[Muslims and Sikhs are the religious groups most likely to feel British, while three-fifths of the population, led by Christians and Jews, do not identify with a British national identity]
By Hamed Chapman
The Coalition Government’s plans to promote mainstream British values appear to be at odds with the sense of national identity in England, according to new analysis of the 2011 Census by University of Manchester researchers.
Muslims and Sikhs are the religious groups most likely to feel British, while three-fifths of the population, led by Christians and Jews, do not identify with a British national identity but only see themselves as English.
“This begs the question, what is the purpose of placing so much emphasis on encouraging ethnic minorities and new migrants to the UK to accept ‘British’ life and ‘British’ values?” asks Dr Stephen Jivraj, author of a briefing paper, published by the University’s Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity (CoDE).
Although the 2011 Census allowed people to report multiple identities from English, Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish, British and Other, nine in ten people reported only a single national identity.
Bangladeshi (72%), Pakistani (63%) and Indian (58%) ethnic groups were the most likely to report only a British national identity. White British (72%) and Mixed (47%) ethnic groups were more likely to see themselves as English rather than British.
In terms of religion, sixty two per cent of Sikhs, 57 per cent of Muslims and 54 per cent of Hindus describe their national identity as British, while the figure is only 15 per cent for Christians. However, 65 per cent of Christians and 54 per cent of Jews are the most likely to feel English, the researchers found.
“If you believe what you read in the newspapers, Muslims are less likely to feel British than anyone else. In fact, the opposite is true. For many non white residents, including Muslims, this feeling of Britishness is probably partly a result of the citizenship process: they are surely less likely to take their Britishness for granted,” Jivraj said.
“Indeed, the distinction between British and English identities continues to confuse not only tourists, but policy makers – but it’s something we all need to understand more fully,” he suggested.
“Our findings are at odds with the present and previous Government’s emphasis on encouraging ethnic minorities and new migrants to accept ‘British’ life and ‘British’ values.”
The findings are in line with other UK surveys that have shown for some time that ethnic minorities identify more closely with Britishness than their White counterparts, despite continued claims to the opposite.