UK becoming 'more local and global'

Ipsos MORI carried out a survey of the UK public exploring their views on identity for the BBC's Who do we think we are? project.

UK becoming 'more local and global'

Connection with neighbourhood, nation and the world

The findings released today as part of the BBC’s ‘Who do we think we are?’ project show that people feel a greater sense of connection to other people in their neighbourhood and those across the world than they do to other people in their country.

  • Three in ten (30%) of UK population say they feel more of a connection with people in their neighbourhood than they did ten years ago compared with 24% who feel less of a connection than they did ten years ago. Four in ten (41%) feel no different about their connection with others in their neighbourhood.
  • There is a weaker sense of connection to people across the country than ten years ago – 16% say they feel more of a connection to people in their country than 10 years ago compared with 25% who feel less of a connection. Over half (54%) say they feel no differently.
    • Scots are most likely to feel a sense of connection with others in the country compared with the average (22% versus 16%)
    • People in the North East (33%) and East of England (32%) are least likely to feel a sense of a connection with others across the country compared with the UK average (25%).
  • Almost a quarter (24%) say the feel a greater sense of connection to people in other countries around the world than they did ten years ago compared with 12% who do not. There is a greater sense of connection among younger generations – particularly those aged 15-34 years where 31% say they feel more connected to the people across the world.

What countries are closest to people’s personal values/outlook?

When asked to think look outside the UK, people identify with a very broad range of countries, however most responses fall into a handful of groups.

  • The largest group is the Anglophone group, consisting of the United States (9%) and the Old Commonwealth countries – Australia (9%), New Zealand (5%), Canada (4%) and South Africa (1%).
  • Another sizeable group is those from other European countries. The UK’s nearest neighbours feature most strongly – France and Germany are both on 7%, followed by Ireland (5%) and Spain on 4% and the Netherlands on 3%.
  • Commonwealth countries also feature Pakistan (2%), India and Bangladesh (both 1%), which no doubt reflects the patterns of migration to the UK.
  • One in six people (16%) do not identify with any country outside of Britain and the United Kingdom.

What factors are important to people’s identity?

The most important elements to peoples’ identities are related to activities or identities they choose or that mark them out as individuals, rather than factors they are born with, or born into.

  • Over four in ten (44%) say that their leisure activities are important, with a similar proportion saying their values or outlook matter (38%) and slightly fewer saying their personal views and opinions are important (34%).
  • Factors such as age (22%) nationality (20%), gender (13%), class (7%) and ethnicity (6%), were generally viewed as less important to people’s identity.
  • Generation was seen as more important by those at either end of the age spectrum – 26% of those aged 15-24 years and 27% of those aged over 65 years said that this was important.
  • Nationality and ethnicity were more important to people in London than average; 27% and 14% said these categories were important to their identity (compared with 20% and 6% respectively). This no doubt reflects the more internationally diverse nature of the capital. 
    • Nationality was also seen as more important to identity in Scotland (25%), and Northern Ireland (29%) compared with the UK average (20%).

Connection with Europe

New findings published as part of the BBC’s ‘Who do we think we are?’ project, show that one in five people (21%) feel more of a connection with people in Europe now than they did 10 years ago, which is a similar proportion who feel less of a connection (18%). The majority of people (55%) feel no differently towards Europe than they did 10 years ago. Young people aged 15-24 years, those who are more middle class (social class AB), have higher levels of education and read broadsheet papers are most likely to feel a greater sense of connection towards Europe than others. .

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Technical note

Ipsos MORI interviewed 2,517 adults aged 15 years and over across the United Kingdom. Interviews were carried out face to face between 13th and 31st March 2014. Data are weighted to be representative of the 15+ adult population of United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland).

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