As discussed above, one of the main planks of the argument that devolution will inevitably lead to an ‘English backlash’ has been that it would erode attachment to Britain and Britishness and encourage adherence to a separate English identity. BSA measures national identity in a variety of ways. The most straightforward simply asks people which of a list of national identities describes how they think of themselves. Since national identities can be dual or even multiple (someone might feel English, British and European, for example), respondents can choose as many as they like. In practice, most people living in England choose either ‘British’, ‘English’ or both. In 2011, 61% of people living in England chose English, while 66% chose British and 37% chose both these identities (Table 1).
But how have people’s choices changed over time? Has the proportion choosing British fallen while the proportion choosing English increased, as predicted by those who expect an ‘English backlash’? The answer is no – at 61%, the proportion choosing English in 2011 is in fact slightly lower than that recorded in 1999 (65%). Meanwhile, at 66% the proportion saying they feel British is much the same as it has been throughout the period from 2001 onwards. And there is no evidence at all that dual identity – that is, people’s ability to view themselves as both English and British – has been eroded. At 37%, the proportion choosing both ‘English’ and ‘British’ in 2011 was very similar to the figures recorded in most years since 1998.