England and its two unions: The anatomy of a nation and its discontents
This report highlights politically important and culturally fascinating trends in the attitudes of people living in England to national identity and their nation's relationship with its two unions: the UK and Europe.
In January 2012, IPPR published The dog that finally barked: England as an emerging political community. In it we argued that an emerging English political identity may over time come to challenge the institutions and practices of the UK more profoundly than anything happening in the so-called Celtic fringe, even Scottish independence.
Our new survey provides an opportunity to determine whether these conclusions - many new, some controversial - are still supported by subsequent data. It also allows us to gauge the effect of real-world events, such as the Queen's diamond jubilee and the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012, on public attitudes to Britishness, and to focus on a pair of key areas of interest: Europe, which has risen to much higher prominence in the 18 months since our first report, and the attitude of England's BME community to identity and England's relationship with the UK and Europe.
Among the report's conclusions:
- This new survey, conducted in November 2012, confirms that more people in England continue to identify more strongly as English than British: there was no discernible 'British bounce' following the public flag-waving events of 2012.
- Those who do identify more strongly as English are also hold stronger feelings of discontentment with England's unions. That is, they are dissatisfied with the constitutional status quo within the UK, which is seen to favour Scotland and under-represent England's interests, and with England's place in Europe: English people - much more than any other regional population in Europe - see the European parliament as being highly influential.
- By this analysis, Euroscepticism appears more strongly to be an English concern than a British concern.
- England's BME community is less prone to identify as English rather than British, but those who do demonstrate the same attitudes towards the UK and Europe as the wider population, albeit less strongly.
- According to people's political preferences, there is a strong relationship between identifying as English, feeling discontentment with the constitutional status quo and supporting Ukip - by this evidence, Ukip is much less the UK independence party than it is an English nationalist party. Although it has been reluctant to play the 'English card', doing so could strengthen its appeal to voters in England, with potentially far-reaching political implications.