EHRC report on ‘Public perceptions of human rights’

In June 2009, the Equality and Human Rights Commission published Public perceptions of human rights. The study investigated how the public perceive human rights.

Quantitative summary

  • The values people hold most dear in terms of living in Britain are: being treated with dignity and respect, having freedom of expression, and being treated fairly.
  • There is a close alignment between the values that people think are important for society and those which people identify as being fundamental human rights.
  • Two-thirds of people feel that human rights are meaningful to them in everyday life.
  • There is strong support for a law to protect Human Rights in Britain. In particular, people endorse human rights in governing the way that public services treat people and for creating a fairer society. Perhaps this is because this enables them to connect human rights to their everyday lives and life outcomes.

However, there is a lack of detailed understanding of human rights and the legislation which surrounds these.

Qualitative summary

Opinions in the deliberative research support the findings from the survey overall:

  • Key values described as core to British life were similar to the top-scoring values in the quantitative survey; respect, family, law and order, and equality.
  • When asked to generate ‘The most important rights’, participants felt these were education, health, free speech and equality.
  • During the discussion, the numbers of participants valuing equality increased slightly, showing perhaps that views on values and rights are amenable to change with the right stimulus.
  • However, public terms for discussing these values and rights were not necessarily identical to human rights terminology and for some people there was confusion around what human rights were.
  • Human rights were considered to be important by the vast majority at the start of discussions; they were felt to be slightly more important across the groups after each right was discussed in detail.