The Press Association and The Times (£) reported over the weekend on new research which finds that British people from ethnic minority backgrounds are more likely to identify with ‘Britishness’ than their white peers. The research finds that of all groups, Muslims are the most likely to identify with ‘Britishness’. The findings are taken from a large scale longitudinal study entitled ‘Understanding Society’, carried out by the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER).
From an ISER press release:
“New research examining how British people feel about their nationality has revealed that people from ethnic minority backgrounds identify more closely with Britishness than their white counterparts.
“The findings show that fears expressed by some groups about the negative impacts of immigration on cultural identity may be considerably overstated. In particular, Muslims from a Pakistani background, often said to associate more strongly with their own national identity as opposed to where they are living now, in the survey say quite the reverse.
“The researchers also point to the significant numbers of White British people who feel little or no association with “being British”.”
In the research, people were asked on a scale of 0 to 10 how important being British was to them. The research found that:
• All minorities (other than mixed) identify more strongly as British than the White majority
• Muslim Pakistanis are not any more likely to have a strong minority identification than any other group – in fact the opposite
• Indians, Black Africans, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Middle Eastern Muslims associate most closely with Britishness. People of Pakistani origin scored the highest with an average of 7.76 on the scale. Bangladeshis came second and Indians third
• White, Chinese and Afro-Caribbeans associate least closely with Britishness. The white population scored the lowest with an average of 6.58
• Identification with Britishness is higher among the children and grandchildren of migrants
Commenting on the findings, one of the researchers on the project, Dr Alita Nandi commented that, “There is a huge emphasis in public and policy discourse on immigration and its potential challenge to cultural homogeneity and national identity. Our research shows that people we might assume would feel very British, in fact do not – while others who we might assume would not associate themselves with feelings of Britishness, in fact do.”
“Many people seem to manage dual identities, and it’s interesting to note that in all the ethnic groups we looked at British identity increases from generation to generation, while within the majority white population many maintain strong non-British identities, such as Scots or Welsh.”
The research findings support a number of studies and surveys which suggest that British Muslims are proud of their British identity, and dismiss widely held assumptions about British Muslims being unloyal to the UK, assumptions which are often exploited by the far-right to portray Muslims and minority ethnic communities as different, insular and apart from British culture. A survey by Demos in 2011 found that Muslims were more likely to agree with the statement. ‘I am proud to be a British citizen’ than the general public (83% compared to 79%). Similarly, research carried out by the Gallup and Coexist foundation in 2009 found that 77% of Muslims identify with the UK compared to 50% in the general population, and that 82% of Muslims say they are loyal to the UK, although only 36% of the general public would consider Muslims loyal to the country.
The findings will be presented this week at the Economic and Social Research Council Research Methods Festival. You can find out more about the study, Understanding Society and download some of the research findings here.
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