Fewer and fewer feel English in Dorset

Fewer people identify as English in Dorset than before the 2016 EU referendum, according to a national survey, while more identify as British.

The Office for National Statistics’ annual population survey asks a sample of the local population to self-identify.

Entrants can select as many options as they wish from British, English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish or ‘Other’.

The latest results come ahead of St. George’s Day on April 23 – a celebration of England’s patron saint and the country’s history.

Read more: Truck driver arrested on A35 Bridport for twice exceeding the limit

In the year to June 2016, in the run-up to the Brexit referendum, 67% of residents polled in Dorset said they identified as English – but that figure fell to 55% within the year until December 2021.

Over the same period, the proportion of people identifying as British has risen from 40% to 56%, meaning Dorset residents are now more likely to see themselves as British than English.

It was a similar story across England as a whole, with 44% identifying as English in the year to December 2021, compared to 52% in the year to June 2016.

The proportion of people identifying as British has increased over the same period, from 49% to 59%.

Read more: Cornish Bakery staff walk 163 miles to raise money for RNLI

Sunder Katwala, director of British Future think tank, said: “Most people in England have two flags and two identities, English and British. The strength of feelings for them comes and goes depending on events – we will see a lot of Union Jacks during the Jubilee celebrations, but it will be the English flag that will fly for the World Cup in November.

“The way you ask the question also affects the result. While seven out of ten people said they were English in the last census, that will be reversed this time around, as ‘British’ now comes first on list of checkboxes.”

John Denham, director of the Center for English Identity and Politics at the University of Southampton, said the findings should be approached with caution.

He said: ‘There has been some movement towards identification as more British than English – probably mainly due to changing demographics.

“Young people are more likely to identify as British than older generations.”

But Mr Denham warns the survey may overstate this change, as participants do not tend to select more than one option for their national identity, and therefore will not capture the extent to which people in England identify with both as English and British.

According to a recent survey for British Future, only 10% of people describe themselves as more British than English, while 44% say they feel as British as English.