British Studies Web Pages

Views of Britain


The Way We Think We Are

The following statistics were taken from various newspapers throughout the year 2000 and appeared in the magazine 'The WEEK'. While they provide some insights into how the British think of themselves, perhaps we should not forget what Mark Twain said about lies, damned lies, and statistics!

Ideas for Classroom Use

Class and Identity

We think we are a bit more posh than we used to be. Only 25% of Britons now consider themselves working class compared with 51% in 1955 (1CM/Guardian), while 35% see themselves as middle class, up from 28% in 1986 (Mail on Sunday). But 85% still think Britain is a class-based society, with 69% believing that top jobs are only available to the privileged few (NOP/Sunday Express). And many of us don't even think of ourselves as British. 17% of English people say they owe allegiance to England, not Britain (British Social Attitudes/Guardian); 66% of teenagers in England regard themselves as English not British. In Wales, 79% see themselves as Welsh, and in Scotland, 82% as Scottish (Sunday Times).

Are we a tolerant people?

60% of us believe too much is done to help immigrants. But fewer than 1 in 3 say they'd be upset if asylum seekers moved into their street and 75% wouldn't care if a relative married into an ethnic minority (Mori/Daily Express). And we are certainly growing less homophobic. 72% of us think homosexuality is neither right nor wrong, just a fact of life, and 58% think children should be taught about homosexuality at school (Gallup/Daily Telegraph).

..and sexually enlightened?

We tend to favour sexual equality. 72% of us believe men should be entitled to paid paternity leave (though only 25% thought Tony Blair should have been given time off to look after his new baby), and 84% believe women should have the right to return to work part-time after giving birth. 60% of British fathers often change nappies and 57% of women say "the father dotes on the baby" (Mother and Baby magazine). On the other hand, an alarming 33% of 11-to 16-year-old boys believe some women deserve to be hit, as do 25% of 16- to 21-year-olds, 50% of whom also think rape is acceptable in certain circumstances (study by various universities/IoS).

Are British women content?

They are more likely to be if they have children. 90% of mothers say motherhood has made them happier, although 81% say they would give up work to look after their child if they could only afford to (Bupa/Daily Telegraph). And although 31% of working women claim they earn more than their husband or boy-friend, 79% feel disillusioned at work and 58% say stress at work makes them shout at their children (Top Sante magazine/Daily Mail).

..and sexually fulfilled?

Only 30% of British women would describe their sex life as exciting; nonetheless, 71% would marry the same man again - though 17% would leave him if they won the lottery (Aura/Daily Mail). However, sex tends to be better at the office. More than 80% of women admit to flirting at work, 60% have had an office romance, 30% have actually had sex in the office (New Woman), and 12% have had a fling with the boss. 33% of women over 30 say they would like to sleep with Tony Blair (Daily Mail).

Are we law-abiding?

76% of us claim to have broken the law at some time in our lives (Harris Interactive/ Sunday Times). More than 9% of British adults have used cannabis in the past year - the highest rate in Europe - and more than 30% of under-18s have tried it. (EU report/Daily Mail). But only 36% think the Government is being tough enough on crime (Gallup/Daily Telegraph) and 56% say the law is too lenient on criminals who target property. 44% would be prepared to break the law to defend their own homes (Mori/Mail on Sunday).

What are our core beliefs?

We don't have many. Only 48% adhere to a particular religion - down 10 points in 10 years - and the proportion of us believing in God has fallen from 76% in 1980 to 62% today, though 69% still believe in the existence of a soul (Soul of Britain/Daily Telegraph). 43% of us have no idea what Easter commemorates, but 75% bought Easter eggs this year (Mail on Sunday). And we're still highly superstitious. 60% touch wood for good luck, and 43% won't walk under a ladder. (NOP/Sun)

What do we love and hate?

We love the countryside. Only 1 in 5 of us lives there and only 40% can correctly identify harvest time, yet 70% would prefer not to live in the city (Gallup/Daily Telegraph). We have no love for the single currency - 71% of Britons think we should never replace the pound with the euro (Mori/ Mail on Sunday). But what we loathe with real passion are automated call services, which leave 60% of us "seething with rage" (Mintel/ Daily Mail).

Statistics of the year (and not just about the Brits!)

  • Each year, 250,000 people are reported missing in Britain. Of these, 50,000 will never be found. The Independent on Sunday
  • At least one in ten children were not sired by the man who believes himself to be their father. The Sunday Times
  • One billion of the world's six billion people have never made a telephone call. The International Herald Tribune
  • Nearly 60% of German men prefer not to hear about their wife's day. The Times
  • More Britons now work in Indian restaurants than in shipbuilding, steel and coal-mining combined. The Sunday Times
  • More people belong to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds than to all the political parties put together. The Independent
  • For a simple case of shoplifting, police have to fill out 31 different forms. Daily Mail
  • The average American child consumes 53 teaspoonfuls of sugar per day. The Times
  • One in three Britons have never met their next-door neighbour. The Sunday Times
  • Two-thirds of Britains live within five miles of where they were born and raised. Prospect
  • More than 60% of French students admit to having cheated in university exams. The Times
  • The average person will spend 14 years sitting in sofas or armchairs. The Sunday Times

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