary.
- Respondents are most likely to think that measures to fight the economic crisis
and policies to promote recovery in their country are excluding people over 55
years old (52%) and people with a disability (46%). They are less likely to think
that other groups are being excluded.
- Respondents express support for providing personal details on an anonymous
basis, if that could help to combat discrimination in their country. This applies to
information on their ethnic origin (72% in favour), their religion or beliefs (71%),
their health situation (66%) and their sexual orientation (63%).
- Most respondents agree that school lessons and material should include
information about diversity, particularly in terms of ethnic origin (81% agree) and
religion or beliefs (80%)
Important variations between countries
- Opinions on discrimination and towards the different groups at risk of
discrimination differ quite importantly among EU Member States, as result of
national specificities such as prevalence of different groups at risk of
discrimination, cultural and historical considerations and/or recent political and
legal developments relevant for each group.
- The polarisation of attitudes among countries is particularly high when it comes
to opinions and perceptions on LGBT people.
European Commission - Public Opinion Website, which includes national factsheets, both in English and national languages
- Discrimination in the EU in 2015 - Report
- Discrimination in the EU in 2015 - Summary