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Five things you need to know about the latest British Social Attitudes survey

17 June 2014

How have British attitudes changed over the last decade? The latest British Social Attitudes survey is out today, suggesting that Britons have become less tolerant of immigration, benefits tourism and those who don’t speak English since 2003. Here are the five key things you need to know about what Britain is thinking and feeling as a country:

1. You must be born here and speak English to be ‘truly British’

Britons still have a strong sense of what it is to be British. According to the BSA, 95 per cent think you need to speak English to be ’truly British’. The last time the BSA tackled the question in 2003, just after the Iraq war, 91 per cent thought it was important. It’s becoming more important to people. In the 1995 survey, 65 per cent felt it was ‘very important’ but by 2013, this had increased eleven points:

Birth place and ancestry is also important to being British. Nearly three quarters state it’s important to be born in Britain, suggesting Prince Philip, Cliff Richard and Boris Johnson aren’t properly British under this definition. A similar level also think you must have lived in Britain for most of your life to be a ‘true Brit’ while half think British ancestry is important.

2. We’re still split on immigration

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The BSA suggests a significant proportion of the British population would like to see immigration reduced, but opinion is more split on whether migration has been a good thing for the country. 47 per cent of Brits think immigration has been a bad thing, but 60 per cent of graduates thinks it has benefited the British economy. Only 17 per cent of those without any qualifications think it has benefited us. The London divide can be starkly seen on migration — half of Londoners think it’s good for British economy, double rest of the country.

3. Benefits for EU migrants need to be clamped down

Britons are becoming less tolerant of people abusing our benefits system. According to the report, 61 per cent want tougher rules to deter benefits tourism; by ensuring EU immigrants have to wait three years before claiming. Overwhelmingly, 83 per cent believe EU immigrants should have lived here for one year of more before claiming.

4. Britishness is in decline

Although we still have strong ideas about what defines being British, we are becoming less nationalistic. In the latest BSA, 35 per cent state they are proud to be British, compared to 43 per cent in 2003. Out of all the age categories, only 65+ are still very proud to call themselves British:

5. An independent Scotland wants to retain a UK identity

With 92 days to go till the Scottish independence referendum, the BSA has probed how Scotland would feel in the respective outcomes. If Scotland votes ‘No’, the BSA suggests the Scots will be looking for more devolution — almost two thirds believe Scotland should be responsible for own taxes if it remains in the union.

But if the Scotland votes ‘Yes’, 86 per cent said they’d like to carry on watching the BBC. An independent Scotland would like to keep the monarchy and the pound while, as The Herald splashed today, Scotland has similar levels of support for nuclear weapons as England. Not an easy argument for the SNP to digest.

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Show comments
  • 18pminus1

    Hmm, opinions, and freedom of speech. Rights and human rights.
    In the law they say under human rights that everyone should have a decent right to live as they intended. However a rule that also states, ‘when in Rome do as the Romans do’ which cancels out the other rule.

    Then we have a problem the jobs the helpful people are doing are jobs we have rejecting in doing. Ourselves for a long time we should just be thankful they are helping us out. Again we are focusing on the negative view point lets try a more
    upbeat and pleasant way of thinking. I think some opinion have change slightly but not all of them. No matter what they do someone in the wide world will not like it.

    You can not please everyone.

  • AndrewMelville

    Surely it is self obvious that to be “fully” British, one needs to speak the language (of the vast majority – pax my Gaelic ancestors) and have lived here all or most of one’s life. For example, I have not lived in Britain for my whole life. I am not as British as my relatives who have. That fact does not diminish me in the slightest; it simply describes me. My time abroad has shaped me differently; often I can able to enrich my life in Britain because of my non-Britishness. To state the obvious is not a bad thing.

    There should be nothing controversial about those beliefs. They do not mean that one can’t become somewhat or even largely British, that one’s partial non-Britishness doesn’t contribute too to the social weal, and finally that one might nonetheless find oneself also to be fully welcome. Ordinary folk can parse subtle distinctions (and bl@ody obvious ones too) much better than academics, media monkeys and bureaucrats.

  • Fred Yang

    Surely the late C20th political zeitgeist has been to water down nationalism at all costs[it was responsible for 50 million deaths during ww2, afterall]l? What the politicans have failed to take into account is the deep rooted human need for a sense of belonging. We can all now see this is not going to pan out well…

  • dado_trunking

    Nationalism in its ultimate form is almost undistinguishable from
    national socialist values. We are citizens of whatever state of mind we
    decide to be in, but at the end of the day our passports will say
    otherwise because we never voted for our passport to have ‘UK’ written
    all over it. We were *TOLD* we were British, there is no aspect of choice
    in our current setup. That is of course in essence deeply undemocratic
    as all people no matter their origin, colour, gender, religious beliefs
    or sexual orientation remain people. Nationalists want to qualify that
    in order to exclude/ deny rights/ reduce status etc yet ultimately we
    all know that there are no such qualifications.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      …all your many sockpuppets are “undistinguishable ” from each other, lad .

  • Blindsideflanker

    So Cameron didn’t want to bang on about the EU, but got stuffed by a political party which did.

    He failed to honour his promise on immigration, preferring to concentrate on homosexual marriage, meanwhile the electorates view was hardening on immigration.

    Is there any political territory the Conservatives had, that they should have been profiting on, but aren’t because metrosexual man Cameron has managed to squander it?

  • alabenn

    What proportion of the people asked were non indigenous, there is no possibility of over 50% thinking immigration is good or indifferent.
    Also who were the 13.9% who did not want the Scots to take the BBC with them if they want to leave, they must be the weirdo`s who want to keep it.

    • Wessex Man

      I personally, would be more that happy for the Scots to take the BBC with them, lets start a petition now to make it a precondition of their independence!

  • Smithersjones2013

    Payne can be an annoying little turd when he selectively spins figures and today is one of those days

    2. We’re still split on immigration

    No the clear plurality by 16 points and all but one educational group think immigration is a bad thing. People with degrees, those with generally good jobs, and whose jobs are not affected by cheap imported labour (and given their propensity to be wealthier than the average are most likely to benefit from it) are the only group who think immigration is a good thing. People with GCSE’s only or no qualifications think immigration is a bad thing by almost 2 to 1 presumably as this makes the competition for jobs considerably greater for them.

    Those with higher education but no degree also believe it is a bad thing but by a plurality rather than a majority.

    Beware when Payne tells you ‘X’ things you need to know about whatever because its not what he tells you that is important but what he doesn’t tell you that is


    Right, I am fed up with the Media spinning this. Cliff Richard, Joanna Lumley and Boris Johnson were all born to British parents, who were working abroad. I assume they were all still British citizens. That is a bit different to being born aboard to foreign parents and settling here as a migrant.

  • andagain

    An independent Scotland would like to keep the monarchy and the pound

    Has everyone north of that border forgotten what the word “independent” is suppossed to mean?

    • Conway

      I’d be very miffed if they were allowed to keep the pound. I strongly object to having to contribute to being the lender of last resort to a country over which we would have no fiscal control.

      • AndrewMelville

        Well the Queen’s line descends from the Scots’ monarchy, so it is up to us to decide whether to share her with the Inglish. We will though because we’re generous.

        Ditto for the pound. We let the Inglish have the name, because they’re a bit petty that way, but don’t forget that the Bank of Inglund was founded by a Scot. But again, in our generosity, we will let the Inglish keep it too.

  • the viceroy’s gin

    “We’re still split on immigration”


    No “split” at all, lad. It’s 48-32 against. That’s as wide a margin as you’ll see on most contentious issues of public policy.

    And the “qualifications” discriminator you’ve fabricated is really a non-sequitur, laddie. I’d assume even a muppet like you has a “degree”, and we can only imagine what your “degree” consists of, given your wittering on this site. But to be clear, I would take any skilled tradesman over you, without a second thought. He’s smarter, more economically valuable, is most likely a better writer and likely makes more money than you, and deservedly so.

    We can also throw in the “qualifications” of the whole multi-culti government and quangocracy, as well. No matter their “qualifications”, if they didn’t have their snouts in a government trough, they’d mostly starve to death.

    So much for your “qualifications” fabrication, lad. It means nothing to thoughtful and properly educated folks .

  • Kitty MLB

    Yes some immigration is good for the country.But not
    excessive uncontrollable immigration of those who
    will be a burden on our public services and also take the work
    away from the working classes.Who Labour insultingly
    call the underclass.
    And yes they must speak English or how are they going to
    interact and contribute to the country.
    Oh yes, most don’t and form little ghettos.
    But being English is more then being given a passport,
    its sharing our values and culture.

  • Kitty MLB

    Our social attitudes have not actually changed, English people
    are the same tolerant, warm hearted, unique and kind
    people that they have always been.
    Its just over time we have been taken advantaged of.
    We have people in this country who Labour promised
    ‘The land of milk and honey’ they have eaten all our
    honey and have spat the milk back in our face.
    And we have not been able to say a word about it
    without being called racist, a word to manipulate and
    belittle, and not even a word used in the correct context.

    • AndrewMelville

      – except that the Inglish people will persist in saying Inglish or Inglund, when they mean British or Britain. An act of ignorance or appalling bad manners (I’m never sure which) that irritates their betters and neighbours.

  • Raddiy

    These issues have been controlled and suppressed by the liberal establishment and their useful idiots in the media for decades. I would suggest nothing has really changed other than the fact that UKIP have forced the debate on immigration and other controversial issues into the public arena.
    The public can no longer be intimidated into keeping quiet with calls of racism, they have seen the Kippers stand their ground on speaking out, and now ignore the establishment attempts at name calling. In fact they have gone further than that, they are not only prepared to offer an opinion when asked, but they are also now prepared to vote for the only party that has been honest about the issue all along.

    The Lib/Lab/Con are walking a very dodgy tightrope if they think they can continue to ignore messages from the public such as the recent elections. However ignore them they will, because they consider their arrogant superiority as a positive trait of power politics, when it reality it is a exploitable weakness that will be their undoing.

    • Kitty MLB

      Dear Raddy in the words of Chesterton: We are English
      and we have not spoken yet.
      We are not ‘Little England’ a minority in our own country
      but Great Britain.We civilized and educated most of the
      world. We are industrious,, creative, eccentric and brave.
      And we need to stand up for ourselves and our values
      especially with whats happening in Iraq and the consequencies here.

      • Raddiy

        Hi Kitty,
        It will take some time but we are slowly changing the terms of the debate. The politicians think they can hold the line and stop this freedom of expression and new found self belief, but they can’t.

        Those of us who have taken the crap for years, have been rewarded by our persistence with 4.5 million people casting off their fears and reticence and speaking out. They will not be shut up, and will now talk to their more timid neighbours and friends and reassure them, and the movement will grow.

        We are English, and we may have not have spoken yet, as we are still clearing our throat, and lubricating our tonsils, but we are starting to stamp our feet and pound the tables with our fists.

        • Wessex Man

          There is a forgotten, nay almost forbidden word, which means more to me than any other.

          That word is ENGLAND! Sir Winston Churchill.

          • Raddiy

            He must be turning in his grave at the anti-English sentiment that infests the Conservative Party.

          • AndrewMelville

            Twits. Do you really want to alienate your friends, neighbours and betters: the Scots, the Ulster Irish, the Welsh, the Manx, the Channel Islanders etc?

            Give your head a shake and sort out your ignorance and/or bad manners.

  • saffrin

    Some photo. Not one true Brit among them.
    If that isn’t a good example of the damage Labour did to this country I don’t know what is.
    3.8m they did let in and that is only the ‘legal’ ones. Who are still here by the way, reinforced daily by thousands of new arrivals and all taking up much needed living space.

    • Novus

      So would it be your argument that we need more of this “living space”? 😉

      • Chris Morriss

        Are you a nasty little Troll who only just stopped himself writing that in German?

        • Kitty MLB

          Is it that person or foreign languages in general.
          Nothing wrong with speaking other languages
          as well as English. I speak a few myself.

          • Conway

            So do I, but if you don’t know the baggage that goes with the German translation of living space I’d be very surprised.

            • the viceroy’s gin

              …socialists generally don’t possess such knowledge.

        • Novus

          Well, let’s see….

          Saffrin laments that the photograph doesn’t contain one “true Brit.” Whatever a “true Brit” is, it’s clearly something that can be identified from looking at a photograph. I do wonder what Saffrin’s criteria are, or whether Saffrin thinks being a “true Brit” is preferable or in any way superior to not being one. Then, because of all these false Brits, we have a problem with living space. The false Brits are taking it all up.

          I think anyone who failed to spot a parallel with certain 1930s rhetoric would have to be extremely ignorant. The artless and clunking phrase “living space” was just the icing on the cake. If it makes me a troll (or, for some reason, “Troll”) to point this out in a throwaway manner, then I suppose a Troll I must be.

          As it happens I fully agree that immigration is and has been, and will probably continue to be, far too high, and worryingly indiscriminate. I fully believe that a failure to assimilate on the part of many immigrants has been the cause of much difficulty. But I also believe that when expressed in such an idiotic manner as Saffrin did, it provides the relativist left with all the ammunition it needs to dismiss all such arguments as racist.

          • saffrin

            T. err, wat!

    • Kitty MLB

      Yes Socialism is a anti – English evil. Labour just
      opened the doors without giving the people living
      on this small island the slightest thought, all stuffed
      together like sardines from different cultures like
      it or not.

    • foxoles

      ‘If this is England, where are the English?’

  • Fergus Pickering

    I don’t think opinions on immigration have really shifted. Until Nigel Farage came along ordinary people kept quiet about what they really thought.about immigration in case they were called ‘racist’.

    • John Dalton

      It’s a joke isn’t it. And that photo says it all.

      We all know the truth. We all know what we feel about it. We were never asked. When anybody questioned it they were smacked down and smeared with accusations of ray-cism. And so begun the cultural displacement we now face up and down the country.

      Now we have a housing crisis. We have public services buckling under the strain. We have roads clogged and trains over-crowded. We have criminal gangs operating with impunity. We have “no go areas”. We have parallel legal systems taking hold. We have our schools being taken over. We have our kids being groomed. And still the vast majority bury their heads in the sand imagining that it will all turn out alright.

      Well how can it possibly?

      • Fergus Pickering

        Vote UKIP. You know it makes sense. Farage for King.

        • Kitty MLB

          Oh, Fergus, dear. For some the winds of change
          will blow across England ( sorry Mcmilllan) There will be a purple net across this realm
          little fishes being beguiled into, the net of
          kipperdom and the same in Scotland little
          Scottish fishes being beguiled by the
          mighty Salmond ( apologies dear Allymax
          if you read this, its the latin)
          If you mix Red and Blue what colour do
          you get before turning green and Lib Dem

          • Wessex Man

            Oh dear, you are getting very very nervous arn’t you, how will the Westminster Village of which your are so enamoured cope with the SNP and Ukip, why they will carry on like it’s 1999 and lie and smear and belittle as they have always done.

            They and you just don’t get it that the world has moved on and we all now know when we are being lied to!

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