Many Eastern Europeans Reject Jews, Muslims and Roma, Pew Data Shows

Roma children
Roma children stand behind a fence near the so called "Sheffield Square" in the town of Bystrany, Slovakia, November 28, 2016. New data shows religious tensions are still strong in eastern Europe. David W Cerny/Reuters

Sizable minorities of Eastern Europeans say they are not willing to accept Jews, Muslims and Roma as citizens, according to a survey.

Data from the Pew Research Institute published Wednesday found that 31 percent of people questioned across 18 central and eastern European countries would not be willing to accept Roma as citizens.

Some 50 percent would not be willing to accept them as neighbors, while 67 percent would not accept Roma as members of their family. The country generally most unwilling to accept Roma was Armenia, where 57 percent of respondents said they would not accept them as citizens and 85 percent would not accept them as family. The Czech Republic and Lithuania ranked higher on the question of accepting Roma as neighbors, with 69 percent and 65 percent respectively, to Armenia's 60.

Among Orthodox Christians in the region, 23 percent would reject Muslims as citizens, 30 percent as neighbors and 61 percent as members of their family. For Catholics, the figures show slightly more antipathy toward Muslims, with 41 percent rejecting them as citizens, 43 percent as neighbors and and 63 percent as family.

A lower but still significant portion of the population surveyed rejected Jews. Among Orthodox Christians in the region, 11 percent would reject Jews as citizens, 17 percent as neighbors and 37 percent as members of their family. For Catholics, these figures change to 14, 16 and 35 percent.

The Pew Research Center conducted the survey from June 2015 to July 2016 through face-to-face interviews in 17 languages with more than 25,000 adults ages 18 and older.

The survey spans an area running eastward from the Czech Republic and Poland to Russia, Georgia and Armenia, and southward from the Baltic States to the Balkans and Greece.

Central and Eastern Europe is an ethnically and religiously diverse region that has experienced the rise and fall of competing empires over centuries that frequently spawned bitter sectarian conflicts.

The study's authors say their findings show "religion has reasserted itself as an important part of individual and national identity in many of the Central and Eastern European countries where Communist regimes once repressed religious worship and promoted atheism."

They found that majorities of adults across much of the region say they believe in God, and most people identify with a religion.