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Britishness - What Does It Mean For Young People?

Published:14 June 2007
Fieldwork:14 - 21 Sep 2006
Source:Camelot Foundation
Keywords:Identity, Young people
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The question of what makes up British identity has always been a fuzzy one. In recent years the issue of national identity has moved up a notch in the political agenda not least in part due to 9/11, the devolution in Scotland and Wales, European integration, Britain's involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, and a rise in immigration focussing attention on multiculturalism, diversity and its relationship with a national identity.

Young People And British Identity

Ipsos MORI's research for The Camelot Foundation [note 1] canvassed the views of 16 to 21 year olds across the UK. Using a mixture of qualitative group discussions, quantitative data and semiotic analysis we explore their views of Britishness and its place in their lives. Issues such as social cohesion, multiculturalism, nationalism, and young people's future and life chances are central to the findings.

The semiotic analysis allows us to interrogate how British identity is constructed and how it operates in the context of youth culture. We investigate a range of themes including the parent-child discourse associated with a hierarchical old world, 'stiff upper lip' version of Britain; the extreme meritocracy in contemporary society (perpetuated by television shows like the X-factor that propel everyday people into celebrity status); and ways to harness the rise of virtual communities and creative spaces created for and by young people.

We offer some conclusions as to how these ideas can be taken forward to meet young people half way — to paraphrase an old saying, we must ask not what young people can do for Britishness, but what Britishness can do for young people.

For more on the findings from the research please see our full report below. If you would like a hard copy or want more information please contact Gayatri Ganesh in the Qualitative HotHouse, our specialist qualitative team.


  1. The Camelot Foundation is an independent grant making trust funded by a �2 million per annum donation from lottery operator, Camelot Group, as part of the company's corporate social responsibility programme. The Foundation focuses on supporting charities across the UK that have innovative ideas for supporting marginalised young people, and for re-connecting them with the mainstream of UK life.

Technical details

Qualitative Phase: this involved 12 mini group discussions with young people aged 16 to 21 years. Two group discussions across six areas of the UK including a mixture of urban, rural, suburban, and deprived locations. In total 96 young people participated in the group discussion. Quotas were set according to age, education status, employment status, ethnicity and gender. Fieldwork was conducted between 30 August and 20 September 2006 in London, Birmingham, Plymouth, Cardiff, Belfast and Glasgow.

Quantitative phase: was conducted among a nationally representative face-to-face omnibus of 672 young people aged 16-21 years in Great Britain between 14th and 21st September 2006. Quotas were set and the data is weighted to match the national profile. Fieldwork was carried out by LVQ Research.

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The Camelot Foundation

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w: www..camelotfoundation.org.uk

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