Majority of British public agree with liberal views on race and gender identity – annual poll | Social trends

A majority of the public agrees with so-called ‘woke’ positions on issues such as racial equality, immigration and gender identity, according to the latest annual survey of British social attitudes, in the latest sign that once marginal liberal views are increasingly common. .

Although these issues are used by Conservative politicians and the media to fuel ‘culture wars’ and stoke antipathy towards a supposedly politically correct cultural elite, the survey shows that the balance of public opinion in Britain changed in favor of more inclusive attitudes in the past. 20 years.

These suggest a rapid and significant change in attitude in Britain over the past decades. “As a country, we are as liberal as we have been at any time since this survey began in 1983,” said political scientist Sir John Curtice, senior fellow at the National Center for Social Research (NatCen), who carry out the investigation. .


Other key findings from the survey indicate that public support for increased taxation and public spending, including social security benefits, remained strong as Britain prepared to endure a cost crisis. of life. Support for the redistribution of income from the wealthy to the less wealthy was at its highest level in almost 30 years.

Pro-tax and spending was split across the political divide, with 61% of Labor voters and 46% of Tory voters agreeing. Overall, 52% said the government should raise taxes and invest more in health, education and social benefits.


The public’s healthy appetite for state intervention, perhaps a legacy of the perceived success of Covid support measures, may suggest they will support the £150billion cost-of-living support package sterling from new Prime Minister Liz Truss. However, his support for tax cuts and his contempt for redistributive tax policies may be more shocking.

“Our survey suggests that the public is facing the ‘cost of living crisis’ with as much appetite for increased public spending as they did during the pandemic. Despite the marked increase in public spending during the pandemic, support for higher taxes and spending is relatively high, even among conservative supporters, said Gillian Prior, chief executive of NatCen.

The survey also revealed how much more socially liberal views are held in London. A third of Londoners (34%) are socially liberal, compared to just 19% of those in urban areas outside the capital. “London is very different from the rest of the country,” said Sarah Butt, director of research at NatCen.


Cultural clashes have become increasingly prominent in recent years, ranging from disagreements over Britain’s colonial heritage to whether movements towards racial, sexual and gender equality “have gone too far”, critics anti-reawakening specifically targeting liberal institutions such as the BBC. , universities and national charities.

The survey asked a series of questions about issues of Britishness, national pride, the economic and cultural effects of immigration and attitudes towards equal opportunities. Its findings included:

While most people had a strong sense of Britishness, more than half (54%) agreed it was not important to be born in Britain to be ‘truly British’ – compared to 25 % in 2013. Similarly, 34% agreed that Britain is “a better country than most”, up from 54% in 2013.

The proportion of people saying immigration was “bad for the economy” fell from 42% in 2011 to 20% in 2021. Those saying it was good went from 21% to 50%. There were similar shifts in views on whether immigrants enriched or undermined British cultural life.

There was growing public support for the proposition that equal rights “did not go far enough” for blacks and Asians (45%, up from 25% in 2000). By contrast, the proportion who felt breed quality had gone too far fell from 35% in 2000 to 19% in 2021. About a third felt things were “about right”.

“For the most part, our indicators suggest that, while it might once have represented widespread opinion, the ‘anti-revival’ stance on ‘culture war’ issues often appears to be more of a minority,” the survey found.

The relatively rapid change in opinion suggested that it was not just generational, but that more and more older people were becoming more socially liberal.


Nonetheless, supporters of leaving and staying were divided in their opinions on culture war issues, according to the survey. For example, 65% of Brexit supporters said it was important to be born in Britain to be “fully British”, compared to 34% of the remainder.

While pushing a culture war agenda could successfully enthuse core Tory voters — and potentially rekindle post-Brexit electoral divisions between Remainers and Leavers — that audience appears to be shrinking, and there’s no guarantee the effect will be. anti-reawakening will be powerful enough to win an election, the survey finds.

Curtice said: “Inevitably some people are uncomfortable with such a change in society and will quite reasonably look to politicians to express their concern. But we cannot assume that politicians who express this concern will find that their position brings them electoral success.

Other discoveries

Satisfaction with health services is down – but trust in NHS principles is strong
Long waiting times for hospital and GP appointments and a lack of government funding have led to a dramatic drop in public satisfaction with the NHS in 2021. The 17-point drop year-on-year saw public satisfaction drop to 36%, its lowest level since 1997. However, 76% supported keeping the NHS free at the point of delivery. Rationing of services and low pay for staff led to record public dissatisfaction with adult social services (50%)

Support for changing the British electoral system?
The public overwhelmingly supported the introduction of a proportional representation system for voting MPs in the House of Commons for the first time since the survey began in 1983. Just over half (51%) were in in favor of a reform, compared to 27% in 2011). While a majority of Labor voters supported PR (61%), only 29% of Tories favored electoral reform.

A growing concern for the environment
Worries about climate change are growing, with 40% saying they are “very concerned”, almost double the proportion in 2010. More than half (57%) said they were willing to pay to protect the environment, i.e. by higher prices, taxes or discount. in the standard of living. While 60% blame human activity for climate change, only 6% denied that there has been any environmental decline.

The UK Social Attitudes Survey 2021 consisted of 6,250 interviews with a representative, random sample of adults in Britain. It was conducted just under a year ago between September 16 and October 31, 2021.

James C. Tibbs