You must speak English to be considered British – Survey

The British public believe that someone who is British must be able to speak English, must have lived in Britain for most of their life or must have been born in Britain.

This view of what it means to be British was revealed in the 31st NatCen Social Research British Social Attitudes survey.

Almost everyone (95%) says that to be “truly British” you must be able to speak English while over three quarters (77%) say you must have lived in Britain for most of your life.

Around three quarters (74%) say it is important to have been born in Britain to be considered British while around half (51%) say it’s important to have British ancestry.

When it comes to faith, less than a quarter (24%) say you need to be Christian to be considered British.

The survey has also revealed a hardline view of immigrants.

At least 61% of British people think that immigrants from the EU should have to wait three years or more before they are allowed to claim welfare benefits.

While half of all people (50%) think the main reason immigrants come to Britain is to work, nearly a quarter (24%) think the main reason is to claim benefits.

According to the survey, those most concerned about immigration are more likely to think that immigrants come to Britain to claim benefits.    

The number of people who believe legal immigrants who are not British citizens should have the same legal rights as British citizens decreased from 40% in 2003 to 27% in 2013.

There has been an increase from 37% in 2003 to 43% in 2013, in the number of people who think immigrants increase crime rates

The survey reveals that those who are better off and better educated are far more positive about immigration than the rest of the population. At least 60% of graduates think immigration has benefited Britain economically, compared with 17% of those with no qualifications.

There is also a geographical divide, with 54% of Londoners taking the view that immigration is good for the economy compared with 28% of people around the rest of the country.

Even though the UK introduced in 2008 a points based immigration system designed to favour skilled migrants, two fifths of people (42%) say that the UK does not have a points based system governing migration from outside the EU and 14% say they don’t know if there is one.

Penny Young, Chief Executive, NatCen Social Research, said: “In an increasingly diverse, multi-cultural country, we might expect people to be more relaxed about what it means to be British, yet the trend is going in the opposite direction. It is now harder to be considered British than in the past and one message comes through loud and clear, if you want to be British, you must speak English.

“And as we debate whether UKIP’s vote will hold up in the General Election, British Social Attitudes shows that the public is yet to be convinced that politicians have got a grip on immigration. They want tougher rules on benefits and many are unaware of the policies that are in place to control immigration.”

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