Significant Impact: Creating a consistent platform for ethnic diverse voices to be heard

Creating a consistent platform for ethnic diverse voices to be heard – Opinium’s Multicultural Britain Series 

Too often, we do not have a holistic understanding of minority ethnic groups, due to factors such as lack of interaction, representation in media or visibility in prominent positions within culture and society. 

This can lead to misunderstandings and, sadly, the perpetuation of restrictive, and often harmful, stereotypes. 

Research can help to bridge the knowledge gap, however its potential is often untapped. There are a number of reasons for this, which I cover in more detail in a previous piece. In a nutshell: accessing minority ethnic audiences through traditional research recruitment approaches can be challenging; these audiences may be less familiar or comfortable with research and so you will need to win their trust; you may need to employ a range of data collection methods and practices to ensure the research is inclusive and therefore representative (e.g. translations, ethnic matching, online and offline options). All in all, this makes the endeavour more time and cost-intensive relative to research with majority populations, often diminishing motivations. Thankfully things are starting to change, with the ONS and our Market Research Society leading the way. I am part of one such initiative – the MRS’s Representation in Research Steering Group – and we’re hopeful that soon, some of the above-mentioned, seemingly insurmountable hurdles will be a lot more manageable…you won’t need to be able to jump like Jordan! 

More reasons to have hope….

With this in mind, Opinium’s Multicultural Britain series is a shining example of what’s possible and I’m excited to cover it. 

Multicultural Britain is an in-house, thought leadership initiative Opinium has been running since 2016. It looks in detail at the views of the majority population and minority ethnic groups on a range of topics of public importance. Priya Minhas, one of the lead researchers on the project told me more about its origins and ambitions. 

“There is a lack of ethnic minority research altogether, let alone regular research which tracks attitudes in order to measure changes over time. This means that the voices of ethnic minorities are not highlighted particularly well. We wanted to raise the voice of ethnic minorities as best as we could and so we created a regular report series which annually measures key metrics such as discrimination rates, perceptions of identity and also each year explores a different topical area. Since 2016 we have now produced four reports and also launched our US edition, Multicultural Voices for the first time last year.” 

Topics covered so far include: the impact of the Brexit referendum on perceptions of identity; views on integration in British society; ideas of success; perceptions of equality of opportunity in education and the workplace; the impact of coronavirus pandemic; the impact of the Black Lives Matter Movement on public conversations and perceptions of what companies are doing in support; and the relationship between different ethnic groups and the police.

Thankfully there is lots to dig into and you can check out Multicultural Britain for yourself here. To wet your appetite, here are a few things that really stood out to me: 

  • Differences in perceptions between white and minority ethnic Britons around integration (e.g. level of integration, effort made on either end)
  • Similar beliefs around how education and conversations can help 
  • The steady increase in the proportion of minority ethnic groups reporting having faced multiple acts of discrimination 
  • Concerns over Britain becoming less accepting since the Brexit referendum      

What is your how?! 

Thankfully this study is testament to the fact that conducting research that is inclusive is, indeed, possible. It is also a great example of how to do this well without becoming overwhelmed or making it prohibitive in terms of costs, time and feasibility. 

The study includes a nationally representative sample of n=2000 UK adults, along with a bespoke sample of n=1000 ethnic minorities. Minority ethnic groups are heterogeneous, with a number of inter-group differences (i.e. with other minority ethnic communities) as well as intra-group ones (e.g. by country of origin, religion, age, and life-stage). While in a perfect world we would love to have massive sample sizes for each minority ethnic group, the one we live in leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to researching diverse audiences. This study is certainly one of the most comprehensive I have seen in terms of its sampling approach – Priya gave me the lowdown: 

“We create a sampling plan for all of our ethnic minority surveys using available data that exists on the demographics of the ethnic minority population in the UK (e.g. the Census and ONS population estimates). These targets are used to set quotas for the survey to ensure the correct demographic makeup of the sample, and this is also used for weighting targets. Ethnic minorities in the UK are made up of various different ethnic groups with different experiences and different influences. It is important to capture and understand nuances that exist.” 

This sample size (n=1000) allows results to be broken down, not only by the five aggregated groups that have been advised by the Sewell Report (White, Black, Asian, Mixed and Other), but also by country of origin. Here is one example: 

Final thoughts…

Now, for the Opinium team, this feature is not their first rodeo! The study is gaining traction, with forwards from prominent political and cultural figures, such as Chuka Umunna and Mete Coban, MBE, Chief Executive Of My Life My Say. The launch of the US Study, Multicultural Voices, has also come at an important time and will help to ensure that the voices of minority ethnic audiences remain loud well beyond 2020. 

Thank you to Priya and the Opinium team for their time and, most importantly, for conducting this important research. I’ll be keeping an eye out for future releases.