‘Woke’ attitudes now more common in Britain, but ‘culture wars’ continue to divide
In many respects, the balance of public opinion in Britain has tipped in favour of ‘woke’ attitudes on ‘culture war’ issues such as identity, immigration and equality, according to the latest British Social Attitudes survey by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen).
The shift towards socially liberal views on these issues suggests there is no guarantee that a socially conservative, ‘anti-woke’ stance will appeal to an election-winning number of voters.
However, Leave and Remain supporters are divided in their views on these issues, suggesting the ‘culture wars’ may yet rekindle the Brexit divide in UK politics.
Shift towards more inclusive views of Britishness, and greater concern for equal opportunities for minority groups
- More than half (54%) say it is not important for being ‘truly British’ to be born in Britain, more than double the 25% who took this view in 2013.
- Around one third (34%) say Britain is a better country than most other countries, compared with over half (54%) in 2013.
- 45% say that equal opportunities for Black and Asian people have not got far enough, up from 25% in 2000.
- Meanwhile, only 19% say equal opportunities for Black and Asian people have gone too far, down from 35% in 2000.
Leave and Remain supporters divided in their views on ‘culture war’ issues
- 65% of Leavers believe that being born in Britain is important to be ‘truly British’, compared with 34% of Remainers.
- 65% of Remainers believe migrants have a positive impact on the country’s culture. Only 22% of Leavers express that view.
- As many as three in five (60%) Remainers think that equal opportunities for Black and Asian people have not gone far enough. Only around a quarter (23%) of Leavers express that view.
Sir John Curtice, Senior Fellow at NatCen, said: “There does appear to be the potential for ‘culture war’ issues to maintain the electoral division between Remainers and Leavers that was central to how people voted in the 2019 general election. What is less clear is whether this would prove as advantageous to the Conservatives as the Brexit divide proved to be.
In most cases the balance of opinion is now tilted in favour of the ‘woke’ position, contrary to what was often the case a decade or two ago. Inevitably some people are uncomfortable with such change in society, and will quite reasonably look to politicians to express their concern. But we cannot assume that the politicians who express that concern will find that their stance brings them electoral success.”
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Notes to editors
1. British Social Attitudes (BSA): the 39th Report will be published on 22nd September 2022 at www.bsa.natcen.ac.uk. Advance copies of chapters from the report available on request. The editors are Sarah Butt, Elizabeth Clery and John Curtice. The views expressed in the report are those of the authors and editors alone.
2. The full list of chapters in this year’s report: Taxation, welfare and inequality; Constitutional reform; Culture Wars; Regional differences in values; Environment and climate change; Disabled people at work; NHS and social care; The NHS in Scotland and England.
3. NatCen’s British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey has been conducted annually since 1983. It is the longest-running measure of public opinion in Britain, providing authoritative data on a range of social and political issues. Each year the survey asks around people what it's like to live in Britain and what they think about how Britain is run. Since 1983 more than 115,000 people have taken part in the survey.
4. The 2021 BSA survey consisted of 6,250 interviews with a representative, random sample of adults in Britain and was conducted between 16 September and 31 October 2021.
5. This year’s BSA survey was completed online by a representative sample of respondents who were invited at random by post. There was an option to be interviewed by phone if preferred. This is the same design as used in the 2020 BSA. Prior to 2020 BSA was a face-to-face survey, but this was changed as a result of the public health measures introduced in the wake of the pandemic.
6. People’s attitudes towards Brexit were based on their current views rather than their voting behaviour in the EU referendum. This was obtained by asking, ‘Since the EU referendum, some people have changed their minds about how they would vote, while others have not. If you were given the chance to vote again, how would you vote – to remain a member of the European Union, to leave the European Union, or would you not vote?’ The possible response options were: Remain a member of the European Union; Leave the European Union; I would not vote.