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British society is more united than we are led to believe, finds study

The culture wars don’t resonate with the majority of Britons, according to one report, which says that despite Brexit, the country is united on many fronts, especially climate change.

Brexit, immigration and successive coronavirus lockdowns have left the British public divided and entrenched on partisan views, or so the narrative goes. But a historical study of people’s beliefs suggests that while a small minority of political extremists have fueled so-called culture wars, the rest of us have formed broad consensus around supposedly divisive issues.

Carried out by More in common, an think tank founded after the assassination of MP Jo Cox, the study used focus groups, academic interviews and a poll of 10,000 voters to gauge the mood of the British public after five tumultuous years.

The results, published in October in a report titled Great Britain: common ground and division in Britain 2020 – concluded that the ‘them versus us’ narrative played out in newspapers and on social media is largely inaccurate and that the dividing lines in society are not as deep as we might believe.

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“Our conclusion is that Britain is not divided into two opposing camps of staying versus going, left versus right, north versus south or rich versus poor,” the report read. “Instead, we found seven different groups, distinguished not by who they are, where they are from or what they are like, but by what they believe.”

The seven tribes – progressive activists, civic pragmatists, disconnected fighters, established liberals, loyal nationalists, disconnected traditionalists, and thorny conservatives – certainly have different opinions on issues like Brexit. Yet they overlap on many issues that some commentators have attempted to weaponize, including climate change, which 85 percent of participants believed should concern everyone, regardless of politics.

“There is a lot of consensus on the climate agenda. I have not seen this anywhere else, ”said Míriam Juan-Torres, lead author of the report, who conducted similar studies in the United States, Germany and France. “The desire to act is amazing.”

Despite divisions over Brexit, Britain remains united on many fronts, according to a report.

Despite the divisions over Brexit, Britain is reported to remain united on many fronts. Image: Jannes van den Wouwer

Racial and gender equality are other issues on which there is consensus: 79% of respondents say they are proud of Britain’s progress on gender equality and 77% agree that racism is a problem. However, different points of view were offered on how to address racial injustice.

Juan-Torres warned that such divisions have the potential to widen, but he hopes the study will help “lay the foundations for an agenda built on empathy and understanding, not division and polarization.”

Compared to the image we get from our screens every day, it gives us many reasons to be hopeful.

There was also agreement on the issue of Britain being too London-centric, including Londoners. And overall, there was a perhaps surprisingly weak affinity for political parties, with just 13 percent of people saying they were proud of their partisan identity.

“The image of our country that emerges from this study is sometimes surprising,” the report concludes. “Compared to the image we get from our screens every day, it gives us a lot of reason for hope.”

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