Over the last few decades, issues of identity and cohesion have moved to the centre of public debate and government concern. Two factors have been particularly important in fuelling this development. First, the rise in Scottish and Welsh national sentiment, and creation of devolved government in Edinburgh and Cardiff have generated a long-running discussion about national identity and the future of the union. Second, the rise of immigration up the political agenda, along with growing support for the far right and the emergence of radical forms of political Islam, has provoked heated debate about the merits of multiculturalism and the necessity or otherwise of binding identities - especially national identities.
Against this background, ippr is exploring how and why identity matters to public policy and what policymakers can do to encourage shared identities. This paper, one of two published together, draws on a wide range of mainly quantitative research to explore how people in Britain think about themselves and their relations to others - their identity. (See also: The New Identity Politics.)
This survey, we recognise, is by no means definitive: for lack of time we have had to exclude many important aspects of social identity, including, for instance, gender and sexuality. We focus instead on those collective identities on which we have the most comprehensive survey data: nationality, locality, class, politics, ethnicity and religion. What we offer here, then, is a snapshot of some of the most important dimensions of British identity in 2007.
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