But there is no consistent sense of 'Britishness'
The majority of people in Britain appear to have embraced a sense of multiculturalism, with almost nine in 10 saying that being British is not about being white. But whilst 86% of the British public disagree that to be truly British you have to be white, there is no consistent view on what it means to be British.
When asked what comes to mind when thinking about the "British way of life" people highlight attitudes and behaviour (cultural diversity 9% and people being polite 6%) rather than demographic characteristics such as ethnicity. However, more than a quarter (28%) are unable to give an answer.
The preliminary report "The Voice of Britain" is released today (Thursday) to mark the 25th anniversary of the Commission for Racial Equality at a conference at the Royal Society of Arts. The research shows there is a common recognition that Britain is multicultural. The majority (59%) agree that Britain is a place that has good race relations between different types of people such as those from different ethnic minorities. This figure rises to 67% among ethnic minority groups.
There is also widespread respect for diversity in Britain, with four in five (78%) agreeing that it is important to respect the rights of minority groups and over half (57%) saying people should do more to learn about the systems and culture of the ethnic groups in this country, although one in four disagree (27%).
There is also a rough consensus among all ethnic groups on the rights and responsibilities of those who migrate to the UK. More than two thirds (69%) of the GB population, and half (51%) of ethnic minority people, think ethnic minorities need to demonstrate a real commitment before they can be considered British. Three-quarters of both white (77%) and ethnic minority communities (76%) believe immigrants who do not speak English should be made to learn it.
The research shows that people of all ethnicities massively over-estimate how many people in Britain are from an ethnic minority. Most think it is one in five (20-23%) where as, in reality, it is only one person in 12 (7%). The proportion of the British population who are immigrants to this country is also hugely over-estimated.
Kully Kaur-Ballagan, head of Ethnic Minority Research for the MORI Social Research Institute, says: "These are encouraging results. Britain is confident about its multiculturalism. And as the findings show there is no consistent or homogenous sense of Britishness."
A nationally representative sample of 822 adults aged 16+, was interviewed face-to-face, in respondents' homes in 213 sampling points across the country during April 2002. In addition, in order to ensure robust representation of ethnic minority groups (EMG), booster interviews were conducted over 134 sample points across Britain with 610 members of ethnic minority groups. The national sample data were weighted at analysis stage by age, gender, region, social class, work status, housing tenure and ethnicity. The booster sample data were weighted according to the proportions of EMGs in Britain, gender, age and work status. Where figures are quoted nationally, these are taken from the mainframe sample alone (i.e. 822).