We received over 1,000 responses to our survey on British life and culture – here are the results
Introducing Horror Nation?, a new season from Dazed about the current state of the UK from the perspective of the young people who live here. Over the course of this week, we will be celebrating the good that is happening all across the country – the culture and the creativity, the artists and the activists, the positive forces for change. But we will also be confronting the reality that life is getting increasingly challenging for British youth, and that Britishness itself is in flux, or even crisis. Stay with us as we lift the lid on modern Britain and ask whether this really is a horror nation.
Last month, we published our very own survey on British identity to tie in with our Horror Nation series. We were curious to know how young people really feel about Britain and Britishness in 2023: are we patriotic? Do we still enjoy British music, art, and film? Do we feel represented by the government? Should we keep the monarchy? And what does it mean to be British anyway?
We had over 1,000 responses to our survey from people all across Britain (and beyond). The results show that we’re divided on some issues and united on others, with our national identity in a clear state of flux.
Here, we unpack our findings.
BRITISH IDENTITY MEANS DIFFERENT THINGS TO DIFFERENT PEOPLE
We asked people to describe what being British meant to them, and the results were very mixed. One respondent said the words “disappointment, shame, corrupt” came to mind when they thought of Britain, while another said that being British was “a daily embarrassment”. Others were more to the point: “shit, nothing else”, said one person, while “sad angry bootlickers” sprung to mind for another. “Being a twat” was also suggested as a quintessentially British trait. (Perhaps it’s unsurprising that so many responses also mentioned “humour” and “banter” as evocative of Britain).
Some people were more proud of their national identity, and mentioned traits like “patience, resilience, and kindness” as qualities typically associated with British people. Other words that came up to describe Brits were “polite, decent, and honest” and “tolerant, funny, and creative”. Interestingly, many of the more positive responses focused on British culture. Some mentioned “pints”, “Wetherspoons”, “Nandos”, “smiley faces and fish fingers”, “Harry Potter and Peep Show” and “roast dinners” when thinking of Britishness.
Evidently, Britishness isn’t straightforward. Many responses also said they “didn’t know” what it meant to be British, while some mentioned being “confused” or “conflicted”. This was an especially common response among people from different ethnic backgrounds. “I am a British citizen, however my ethnicity is not British. I feel lost, as I am not connected to my ethnic roots, however I don’t feel British either,” wrote one respondent, while another said that their “Blackness comes before their Britishness”.
With the broad range of answers we received, it’s clear that opinions will vary from individual to individual.
ALMOST 1 IN 5 OF US FEEL ‘EXTREMELY PROUD’ TO BE BRITISH
Still, 17.9 per cent of respondents said they felt “extremely proud” to be British. By contrast, 10.8 per cent said that they were “not proud”.
We went on to ask our respondents what they enjoyed most about Britain. The top result, chosen by 44.5 per cent of respondents, was “humour”. A clear love of British arts came through, too, with 41.1 per cent naming “music” as their favourite aspect of British culture and 32.3 per cent choosing “art and design”.
UK UNIVERSITIES ARE STILL HELD IN HIGH ESTEEM
The British higher education system is still well-regarded – perhaps a surprise, given that in recent years student satisfaction has been low due to disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and strikes. 47.2 per cent of respondents said they went to university in the UK and believe their degree is valuable, compared to just 13.1 per cent who said they went to university and regretted it. “There is value in going to form life skills away from your family home in a way you may not have or being in different environments,” one respondent wrote.
Still, many people flagged that the cost of going to university is careering out of control. Another respondent noted: “I am currently in second year and the only way I have made it viable is through commuting from home and paying a reduced rent at home with my parents,” and even then they said their travel costs are “only just manageable”.
WE’RE EXTREMELY DISSATISFIED WITH OUR GOVERNMENT
We also asked people what their least favourite aspects of Britain were. Perhaps unsurprisingly, “the government” emerged as the top choice, voted for by 64.7 per cent of respondents. Second was “conservative attitudes” with 39 per cent, and “politics” with 38 per cent.
In a separate question where we asked people to rank how satisfied they felt with the government, a majority of 59.6 per cent stated that they were “extremely dissatisfied”, the lowest possible score. By contrast, just 3.4 per cent said they were “extremely satisfied”.
While a clear anti-Tory sentiment came through in the survey, many of us are struggling to feel involved in politics. 60.6 per cent of respondents said that while they cared about politics, they weren’t “involved” while just 18.2 per cent said they were involved. “No longer believe either major party,” wrote one respondent, while another described the current situation as “horribly hateful, petty and incompetent”.
OVER HALF OF US WANT THE MONARCHY ABOLISHED
The royal family was also in the firing line (sorry Charles), chosen by 31.2 per cent as their least favourite thing about Britain. One respondent wrote that they feel “mostly positive” about British culture, but that they “do not like British tradition especially when it comes to the monarchy”.
An overwhelming majority of 56.2 per cent of respondents said they would like the monarchy to be abolished (with one suggesting that we “feed them to crocodiles”), while just 5.8 per cent said they were a “fan” of the royal family. A few responses noted that they had liked the Queen, but had been less enamoured with the monarchy since her death last year.
WE’RE STILL EMBARRASSED BY BREXIT
The Brexit referendum may have happened seven years ago, but many of us are still reckoning with the decision’s legacy. A whopping 70.9 per cent of people said Brexit had impacted their feelings towards Britishness “negatively”, compared to just 7.9 per cent who said leaving the EU had “positively” changed their feelings.
This anti-Brexit feeling came through when we asked people to describe what Britain meant to them, too. “It’s a Brexit island and we need to do better,” one respondent wrote, while another said that post-Brexit Britain was “nothing to be proud of”.
THE COST-OF-LIVING CRISIS IS OUR TOP CONCERN
When we asked people what concerned them most about living in Britain right now, a whopping 70.9 per cent of respondents chose “the economy and the cost living crisis” as their main worry.
This also came through in the responses to the question “what do you believe needs to change in Britain?”. One respondent wrote “the cost of living – the government needs to be representative of real people and the problems the working class face” while another said “resolve the cost of living crisis”.
The second most pressing concern identified by our respondents was the “privatisation of public services such as the NHS” (53.1 per cent) and “the government” (45.9 per cent).