Declining Britishness in England and Scotland?

24 January 2008

OurKingdom: The National Centre for Social Research has just issued its new British Social Attitudes Report. This is taken from its 13 page pdf summary press release.

Only 13% of people born and living in England, and 3% of people born and living in Scotland, describe themselves as ‘only’ or ‘mainly’ British. Meanwhile, nearly half of those born and living in England say that they are ‘equally English and British’, and only one in five born and living in Scotland describe themselves as ‘equally Scottish and British’.

Gordon Brown’s premiership has once again brought national identity, and ‘Britishness’ in particular, to the top of the political debate. The report shows that fewer people now describe themselves as British:

  • When asked to choose just one national identity for themselves, four in ten people (39%) in England say that they are British, down from over six in ten (63%) in 1992. Then three in ten (31%) said they were English; now nearly half (47%) do so.
  • The main shift took place between 1997 and 1999, and so predates Scottish and Welsh devolution.
  • In 1974, three in ten people (31%) in Scotland said they were British, now half this proportion (14%) do so. The proportion choosing Scottish has gone up from 65% to 78%.
  • But when people are allowed to choose more than one national identity, seven in ten (68%) in England choose British, as do four in ten (43%) in Scotland.
  • The most subtle way of asking about national identity allows people to weigh up a ‘national’ identity

    (English or Scottish) against a ‘state’ identity (British). The survey asked this of those born and living in England or Scotland (or ‘natives’). This shows that:

    • Few English or Scottish natives think of themselves as ‘only’ or ‘mainly’ British: 13% in England and 3% in Scotland.
    • Nearly half of English natives (46%) say that they are ‘equally English and British’. One in five (21%) Scottish natives describe themselves as ‘equally Scottish and British’.
    • The most popular response from Scottish natives is to describe oneself as being ‘only’ or ‘mainly’ Scottish, chosen by nearly three-quarters (73%) of people.
    • Far fewer – 37% – English natives describe themselves as being ‘only’ or ‘mainly’ English.
    • People’s feelings about national identity are only weakly linked to their political preferences or their views about the constitution:

      • Just over a half (56%) of supporters of the Scottish National Party say that their national identity is important to them when they think of themselves.
      • Around one in four people (22%) born and living in England think that an English Parliament would be the best way to govern England, rising to 28% among those who define their national identity as English and not British.
      • Hat tip: Guy Lodge and Katie Schmuecker at ippr

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