Poll: More Religious Countries Perceived as Less Ethnically Tolerant

Countries with more religious citizens are perceived by people living there to be more intolerant of racial minorities, shows a new Gallup Poll report.

"Religious" people, as defined by the analysis, are those who report that religion is important in their daily lives.

Thirty-one percent of the people in the "most" religious countries (those where 94 percent or more of its citizens say religion is important in their daily lives) believe that the city or area they live in is not good for racial or ethnic minorities to live in.

Meanwhile, 34 percent in "more" religious countries (87 percent to 93 percent) and 32 percent in countries of "average" religiosity (71 percent to 86 percent) say where they live is not a good place for ethnic minorities to live.

Gallup highlighted that the trend is not linear, and that countries with average levels of religiosity report as much intolerance as the world's most religious countries.

The analysis was based on interviews in 139 countries surveyed between 2006 and 2008.

In addition to comparing ethnic tolerance based on religiosity, the analysis also measured perceived tolerance based on religious groups.

Hindus were least likely to say their communities are not good places for racial and ethnic minorities (14 percent), while Jews were most likely to say so (52 percent).

Christians are the third group least likely to say their communities are not tolerant of ethnic minorities (27 percent), which is notably only slightly higher than secularists (24 percent).

Muslims were the third most likely to say that their place is not good for racial minorities (34 percent), and Buddhists were the second most likely (38 percent) to say so.

The higher levels of racial intolerance reported by Jews and Muslims are likely affected by historical and political factors, Gallup noted. The majority of Jews and nearly half of Muslims living in Israel, for example, say their neighborhoods are not good places for ethnic and racial minorities.

However, outside of Israel, only a minority of Jews (about one in three) and Muslims (about one in five) express the same view about their communities' intolerance towards ethnic minorities.

Analysis also shows that Christians and Muslims who believe that their religion is the "one true religion in the world," compared to those in the group that believe their religion is one among several or many true religions, are more likely to perceive their communities as intolerant towards racial and ethnic minorities.

"[T]he present findings suggest that most modern religious traditions seem to have made some progress, at least since the Middle Ages, in promoting ethnic understanding and cooperation," the Gallup report states. "Although there are some connections between religiosity and ethnic and racial intolerance, these connections were generally small and inconsistent…"

Results are based on telephone and in-person interviews with about 1,000 adults in most countries (and a sample size range of 446 to 2,006).