Half of young adults in the UK do not feel European, poll reveals
Only half of the UK’s young adults see themselves as having a European identity and one in five do not identify as being British, a survey has found.
The poll also found that exposure to different nationalities among 18- to 30-year-olds in the UK was low, with just 13% ever having worked abroad and just one in three proficient enough to speak Spanish, French or any other foreign language at a “simple” level.
According to the study, commissioned by thinktank Demos and supported by the British Council as part of the Next Generation research series, young people were also less well travelled than reports on student gap years would imply.
Only one in 10 travelled abroad for three months, with just 11% saying they had ever campaigned to raise funds for an overseas cause.
“Living, working and studying abroad offers clear benefits for young people, helping them to secure better jobs, as well as building confidence and intercultural understanding, said Ian Wybron, head of social policy at Demos. “But our research found that a substantial number of young adults are currently being excluded from these opportunities — particularly those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.”
Wybron said the government needed to address the issue if the UK was going to leave the EU and instead plough a furrow as a globalist country seeking bilateral trade deals around the world.
“Government, employers, and civil society must do their part in opening up these valuable opportunities to a much larger number of Britons. The aspirations for a ‘global Britain’ will ring hollow unless is its benefits and opportunities are better shared,” said Wybron.
Demos surveyed 1,994 young adults from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to test the feelings of national identity in modern multicultural Britain.
They found that one in five 18- to 30-year-olds did not feel British, while those that did feel British seemed to tally with the parts of the country that voted in favour of Brexit.
Feelings of Britishness were strongest in the north-east, where 93% said they felt “to some extent” or “to a great extent” British.
In Northern Ireland, which voted 55.8% to remain in the EU, that feeling of Britishness dropped to 62%, while in Scotland, which also voted to remain, just 59% say they feel British.
Being European is a trait that is strongest in London and Northern Ireland (59%), but weakest in Wales with just 35% saying they felt European. Wales voted to exit the EU by 52.5%.
The study found that the attitudes differed across the classes, with young adults in lower socioeconomic groups likely to be more negative about their global place.
They also found that young voters in Labour and Ukip heartlands were less likely to feel positive towards Europe than their Conservative or Liberal Democrat counterparts.
There was also a north/south divide, with positive attitudes to internationalism more likely to be held in the latter.
The NHS came out as a slight unifier, with more than half of all voters citing it as one of the top three things that made them feel most “proud to be British”.
Ranking second and third on a list of 12 items was “our history” and “our culture and arts” with British business languishing at the bottom of the “proud to be British” table with “charities, our volunteering culture” and “British sports teams” not far behind.
Originally published at www.theguardian.com on April 11, 2017.