Discrimination, Social Relations and Trust: Civic Inclusion of British Ethnic Minorities

Rakib Ehsan

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis investigates the inter-relationship between social integration, negative intergroup contact and trust in the British ethnic minority context. In this case, trust includes generalised social trust and political trust in the form of democratic satisfaction – with both representing forms of “civic inclusion”. Adopting a mixed-methods approach, the thesis is driven by quantitative analysis using the 2010 Ethnic Minority British Election Study survey and includes complementary semi-structured interviews. The thesis makes three key contributions: developing the currently underdeveloped area of research on negative intergroup contact, deepening our understanding of the negative effects of discrimination on satisfaction with the democratic system, and outlining the importance of socialisation when exploring intergenerational differences in both social and political trust among ethnic minority people living the UK. The thesis finds that ethnic minority people who are more socially integrated are more likely to report ethno-racial discrimination. This is the result of social integration leading to heightened exposure to negative intergroup contact and greater awareness of ethno-racial penalties. Despite this, those who are more socially integrated are more likely to be socially trusting. However, social integration is significantly associated with dissatisfaction with British democracy. This leads to two interesting findings. Greater opportunities for positive intergroup contact can compensate for discriminatory experiences in regards to generalised social trust, but the negative effects of experiencing discrimination may have a serious impact on satisfaction with the democratic system of governance, which is expected to ensure fairness and the merit-based allocation of rewards. The thesis also finds that foreign-born migrants are more socially trusting and more satisfied with British democracy than their British-born descendants. With the help of the complementary semi-structured interviews, it is found that this is primarily due to “psychological frame of reference”. Prior experience of living in unstable societies under more repressive, authoritarian regimes contributes to a natural appreciation for the relatively stable nature of British society and newly-acquired political rights. Ethnic minority people born and raised in the UK, with their exclusively British frame of reference, feel less safe and have higher expectations of Britain’s democratic system of governance in comparison to their first-generation predecessors.

Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Sloam, James, Supervisor
  • Heath, Oliver, Supervisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Discrimination
  • Trust
  • Democracy
  • Integration
  • Race
  • Ethnicity

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