An extensive survey from the Equality and Human Rights Commission found that, despite three-quarters (74%) of people agreeing that there should be equality for all groups, 42% of Britons have experienced some form of prejudice in the last 12 months.
There is also resistance to improving equal opportunities for groups such as immigrants and Muslims.
Research for the survey was carried out by Professor Dominic Abrams and Dr Hannah Swift at the Centre for the Study of Group Processes at the University’s School of Psychology and a team at Birkbeck, University of London.
The survey revealed that more people openly expressed negative feelings towards Gypsies, Roma and Travellers (44%), Muslims (22%) and transgender people (16%), than towards gay, lesbian and bisexual people (9%), people aged over 70 (4%) and disabled people with a physical impairment (3%).
Discrimination was seen to vary in seriousness depending on which protected group it related to: 70% saw prejudice on the basis of race as a somewhat, very or extremely serious issue, but only 44% thought the same about age-related prejudice.
The survey also highlighted the existence of more subtle forms of prejudice, such as patronising attitudes or stereotyping. For example only 25% rated physically impaired people as capable and 34% viewed them with pity.
The report will sit alongside evidence for a comprehensive review of the state of equality and human rights in Britain due to be published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission later this month.