More ursine mammals, more defecating in forested areas..

To be fair, as with a previous survey, the point of the report ‘Can Contact Promote Better Relations? Evidence from Mixed and Segregated Areas of Belfast’ – full report here and summary here [both pdf files – fixed link] – is that it’s the firstlongitudinal study (tracking the same individuals over time) of whether (and if so, how) contact works.” The researchers sampled adults living in Andersonstown and Ballybeen [the two segregated communities used] and Fortwilliam and Rossetta [the mixed communities used]. They found, as you might expect, that “contact reduces bias.” But there are interesting points to note about the differences in attitudes. Some of those summary findings are below the fold.There are some findings worth highlighting from the full report [pdf file].

VII. Differences as a function of area, community, and time for all variables measured in both surveys (N = 404)

Summary. Findings can be grouped into 4 sections:

(1) Contact measures: results confirm the markedly different contact experience in the mixed and segregated areas. Respondents in mixed areas reported greater opportunities for cross-community contact, more contact, higher quality contact, more contact with outgroup friends, and more positive outgroup experiences.

(2) Identity dimensions: Community identity was stronger for Catholics than Protestants, but especially in segregated areas. Catholics had higher regard/collective self-esteem (both private and public) and explicit importance than Protestants, meaning that they themselves judged their community more favourably, they perceived others to view their own group more favourably, and they considered their community more important to their overall self-concept. In addition, but only in segregated areas, Catholics had a stronger sense of emotional involvement with, and affiliative orientation to, their community, and they tended to merge their sense of self and the group more than did Protestants.

(3) Anxiety, threat, and self-disclosure: These results paint a mixed picture of the climate in segregated and mixed areas. On the one hand, there was greater intergroup anxiety, greater distinctiveness threat and group-esteem threat, and less self-disclosure to outgroup friends in segregated areas. On the other hand, respondents in segregated areas rated the status of their groups as higher (which could be a reflection of collective self-esteem), and Catholics felt more personally threatened when living in mixed than segregated areas. Catholic-Protestant differences were less pronounced, but despite all the evidence of a stronger social identity among Catholics than Protestants, Catholics still rated their own group’s status as lower than that of Protestants (but see data, below, on expected future changes).

(4) Measures pertaining to intergroup attitudes, discrimination, and trust: Although there was no overall difference between segregated and mixed areas on measures of bias relating to attitudes and actions, respondents in mixed areas were more certain about their attitudes, and reported greater outgroup trust (Catholics also trusted the outgroup more than did Protestants).


VIII. New variables measured only at time 2: Effects of area and community.

Summary: The new items added to the survey confirmed the more positive climate in the mixed than the segregated areas. Compared with respondents in the segregated areas, respondents in the mixed areas:

(1) rated themselves, and perceived both ingroup and outgroup others, as more willing to engage in contact;

(2) felt closer to the outgroup;

(3) showed lower support for ingroup political violence;

(4) perceived status relations as more fair, and changes in status relations to be more likely to favour the ingroup;

(5) were more personally and comparatively satisfied (less personally and fraternally relatively deprived);

(6) did not differ in their level of fears and hopes (but Protestants were more fearful and less hopeful); and finally,

(7) rated their area less cohesive on quantitative measures of social capital, but there was no difference on qualitative measures (thus respondents in the two types of areas did not differ in the extent to which they rated the area as friendly and safe, trusted others in it, and got along socially with them).

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  • slug


    Interesting study but the statistics and inference here is surely highly difficult because people CHOOSE to live in the areas they do? That is, the classic problem of selection bias. Those choosing mixed areas could be very different in the first place from those who choose to live in segregated areas. So the study might upwardly bias the effect of the degree of segregation. I know this is a longtitudinal study but that doesn’t actually overcome the problem unless they believe that a person who moves from a segregated to a mixed area is just randomly drawn from the population distribution.

  • slug

    Pete – to be fair my above reaction is made without reading the report other than your summary. I will study it to see if they have been able to address this problem adequately, and report back maybe tomorrow.

  • Greenflag

    ‘They found, as you might expect, that “contact reduces bias.’

    A universal phenomenon I’d say. Must have a gander at the report although ‘relationship” sociology ‘ is a field I’m averse to unless it’s to do with our nearest primate cousins 🙂 On the other hand – no- I better say no more .

  • Hert


    ‘They found, as you might expect, that “contact reduces bias.’

    A universal phenomenon I’d say. Must have a gander at the report although ‘relationship” sociology ‘ is a field I’m averse to unless it’s to do with our nearest primate cousins 🙂 On the other hand – no- I better say no more.

    I think that we should be careful with assumptions. “Bias” is a woolly term, and one that few people would wish to use to describe themselves. However, a little honesty through anonymity. Personally I had very little meaningful contact with nationalists until I attended Queens. However looking back I believe that having contact with nationalists actually hardened my political views and made me believe that nationalists and unionists had worldviews that were more irreconcilable than I previously thought. Am I really alone in this? Or an equivalent from the “other side”? Am I an oddball 1 in 10?

    I almost feel like someone at an AA meeting encouraging people to stand up and say “I’m an alcoholic”.

  • billie-Joe Remarkable

    I too have not read the report but I recall that a similar document in the 90s demonstrated that in “mixed” areas Protestants were much more likely to move if they were the minority in a given street while Catholics were more likely to move into a mainly Protestant street. (See also Catholics sending their kids to state schools despite the unionist ethos.)
    Protestants, historically, took their cue from the “security forces”. When the cops in an area moved out – and they were usally quick to do so when Catholics moved anywhere near them – other Protestants followed suit leaving only the working classes (Crumlin Road, Tigers Bay, Shore Road etc).

    Has this report taken class into account? It’s a lot easier to live with difference if money, nice streets, good schools and green spaces keep both sides happy. (Ravenhill, Upper Ormeau, Malone, Four Winds)

    “Mixed” areas in working class areas are more prone to conflict for political, historical, sectarian reasons. Throw in economic deprivation and the chances of conflict and unrest are obvious and demonstrable.

    I place the word “mixed” in quotes because I’m not so certain that the assertions you’ve highlighted are the be all and end all. For example, the area above the bridge on Ormeau is according to council elections about 60-40 in favour of Catholics but I witnessed the Orange Order forming up for the 12th at Ballynafeigh.

    Do people in 4 Winds actually mix or do they merely tolerate each other and prize a quiet life and their trips to IKEA above sectarian self-interest?

    Why do Catholics above the bridge not complain about the march when below the bridge is a no go area? A quiet life? Worried about being singled out and targeted? More broad-minded?

    I’m not sure about all of these issues but it’s a great topic. Too tired to read the report so apologies for posing questions rather than answers. (Like I have the F***ing answers!)

  • Ulsters my homeland

    It’s a all a load of huey. Relations in N.Ireland will always be hampered over the national issue. Once that’s solved, we can begin to build bridges.

  • Animus

    The bit about marching in Ormeau is an interesting one – this is an area which we used to live in and I would say that the lack of marching is less due to broad-mindedness or fear of targeting and more to do with the fact that the Lower Ormeau is more organised against marching. Let me whisper it, but I think many of those in upper Ormeau may find marching a minor nuisance, but not enough to protest against it. Ballynafeigh is not high class though Billie-Joe, it’s ludicrous to compare it with Malone! I know it’s becoming a bit more gentrified but hardly awash with money, and precious few schools either, in fact no Protestant primaries at all. I do think there is something in the distance between houses, ie semi detached vs Annadale flats or terraced houses cheek by jowl, which may differentiate Four Winds (again though, Four Winds is not exactly North Down, is it?)

  • Greenflag


    ‘Personally I had very little meaningful contact with nationalists until I attended Queens.’

    I’m sure that’s still the case with many young Unionists from NI and also vice versa from a Nationalist perspective .

    ‘ However looking back I believe that having contact with nationalists actually hardened my political views and made me believe that nationalists and unionists had worldviews that were more irreconcilable than I previously thought.’

    Not surprising really .Many of the young nationalists would have been politically probably more active /aware or involved given the times than Unionists and being young people they would have had more ‘irreconcilable ‘ views than they would perhaps have today . We all or most of us at least in theory – grow up older and wiser and more tolerant of others .

    ‘ Am I really alone in this?’

    I would’nt think so . I’d hazard a guess that there have been tens of thousands who have come through the NI university system on both sides who would be no different .

    In my personal ‘contact’ with Unionists I have generally found them to be just the same as the rest of us mostly good eggs including a few hard boiled ones and on one or two occassions a particularly rotten one . But then I’d say any Unionist could say ditto re contact with Nationalists -Englishmen or Watusi 🙂

    Re NI specifically I have to agree with UMH’s remark

    ‘Relations in N.Ireland will always be hampered over the national issue.’ Once that’s solved, we can begin to build bridges.’

    UMH may have overstated the need for building bridges . The bridges are there already . It just that people are afraid to see them or don’t want to see them 🙂

    They may horor of horrors find out that in using them the ‘national ‘ issue disappears of it’s own accord.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    “UMH may have overstated the need for building bridges . The bridges are there already . It just that people are afraid to see them or don’t want to see them 🙂 ”

    This island will be no different to our biggest cousin (America), there has to be one winner. That winner must encompass both traditions, but only one shall win.

  • aquifer

    Studies in America show that there is less social cohesion, social capital, trust, etc in ethnically mixed areas. With the threat of being shot for having the wrong job/ opinion or going to the wrong church added into the mix, people in mixed communities here are remarkably resilient.

    There are other trends working against any sense of shared community. All parents out at work all day, children playing outside less, some people travelling further to work more hours, and people moving more. The rich getting richer until they can afford electric gates to keep others out. Jobless parents bringing up children to have no jobs. Low property rates so that people can afford to keep their distance.

    Without explicit actions by government to bring people together more we cannot expect residential segregation to fade fast.

    And what can we expect from parties politically wedded to cultural apartheid?

  • Greenflag

    ‘This island will be no different to our biggest cousin (America)’

    Moot point -Right now the USA is going through an economic and political paradigm to which few can predict the outcome . We read today that the Bush administration has ‘underestimated’ this years budget deficit by a mere 20% or 97 Billion dollars or up from an estimated 400 billion to 497 billion approx . With control of 80% of the world’s oil supply and even more importantly oil reserves now in the hands of countries which are not as much as heretofore friends of America , we are all in for a rocky next 20 years . It seems that American foreign policy which set out in 2000 to destabilise and put pressure on emerging nascent oil rich countries such as Venezuela , Brazil , Russia , Malaysia , Saudi Arabia , Iraq , Iran etc etc in order to keep the price of oil low , has instead succeeded in achieving the opposite:( Worse still the USA’s foreign policy has transferred billions of dollars to those ‘enemy ‘ countries via the Iraq War and the resuktant 500% plus increase in the price of a barrel of oil since 2000.

    At the same time as the above lunancy -the Wall St hedge fund genii have pillaged the financial markets and in conjunction with credit card issuers -banks and insurance companies have systematically laid siege to the American economy leaving it disembowelled and the US dollar now looks more and more like a piece of toilet tissue. The only ‘foreign policy ‘ cards left in the USA’s house of cards are it’s ‘physical ‘ protection of East Asian allies Japan , South Korea and Taiwan in return for which these Asian tigers keep the USA dollar propped up in value by buying US Treasury Bills . Likewise the ‘unofficial ‘ deal with China keeps that country buying into US Treasury bills in return for not revaluing the Chinese currency. If the Saudis ever decide to use another currency other than the dollar in oil price fixing -it will be goodnight Vienna for Washington DC .

    No UMH Ireland will not be another USA although both North and particularly the Republic will be adversely affected as will much of the world by how the USA extricates itself if it can from the current unprecedented economic and foreign policy mess . It will take more than the word ‘change’ to turn around this Leviathan thats speeding down the track to national emisseration at an increasing rate of knots 🙁 Honestly said I don’t have much faith in either of the main USA Parties or their Presidential candidates to do the business that’s required . Whichever of them wins will deserve a ‘medal’ for even taking on the job 🙂

    ‘there has to be one winner.’

    In the above scenario it doesn’t look as if it will be the USA . We may be witnessing an historical repeat of the fall of the Roman Empire , the collapse of the Austro Spanish Hapsburg dynasty , the defeat of Dutch maritime and Trade supremacy in the 17th century or the more recent long demise of the British Empire post 1914 to the present.

    Alternatively on an optimistic note the high price of oil might yet finally persuade the USA to use it’s scientific talents to develop cheap energy solar/wind / atomic etc and relieve the pressure of ever increasing oil prices .

    ‘there has to be one winner. That winner must encompass both traditions, but only one shall win.’

    Not quite sure what you mean here . The ‘traditions’ in Ireland are both winners already . They’ve been around much longer than the USA has existed as an independent State . I expect both to around for as least as long again . As to the political arrangements within which both traditions sustain themselves that is IMO almost of no consequence. The important point for both traditions is that the political arrangements /arrangement are effective in promoting the well being of all traditions bith the two main ones and the myriad new ones and their variants.

  • Greenflag

    Aquifer ,

    ‘And what can we expect from parties politically wedded to cultural apartheid?’

    Economic apartheid , Religious apartheid , Sports Apartheid , Educational apartheid , Housing apartheid , need I go on ?

    So in essence don’t expect a lot. Longer term this must have a damaging effect on NI’s ability to compete in a global economy IMO.

    But as HMG continues to fund the fundless why would there be any need for ‘uncomfortable ‘ change ?

  • Pete Baker


    Try to focus on the actual topic – yes I’m looking at you, Greenflag.

    That topic is the linked report. Not some claimed detail that may or may not be substantiated elsewhere.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Is the message of this study “Don’t be afraid to get out more – themmuns don’t have two heads, nor do they eat babies”?

    OK, things are a bit more complex, but I’m wondering if the study’s conclusions about contact reducing prejudice will ever be seen in any meaningful way in Executive policy. It’s probably not not in the interest of the two largest parties, and it could be seen as social engineering.

    Despite this, I lived in and around south Belfast for the bulk of a decade, and there wasn’t any government interference and people seemed to get along by and large. However, SB is the most mixed place in NI, so maybe that’s why people like myself were attracted to it.

    And that’s something I doubt that this study can quantify – the snowball effect. Once an area gets a name for tolerance, perhaps it acts like a ‘black hole’, drawing in more and more people of a similar ilk. Which leads me to wonder if they shouldn’t be encouraged, to give them a chance in parts of NI where segregation is the norm and where there simply is no alternative.

  • firbolg

    JR and Animus.
    I am a long time resident of Ballynafeigh/Upper Ormeau. Ballynafeigh is certainly an unusual area. It has a large number of mixed marriages, a growing lower middle class RC population(mostly public sector employed), a disappearing loyalist working class community and a few streets showing a smattering of affluence. It may be covered in loyalist flags but this belies the extensive demographic change over the past 15 years.
    There have always been objections from RCs and even many Protestants to parades in the area, due to the negative impact on community relations. Research, funded by the CRC, was undertaken here in the early 1990s. This study came up with a number of interesting findings, not least a clear rejection by both communities of contentious parading.
    As for sticking your head above the parapet to complain up here, you would need to be suicidal. I watched the RUC and later the PSNI escort known Loyalist around the area as they erected their flags. This cosy relationship between the police and the local paramilitaries didn’t exactly inspire confidence in their willingness to protect anyone who objected. (Not forgetting the fact that it was open season on Catholics here for most of the early 1990s).

  • POL

    UMH may have overstated the need for building bridges . The bridges are there already . It just that people are afraid to see them or don’t want to see them 🙂

    Would Stoneyford be a case in point.

  • Greenflag

    Pete Baker ,

    Mea culpa 🙁

    An impressive and long winded report these sociological reports generally – It’s finding than contact reduces bias is not surprising . However the implications for public policy making seem to be a different prescription for every mixed or segregated community across NI . Looks and sounds like a never ending story and an expensive piece of ‘social ‘ engineering .

    Another piece of ivory for the sociological shelf in public and governmental libraries no doubt.
    Somehow I can’t see Messrs Robinson and McGuiness tucking in to the recommendations .

  • DK

    “Community identity was stronger for Catholics than Protestants”

    Could this be because Catholic is a single religion & members of the community will likely attend the same church, while Protestant contains lots of different religions whose members will go to different churches – all of which are potentially competing and, naturally, view themselves as better than the others.