Englishness Polling - St. George's Day

  • Insight
  • 23 April 2024

New polling from More in Common and the UCL Policy Lab has revealed a country that is significantly more moderate and relaxed in its views on culture war issues than many politicians on all sides have been in recent years

The survey, being released on St George’s Day to mark the launch of a new book by Tom Baldwin and Marc Stears, England: Seven Myths That Changed a Country—and How to Set Them Straight, suggests a vast majority (78%) neither want to recreate their country's past nor forget it entirely. 

Despite febrile recent debate and endless front page headlines suggesting the contrary, only 13 per cent of English voters said they would describe the Establishment as "woke" and just 3% thought that university professors were part of it. Instead, the top choices for having the most power and influence in the country today were big business (43%), the Conservative Party (29%) and the monarchy (23%). English voters viewed the NHS (62%), the police (42%), the courts and parliament (both 41%) as vital to the stability of England. 

In a week when Keir Starmer said the Tories had “lost any right” to call themselves a patriotic party and added he had “no time for those who flinch at displaying our flag”, the Labour leader will be encouraged by findings that barely a quarter of his party's voters felt even slightly uncomfortable about walking through neighbourhoods where the Cross of St George is on display.

Starmer, who is seen as significantly more “English” than either of his predecessors - Ed Miliband and Jeremy Corbyn – may also find comfort that his favoured past times of watching football and going to the pub are well ahead of others such as cricket, even if these are still behind talking about the weather and drinking tea.

The survey showed most English people have a fairly good historical knowledge about their country’s history, although only a fifth of those surveyed knew St George was born in what is now Turkey, less than half knew William Wilberforce had campaigned against the slave trade, and there was widespread confusion about what rights were established by the Magna Carta. 

More significantly, a majority of voters said they had either never heard of - or could not explain what was meant by – recent government policies designed to address the future of England such as Global Britain. But Levelling Up is better understood. Only 18% had never heard of the phrase and a clear majority know that Levelling Up aims to address regional inequality.

The proportion believing that immigrants can be just as English as people born here was matched by that believing they can’t, but many more voters (45%) believe immigrants should have the same rights as everyone else than those who believe they should not (25 per cent).

Our research finds a picture of England much more at ease with its national identity than is often suggested. The English public neither think we should forget about its past or recreate it, but instead think it should be possible for us to both remember the past while looking forward. Nor are there the stark partisan divides we are often led to believe, most Labour voters don’t feel any discomfort walking through neighbourhoods decked with English flags, and most Tory voters wouldn’t describe the English establishment as ‘woke’. Instead, people have much common ground on what they think about Englishness - most likely to associate their country with the monarchy, drinking tea and the weather - and the NHS, police and parliament as the institutions vital to England’s stability

Luke Tryl, UK Director, More in Common

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