As the Conservative Party this week launched a controversial attack on the divisive effects of multiculturalism, a new "bigotry league table" revealed the UK to be among the least tolerant countries of the Western world.
The comparison, drawn up by researchers at Ulster University and the University of Queensland, in Australia, shows Great Britain and Northern Ireland well above average in the percentage of people who would not like people of a different race living next door to them.
The Italians were the least tolerant - 15.6 per cent would be unhappy to have neighbours from a different race. The most laid-back were the Swedes, of whom 97.4 per cent would be pleased by the prospect of neighbours of a different race.
The survey asked some 32,000 respondents in 23 Western countries whether they would like to have people from five groups as their neighbours: another race; immigrants or foreign workers; Muslims; Jews; and homosexuals.
The research was conducted by Vani Borooah, a professor of applied economics at Ulster, who collaborated with John Mangan, a professor of economics at Queensland.
It revealed that not only did Northern Ireland, along with Greece, have the highest proportion of bigots, but they were on average more bigoted than those in other countries.
The findings, which are to be published in the economics journal Kyklos , shows that homophobia is by far the main source of bigotry in Western countries.
More than 80 per cent of the bigoted people in Northern Ireland and Canada, and 75 per cent of bigots in Austria, America, Great Britain, Ireland and Italy would not want homosexuals as neighbours.
In the Scandinavian countries, however, Muslims were the main target of bigotry.
The findings were released in the same week as the Conservative Party launched a report by its policy group on national and international security that claimed that multiculturalism had divided people.
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