• Most people from ethnic minority backgrounds call themselves British, do not have a minority religion and speak English as their main language.
  • More than half of the population think that the children of immigrants should be able to combine the culture of their parents with that of Britain, 37 per cent favour prioritising British culture and just 2 per cent the parental culture (the figure rises to only 5 per cent when ethnic minorities are asked).
  • Nearly two thirds of Indians send Christmas cards compared to just 24 per cent of Bangladeshis (only two per cent of Bangladeshis put up Christmas trees).
  • Second generation immigrants reported significantly lower importance of religion and private religious practise than the first generation, with the partial exception of Muslims.
  • Young and British-born Muslim women are much more liberal when it comes to gender roles although Muslims in general are more conservative then all other religious groups.
  • Ethnic minority objections to marrying a white person—almost one third of foreign born Pakistanis—is more than halved for most groups between the first and second generation.


1. National identity, multiculturalism, and immigration

National identity remain of central importance to both majority and minority citizens of Britain but for both it is increasingly layered: for the White British thanks to the growth of sub-British national identities and for minorities thanks to ancestral and/or religious identities. In recent years the more separatist version of multiculturalism has clearly been rejected even as people have become more tolerant of, and familiar with, difference. The anxiety about the fading of a common culture is partly a response to historically high levels of immigration which both the White British and minorities want reduced, even though the latter are more positive about the immigration story.

National identity & Belonging

There are many different ways of identifying with a country and its people, its institutions, and history. Members of the settled majority tend to have an automatic identification overlaid with semi-articulated thoughts about the national story that can produce stronger or weaker allegiances. National identity has become the subject of much more public discussion in recent decades, thanks in part to immigration but it also reflects a less chauvinistic identification among the white majority: a movement from ethnic (ancestry) to civic (political) ideas of the national club, though most people have a fuzzy mix of the two.

According to the British Social Attitudes survey the number saying they are “very proud” to be British fell from 43 per cent to 35 per cent between 2003 and 2013 mainly because of a less intense identification among younger people. At the same time those who strongly agree you have to be white to be truly British has fallen to 7 per cent.1

Ethnic minorities generally have a more nuanced relationship with the nation: on the one hand they or a relative will have consciously chosen to come to Britain for a better life; on the other hand they will often continue to identify, more or less strongly, with an ancestral people (something that has become a lot easier with cheap travel and modern media) and may not feel fully accepted by people from the white majority.

The language of surveys is unavoidably general and it is often hard to know in what measure someone from an ethnic minority background who says they identify strongly with Britain is expressing a claim on the country or a fondness for it. One thing that is not ambiguous is the take up of British citizenship: according to the Ethnic Minority British Election Study (EMBES) 2010 survey it is 99 per cent for second generation minorities born in the UK (who receive it automatically) and 94 per cent for the so-called ‘one point five’ generation (those born abroad who arrived before their 16th birthday).2

The national story in Britain has become complicated in the past generation by the decline of a sole British identification and the rise of stronger Scottish, Welsh and latterly English identifications. Only a tiny proportion of people of ethnic minority background born in Britain do not identify as either British or English but they have been slower to make the shift to Englishness, though numbers are now rising (especially among those of mixed and Black Caribbean background): according to the 2011 census only 14.4 per cent of the White British (in England and Wales) continue to identify only as British compared to 38.2 per cent of ethnic minorities. Conversely more than 70 per cent of the White British identify as “English only” compared with less than 20 per cent of minorities.


There is some ambiguity about the “English or Scottish or Welsh only” category as it seems to be interpreted by many people as a “primary” identity not excluding continuing identification with Britain. Polling for British Future found 76 per cent of White British people living in Great Britain identified as strongly belonging to the country they lived in (England/Scotland/Wales) while 67 per cent at the same time said they felt they strongly belonged to Britain.

Among minorities as a whole levels of identification with one of the four nations of the United Kingdom is quite low and rather similar—the proportions identifying with England, Scotland etc varies between 13 and 16 per cent in each country. But when it comes to having a British identity there are stronger differences—38.5 per cent of ethnic minority individuals living in England identify themselves as British while in Scotland it is 13.5 per cent and in Wales it is 26.9 per cent. Scottish ethnic minorities are often said to identify more strongly with Scotland than English minorities do with England because in recent years Scottish identity has had a strongly outsider/insurgent aspect to it, though that seems to be reflected more in a rejection of a British identity than in embrace of a Scottish one. Differences across countries within the United Kingdom between the White British and ethnic minorities can be seen in the dashboard below.3


Identification with the nations of the United Kingdom is  highest among mixed ethnic people at 47.2 per cent and Black Caribbeans at 26.6 per cent and lowest among Bangladeshis at 8.1 per cent. English identification is likely to grow and tends to be highest among groups, like Caribbeans, who have been here longest. In some parts of the country, especially in the most ethnically divided towns in northern England, Englishness remains associated with an embattled, racial identity. Stephen Jivraj and Bridget Byrne point out that the White British are least likely to identify as English in London presumably because of the weight of more educated and liberally minded people who think of English as too “ethnic”, though it may also be that in the national capital one is more surrounded by the symbols of Britishness.4

Among religious groups, the census shows that Sikhs are the most likely to identify as only British at 62.3 per cent. Other religious groups with high rates of British identification are Muslims (57.2 per cent) and Hindus (54 per cent). Christians, Jews, and the non-religious are more likely to identify with one of the four nations of the United Kingdom than as British. Identification with some other foreign country is highest among Buddhists at 41.6 per cent while for Hindus and Muslims it stands at 31.7 and 23.6 per cent respectively.

About 37 per cent of ethnic minorities have a foreign identity (excluding ‘Irish’), mainly first generation immigrants. A foreign national identity is most prevalent among White Others at 77.3 per cent followed by the Chinese at 48 per cent and Black Africans at 41.3 per cent. Rates among the South Asian groups are lower but substantial. Jivraj and Byrne point out that those who were born in regions with a history of British colonialism are more likely to have some sort of UK national identity – 60 per cent of Africans and 56 per cent of Asians – by contrast just 30 per cent of those born in the EU have a UK national identity.5

Even for those who do identify as British, allegiance to Britain often comes second to other collective identities especially for many Muslims and Black Africans. The EMBES survey asked respondents if they felt more black or Asian than British. 46 of cent of Black Africans said they felt more black than British compared to 36 per cent of Black Caribbeans. For Asians, the proportions were lower: 29 per cent of Indians felt more Asian than British compared to 21 per cent of Pakistanis and 29 per cent of Bangladeshis.6 43 per cent of ethnic minority Muslims felt they identified more with their faith than with Britain compared with 31.9 per cent of ethnic minority Christians and 25.6 per cent of Hindus. Overall, 34.2 per cent of ethnic minorities identify more with a religion than with Britain.


Some members of ethnic minority religious groups identify themselves solely as religious and not British. The proportions are greatest for Sikhs at 14.4 per cent. For ethnic minority Christians the proportion is slightly lower at 11.8 per cent while for Muslims and Hindus the shares are lowest at around 6 per cent.

With time, immigrants come to have a higher identification with Britain. One study found 75 per cent of non-EEA immigrants who had been here less than 7 years felt they belonged to Britain compared to 92 per cent of those who had been here for longer. Nandi and Platt found that attachment to Britain increased across generations of immigrants and that ethnic minorities while holding strong attachments to Britain also had strong attachments to their cultures of origin.

Nearly everyone tells the Citizenship Survey in 2010/11 that they feel part of British society.7 But, if we look at only those who say they ‘strongly’ agree then some important differences emerge between ethnic groups, age cohorts, and immigrants. 58.2 per cent of White British people say the strongly agreed that they felt part of British society. This compares to 51.1 per cent of Indians, 50.5 per cent of Pakistanis, 45.7 per cent of Bangladeshis, 33.5 per cent of Chinese, 49 per cent of Black Africans, 40.6 per cent of White Others, and 52.8 per cent of Black Caribbeans.

The same survey shows that generally, those born abroad are less likely to strongly feel they are part of British society compared to those born here. For instance, 48.1 per cent of foreign born Indians feel they strongly belong compared to 57.8 per cent of those born here. However, there are some exceptions – for Bangladeshis and Black Caribbeans there is little difference while for Black Africans those born abroad feel more like they belong.

Looking just at immigrants the Citizenship Survey finds younger cohorts feeling less strongly part of British society than older cohorts perhaps influenced by more multicultural and cosmopolitan assumptions. So, 21 per cent of Indian immigrants aged 16 to 24 felt they strongly belonged compared to 36.6 per cent of those aged 25 to 24 and 55.5 per cent of those between 35 and 49. Young Pakistanis have a higher proportion of young people with a strong sense of belonging – 46.8 per cent of 16 to 24 year-olds. But for older Pakistanis it is even greater – 62.3 per cent of 50-64 year-olds. The differences are not always so sharp for other groups but all show a stronger sense of belonging in older cohorts.8

When it comes to ties to our immediate neighbourhoods there is nothing to distinguish white people from non-whites. As seen in the graph below, the Citizenship Survey shows no difference. However, if we look at specific non-white ethnic minorities then some important differences emerge. Indians, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshis all show significantly higher levels of belonging to their neighbourhood than whites – for instance 88 per cent of Bangladeshis felt a strong sense of belonging compared to 77 per cent of whites (which may reflect strong minority ethnic attachments if they live in an area dominated by their own group).


People have a greater sense of belonging to Britain than to their neighbourhoods. Bangladeshis and Pakistanis are the only non-white ethnic minority groups to show a higher attachment to Britain than white people: 91 per cent of Bangladeshis and 90 per cent of Pakistanis said they strongly belonged compared to 88 per cent of white people.

Attitudes to Multiculturalism

Multiculturalism is a slippery term that sometimes means the simple acceptance of equal rights in a multiracial society but can also mean the maintenance and even promotion of ethnic difference. Few people now reject the former but a growing number of people have come to feel more ambivalent about the latter in the past 15 years. In 2008, 7 out of every 10 people thought multiculturalism (defined as the protection and promotion of minority cultures) was not working and causing greater separation. There has also been a decline in the proportion of people who think we should respect the wishes of minority communities – between 1999 and 2008, there was a decline from 85 per cent to 64 per cent. Similarly, agreement that it’s a good thing that foreigners keep their lifestyles when they come to Britain declined from 36 per cent to 22 per cent over the same period.9

41 per cent of people think we should share a common culture and set of values while 26 per cent think we should celebrate the rich diversity of cultures and values. However, 30 per cent thought we should find some kind of balance between these two positions. And 54 per cent say Britain is all the stronger for being a multicultural society.

At the heart of multiculturalism is the question of the extent to which ethnic minorities should maintain the culture of their country of origin or blend into that of the British majority. Research by Shamit Saggar et al for the Migration Advisory Committee found that strong support for maintaining ethnic minority customs and traditions was higher among immigrants than UK-born ethnic minorities. Strong support is highest among Bangladeshi and Pakistani immigrants (77 and 75 per cent respectively); however UK-born Bangladeshis are much closer to white people while UK-born Pakistanis are closer to Pakistani immigrants. There is little to distinguish UK-born Black Africans from white people although Black African immigrants are almost twice as likely to support maintaining their own distinct culture.


In recent times there has been a decline in the proportion of people who think it is a good thing that foreigners keep their lifestyles and do not adapt to the British way of life. Analysis by Bobby Duffy of Ipsos Mori shows support for allowing traditional dress at school has been falling since the 1980s and that there are some strong generational trends: 48 per cent of people in 1983 supported allowing traditional dress compared to 33 per cent in 2010. ‘Generation Y’ (born between 1980 and 2000) is the most in favour followed by ‘Generation X’ (1960s to1980s), then the Baby Boomers (1944 to 1960s) and finally the Pre-War generation. Support is falling for each generation despite younger generations being and remaining more supportive

But views on this subject are not black and white. Generally, there is strong support for the children of immigrants combining the culture of their parents with that of Britain, and this is true for the White British as well as minorities. According to a 2012 British Future survey 51 per cent of people were in favour of this combination, while 37 per cent say they should prioritise British culture and only 2 per cent supported the prioritising of the culture of their parents. Immigrants and ethnic minorities are roughly half as likely to support the prioritising of British culture as the general population but even among these groups there is only 5 per cent supporting prioritising parental culture.

Generally, ethnic minority Muslims are the most in favour of special provision being made at work for ethnic minorities. 63 per cent of Pakistanis, 59 per cent of Bangladeshis, and 60 per cent of Indian Muslims supported special provisions being made compared to 29 per cent of Indian Sikhs, 27 per cent of Black Caribbeans (note this is not true of all Muslims – only 33 per cent of Black African Muslims were in support).10

Muslims also tend to have greater support for separate religious education lessons should parents wish them, with 68 per cent of Pakistanis, 59 per cent of Bangladeshis, 67 per cent of Indian Muslims, and 57 per cent of Black Africans being in favour. This compares to 28 per cent of Black Caribbeans. Comparable patterns of support were also found for schools allowing ethnic minorities to wear traditional clothing.11 One poll found that 31 per cent of Muslims would want their children to go to a Muslim state school were one available.


EMBES asked of Muslims whether they thought Sharia law should be introduced in the UK. Overall, 19 per cent of Muslim respondents thought Sharia law should be introduced in all cases while 21 per cent thought it should only be introduced where compatible with British law. Indian Muslims were the least in favour of introducing Sharia law in all cases (13 per cent) while Bangladeshis and Pakistanis reported higher levels of support (20 and 19 per cent respectively).12

Adapting to British customs

Many ethnic minority individuals agree there is rarely any conflict between their ethnic culture and British customs (EMBES). The highest levels of agreement are among Indians (51.2 per cent), Black Caribbeans (56.9 per cent), and Black Africans (48.6 per cent). Agreement was lowest among Pakistanis and Bangladeshis (around 40 per cent each). Roughly 20 to 25 per cent for each group disagreed while the remainder were unsure.13

The majority of all the major non-white ethnic minority groups would like to do more to mix with white people and those of different minority groups. Roughly three quarters of Indians, Pakistanis, Black Africans, and Black Caribbeans agreed they would like to do more to mix, according to data from EMBES. The exception are the Bangladeshis for whom 61 per cent wanted to do more. Most of those who did not agree were unsure while the proportions disagreeing were in for all groups fewer than 5 per cent. So, we are looking at ambivalence rather than a desire for isolation.14

There is some desire for white people to make more adjustments but for not one of the ethnic minority groups surveyed by EMBES do they constitute the majority. This desire is strongest amongst Indians (43.2 per cent), Pakistanis (48.4 per cent) and Black Africans (47.1 per cent) while slightly lower among Bangladeshis and Black Caribbeans (roughly one third in both instances). There are also differences in how these groups view the actions of other ethnic minority groups. EMBES asked respondents whether or not they agreed that some minority groups made things worse by asking for too much special treatment and drawing attention to themselves. Indians and Black Carribbeans were the most likely to agree (62.8 and 58.2 per cent respectively) while for the other groups the proportion was around 40 to 50 per cent.15

Whether or not integration is necessary to succeed in education and employment is a difficult question to answer as some groups have comparable levels of segregation but vastly different economic outcomes. Some clues can be found by asking ethnic minority people themselves. For each of the main non-white ethnic minority groups, between 35 and 45 per cent said integration was necessary. Conversely, around 30 per cent of each group said it was not necessary.16

The celebration of Christmas for many has lost its Christian roots in line with Britain’s advancing secularisation. Nevertheless, it retains its central place in the calendar of British festivals. Thus, the extent to which ethnic minorities, both foreign and UK born, are participating is an important indicator of integration (note that predominantly Christian ethnic minority groups will be much more inclined to participate). EMBES contains questions on how people celebrated Christmas if at all. Nearly two-thirds of Indians send Christmas cards compared to 24 per cent of Bangladeshis and 46 per cent of Pakistanis. Just 2 per cent of Bangladeshis put up Christmas trees. There are very few differences between British born and foreign born non-white ethnic minorities when it comes to Christmas.17

The poppy symbolises the sacrifices of British servicemen and women and is a contested symbol for some. Some Muslims have objected to it in protest against the Afghanistan and Iraq wars while there has been a poppy hijab made available for those Muslim women who support wearing it. Again looking at data from EMBES, we see Indians are the most likely to report always wearing it – 35 per cent compared to 28 per cent of Black Caribbeans, 27 per cent of Pakistanis, 21 per cent of Black Africans, and 17 per cent of Bangladeshis. There is little by way of difference across generations of migrants.18

Attitudes towards immigration

Across all ethnic groups, most people would like to see the level of immigration reduced. For White British people born in Britain the proportion wanting to see immigration reduced is 80 per cent (55 per cent a lot and 25 per cent a little) compared to 53 per cent for all ethnic minorities (29 per cent a lot and 24 per cent a little). Support for increasing immigration is highest amongst Black Africans (14 per cent) and Pakistanis (11 per cent). Research by Rob Ford has shown that support for reducing immigration is markedly higher among British born ethnic minorities (62 per cent) than those born abroad (49 per cent). However ethnic minorities are much more positive than whites about the impact of immigration: 55 per cent say the economic impact is good or very good compared with 26 per cent for whites, and 56 per cent say the cultural impact is good or very good compared with 31 per cent of whites. (For British born minorities the figures are somewhat lower especially on economic impact.)

Research by Bobby Duffy and Tom Frere-Smith of Ipsos Mori found that the British public was generally much more receptive to immigrants who were ethnically close to the White British majority than immigrants who were more culturally distant. The same research found older generations were more opposed to immigration. British people are more in favour of immigration from the original member states of the EU as well as predominately Anglophone countries such as Australia, Canada, and the United States. Opposition was strongest to immigrants from the accession member states of the EU as well as Asian countries. Net support for immigration of people from the Indian Sub-Continent and African Commonwealth nations is close to zero.

Recent polling has found that 42 per cent of all British people would turn away refugees including those fleeing the civil war in Syria. Support for giving refuge drops from 34 per cent to 29 per cent when respondents were asked to consider specifically Syrian and Middle Eastern refugees. Ethnic minorities are somewhat more open to refugees. Black Africans, being the group with the largest proportion of refugees in recent times, are the most supportive: 77 per cent disagreed that asylum seekers should be sent home immediately. Among Black Caribbeans this same figure stood at 61 per cent. Support for asylum seekers is much lower among Asians: 35 per cent of Indians thought asylum seekers should be sent home immediately as did 31 per cent of Pakistanis and 29 per cent of Bangladeshis.

In terms of which incoming groups make the greatest contribution to British society 54 per cent of British people think Australian immigrants have made a positive contribution and 46 per cent think so of Indians, 38 per cent think Poles have made a positive contribution, 33 per cent think so of West Indians, while for Nigerians and Romanians the figures are 17 and 15 per cent respectively.

When it comes to student migration or professional migrants taking jobs where there are skill shortages British people are essentially colour blind. One study found net support for Eastern European professionals who came to do a specific job was the same as for people from Muslim countries like Pakistan (+39 per cent). However, net support for unskilled labourers who have come to search for work is negative for Eastern European and Muslim immigrants and more negative in the case of the latter (-51 per cent compared to -69 per cent).

Ethnic minority groups also have their own preferences for who comes into the country. When you ask people which countries they would like to see less immigration from, most people say they would like it reduced from all counties. Some will expressly name countries they specifically do not want to see more immigration from. For Indians who wanted immigration reduced, 10 per cent wanted to see less from Eastern Europe, 8 per cent wanted less from Pakistan, and 7 per cent less from Somalia. For Pakistanis who wanted immigration reduced, 10 per cent wanted to see less from Poland.

Appraisal of the contribution immigration has made to the country varies from region to region. In London, 57 per cent say immigration has been good for local business compared to a 47 per cent of Britons more generally. Support for immigration is found among people with higher incomes as well as higher levels of educational attainment.


2. Values, religion, and extremism

Ethnic minority Britons value religion, career and education more highly than White Britons and are less likely to support unconditional free speech. There is no big difference in attitudes to extremism between groups though a non-trivial minority of Muslims sympathise with acts of violence committed in the name of Islam. There has been a big drop in reservations about inter-ethnic partnerships, though whites and South Asians are least approving. Muslims remain more conservative on gender roles than other groups though, as with all groups in almost all areas, there is convergence in a liberal direction over generations.

Life priorities

The Citizenship Survey of 2010/11 asked respondents to rate how important different aspects of life were to their view of themselves and it is clear there are significant differences in priorities between ethnic groups.

Ethnicity itself matters more to some than others. So roughly 50 per cent of all South Asians count their ethnicity as very important to their identity as do around two thirds of Black people.  This compares to 30.5 per cent of White British people.19

Religion as discussed below is more important to some ethnic groups than others. 78.2 per cent of Pakistanis rated religion as very important to their identity as did 77.1 per cent of Bangladeshis and 71.2 per cent of Black Africans. Religion is much less important for Black Caribbeans – 45.6 per cent – and very low for the White British – 17.4 per cent rated religion as very important to their self-conception. White British people also tend to have lower appraisals of the importance of national identity relative to the major non-white ethnic minority groups – 43 per cent consider it very important compared to for example 56 per cent of Black Africans.20

People tend to place much less emphasis on the importance of social class to their self-conception. Only 16.9 per cent of White British view social class as very important to their identity; for visible ethnic minorities this proportion is somewhat higher – 24.1 per cent of Black Africans, 22.1 per cent of Indians, 22.7 per cent of Pakistanis, 21.4 per cent of Bangladeshis, and 27.6 per cent of Black Caribbeans.21

As we have shown in our chapter on Work and Welfare, ethnic groups can be strongly segmented within the labour market. Our occupation can shape how we think about ourselves but visible ethnic minority groups are more likely to attach importance to this than the White British, only 47.7 per cent of whom said their occupation was very important. By contrast 59.9 per cent of Indians, 56.5 per cent of Pakistanis, 52.1 per cent of Bangladeshis, 59.5 per cent of Black Africans, and 55.3 per cent of Black Caribbeans consider occupation very important. How much we earn also matters to how we appraise ourselves. 43.4 per cent of Indians rated how much they earned as very important to their sense of identity compared to 29.6 per cent of White British. 46.7 per cent of Black Africans, 43.3 per cent of Black Caribbeans, 42.7 per cent of Pakistanis, and 44.6 per cent of Bangladeshis all rated salary as very important to their identity.22

Non-white ethnic groups also place greater significance on their level of education than the White British. 34.4 per cent of White British rated their level of education as very important to their identity compared to 55.1 per cent of Indians, 56.1 per cent of Pakistanis, 56.7 per cent of Bangladeshis, 58.4 per cent of Black Africans, and 58.4 per cent of Black Africans. Also, immigrants are more likely to rate education as very important to their identity than those born here: 49.5 per cent compared to 35 per cent.23

By far the most important thing that defines our self-conception is family. 88.6 per cent of White British people rated family as very important as did 84.7 per cent of Indians, 91.2 per cent of Pakistanis, 93.3 per cent of Bangladeshis, and 91.9 per cent of Black Africans. For Black Caribbeans, it is slightly lower at 89.2 per cent. And indeed, when respondents to the Citizenship Survey were asked to say which of all these characteristics was the most important to them, family comes out on top for each group.24


Ethnic minorities are much more likely to identify themselves with a religion than the White British – 79.2 per cent of ethnic minorities in the 2011 census of England & Wales identified themselves with a religion compared to 64.9 per cent of the White British.  The highest rates of religious identification are found among Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, and Black Africans – all over 90 per cent. The lowest rate is that for the Chinese at 35.6 per cent. Note that these data are referring to religious identification and do not necessarily reflect levels of belief or practice.

The White British mostly identify themselves as Christian – 63.7 per cent. 28 per cent identify themselves as having no religion. Roughly similar figures are found for the White Others except that the proportions identifying with non-Christian religions are slightly higher. The Annual Population Survey for 2017 suggests higher levels of the White British population with no religion – 40 per cent – and a lower share of Christians at 58 per cent.25

Pakistanis identify overwhelmingly as Muslim as do Bangladeshis – in both cases roughly 90 per cent. Black Africans have a significant proportion of Muslims at 20.9 per cent but the majority are Christian (69.9 per cent). Black Caribbeans are also majority Christian (74.2 per cent) although about 1 in every 10 has no religion. The majority of Chinese have no religious attachment (55.6 per cent) although there are substantial proportions of Christians (19.6 per cent) and Buddhists (12.6 per cent).


Weekly attendance of religious services is greatest among Black Caribbeans with 57 per cent doing so. It is also high among Pakistanis and Bangladeshis at around 50 per cent. Among Indians and Black Africans, weekly attendance is lower at around 30 per cent while for white people, the norm is of either non-attendance or attendance only on special occasions. The religiosity of white people will have been lifted in recent times due to high levels of immigrants from Poland which remains a devout Catholic country.

In our section on friendship choices in our chapter on Society and Everyday Life, we noted how religious ethnic minority individuals are less likely to have white friends. And it seems that for many, religious activity is conducted alongside people who are from the same ethnic group. For instance, 72 per cent of Indians belong to an ethnically homogeneous place of worship as do 73 per cent of Pakistanis. For Bangladeshis the proportion is lower at 52 per cent while for Black Africans and Black Caribbeans the proportion is close to one third.26.


Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, and Black Caribbeans also report that religion has a big impact on their lives: roughly 70 per cent rate the impact of religion on their lives as ‘great’ compared to 14 per cent of white people, 43 per cent of Indians, and 41 per cent of Black Africans.

The Citizenship survey allows us to look in more detail at the impact of religion on the lives of specific ethno-religious groups. Generally, religion has the least impact for White Christians except when it comes to their choice of schools. 15 per cent reported that their religion impacted on where they lived and 8 per cent on where they worked. This compared with 27 per cent who said religion impacted on schooling choice. All other ethno-religious groups had higher levels of impact on where they lived and worked: 38 per cent of Pakistani Muslims said religion affected where they lived compared to 34 per cent of Bangladeshi and 36 per cent of Indian Muslims. For Black African Muslims, the impact is much lower at 25 per cent. For Indian Sikhs, religion had a comparable impact to that of South Asian Muslims. Generally, religion has a greater effect for those born abroad compared to those born here.


Platt found religiosity declines across generations. Second generation immigrants reported significantly lower importance of religion and private religious practice than the first generation. They also report lower bonds with their co-religionists as well as communal religious activity. However, if we look at Muslims only, significant declines in religiosity are only observed in private religious practice across generations. Platt found no evidence for ‘reactive religiosity’ whereby religiosity increases across generations.27

There is little to distinguish the major ethno-religious groups in terms of how free they feel to practice their religion. 94 per cent of white Christians felt they could practice their religion freely compared to 93 per cent of Black Caribbean Christians and 89 per cent of Black African Christians. Indian Hindus and Sikhs held similar opinions. For Pakistani Muslims, 88 per cent felt they could practice freely as did 90 per cent of Bangladeshi Muslims, 94 per cent of Indian Muslims, and 90 per cent of Black Africans.

Rights & responsibilities

In general we all want roughly the same things from politics – there is very little difference between ethnic groups when it comes to support for free education, free healthcare, freedom of conscience, free elections, the role of the state, and equality, as judged by data from the Citizenship Survey 2010/11. The one exception is when it comes to the right to have a job. There, non-white ethnic minorities are more likely to support such a right than the White British. For instance, 89 per cent of Black Africans and 85.2 per cent of Pakistanis are in support of a right to a job compared to 75.3 per cent of White British.

A similar picture emerges with regard to responsibilities, again using data from the Citizenship Survey 2010/11. Nearly all people say we have a responsibility to obey the law. Similarly, nearly everyone accepts there is a responsibility to behave morally, to help and protect our families, to raise children properly, to provide for ourselves, to act responsibly, and to treat others with respect. Most notably, nearly everyone accepts there is a responsibility to treat people of different races equally – 91.9 per cent of White British compared to for instance 94 per cent of Indians and 96 per cent of Black Caribbeans.

White people are much more likely to profess support for free speech even if it proves offensive. Roughly two thirds of white people supported free speech while for visible ethnic minority groups support was much lower as seen in the graph below . There also seems to be some evidence for UK-born minorities being even less in favour of absolute free speech than foreign born minorities, particularly among Pakistanis.

Noticeably, EEA migrants who have been here longer are less amenable to the idea of speech that is both free and offensive – 61 per cent of EEA migrants who have been here more than 7 years were supportive compared to 77 per cent who have been here for less. But for non-EEA migrants length of stay has little bearing – 50 per cent of those who have been here less than 7 years compared to 52 per cent of those who have been here longer.



The Citizenship Survey 2010/11 asked respondents if they thought it was right or wrong to use violence in Britain to protest against things they thought unjust or unfair. 94 per cent of White British people thought this was always wrong. Relative to other ethnic groups, there are no significant differences with the exception of Indians who are slightly less likely to condemn violent extremism at 87.6 per cent.

Looking only at Muslims, we see 8 per cent would in some circumstances justify violent extremism but that stands in comparison to 6 per cent of Christians, 8 per cent of Hindus, and 9 per cent of Sikhs. Elsewhere, research by Sanders et al found little difference between white people and the major ethnic minority groups including the predominantly Muslim Bangladeshis and Pakistanis in the proportions willing to engage in violent protest against war or taxation.28

One BBC poll found 27 per cent of Muslims had some sympathy for the motives behind the attacks on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo while 62 per cent had no simpathy. 24 per cent believed such attacks could be justified while 11 per cent felt sympathy for people who wanted to fight against the West. This stands in the context of 95 per cent feeling a loyalty to Britain with 93 per cent saying Muslims should obey British laws. 94 per cent said they would report a fellow Muslim planning an act of violence to the police. But 8 per cent said they knew Muslims who felt strongly sympathetic towards Islamic State and al-Qaeda.

Such polls need to be treated with caution, according to Manchester University academic Maria Sobolewska. She has argued that the estimated level of Muslim support for extremism varies substantially depending on the exact wording of the question asked with more vague questions finding more support. Furthermore, Muslims are often indistinguishable from non-Muslims in replication studies.

This is against a backdrop of young British Muslims going to Syria and Iraq in order to join terrorist organisations like Islamic State. Estimates of the numbers having done so are difficult to make but the number has been estimated at 700.

Sexuality and gender roles

Statistics on sexuality (taken here from Understanding Society) are not wholly reliable and significant minorities refuse to answer. Among the large majority who do answer 96.9 per cent of White British people say they are heterosexual. Mixed ethnic people are slightly less likely to report being heterosexual probably down to their relative youth. Concerning all other ethnic groups relative to the White British, there are no significant differences.29

Some ethnic minority groups have strong reservations about homosexuality, according to data from EMBES. For Pakistanis, 48 per cent thought it was wrong compared to 50 per cent of Bangladeshis and 44 per cent of Black Africans. For Indians and Black Caribbeans the proportions are less – 28 and 27 per cent respectively thought homosexuality was wrong.

One poll found that 71 per cent of British people had only ever slept with people of the same skin colour as them. However, British people are at least very open to the idea of having sex with people with different skin colours: 77 per cent said they would consider it. Also, homosexuals are more likely to have had sex with people of a different skin colour to them than heterosexuals – 66 per cent compared to 28 per cent.

In our chapter on Society and Everyday life we have looked at inter-ethnic relationships. However, the willingness to contemplate ‘marrying out’ and the acceptance of close friends and family members who do so is an important measure of how close or apart ethnic groups are from each other. This is not necessarily a measure of racial prejudice, but can also reflect the desire to preserve certain cultural norms.

The proportion of white people who would object if a close relative married an Asian or West Indian has fallen: in 1989 it was more than half compared to less than a quarter in 2013. This compares to 24 per cent of non-white ethnic minorities30. Among white people there is a strong objection to close relatives marrying Muslims – almost 50 per cent.

According to The Melting Pot Generation survey for British Future (and research by Heath et al), people from South Asian and White British backgrounds are more uncomfortable about interracial marriages than people of mixed, Black African and Black Caribbean background.31 However, if we look across generations the numbers fall sharply for all groups. Also foreign born ethnic minorities are much more likely to object than those born in the UK as seen in the graph below. For instance, 29 per cent of foreign born Pakistanis would object if a relative married a white person compared to 14 per cent of UK-born Pakistanis.


Non-white people are less likely to be in support of abortion than whites: 17 per cent compared to 28 per cent.

Support for traditional gender roles has been declining steadily. In 1984, 49 per cent of Britons thought men should work while women should tend to home and family but this had fallen to 13 per cent in 2012. But as we have shown there are significant differences in between ethnic groups in the level of female working. Most notably, Bangladeshi and Pakistani women are much less likely to be economically active than men from the same ethnic groups as well as women from other ethnic groups.

Data from Understanding Society show that many Muslim women support traditional gender roles. Respondents were asked if they agreed that husbands should work while wives stayed at home. Overall, 38.4 per cent of Muslims agreed with this while 32.3 per cent disagreed (the remainder were unsure or did not know). How does this compare with other religious groups? For those with no religion, just 11.1 per cent agreed that husbands should work while wives should stay at home while 62.7 per cent disagreed. For Christians, 18 per cent agreed while 51.6 per cent disagreed. Muslims had the highest proportion of those who agreed and were the only religious group to show a net score in favour.32

What about differences between the sexes? 41.7 per cent of Muslim men agreed that only husbands should work while 25.7 per cent disagreed. 34.6 per cent of Muslim women agreed while 37.9 per cent disagreed.33


Given that so many Muslims are coming from religiously conservative countries we can expect to see in the data strong differentials between those born here and those born abroad. Indeed, 23.8 per cent of British born Muslim women agreed that wives should stay at home while husbands worked compared to 44.5 per cent of foreign born Muslim women. 45 per cent of British Muslim women disagreed compared to 30.4 per cent of foreign born.34

We might also expect younger generations of Muslim women to be more liberal than older ones and this is also borne out by the evidence. Of those aged 16 to 24, 24.4 per cent agreed that wives should stay at home compared to 52.7 per cent who disagreed. The proportion agreeing steadily rises as we move across age cohorts while the proportion disagreeing drops. Indeed, of those aged 55 or older, 50 per cent agreed wives should stay at home while 16.7 per cent disagreed. If we look only at the youngest cohort of British born Muslim women then 21.8 per cent were in agreement that wives should stay at home.35


3. Living together

The White British have much higher levels of trust than all ethnic minority groups. All groups want to see more integration across ethnic boundaries but there is no agreement about how to achieve it. Most perceptions of racial prejudice and discrimination continue to decline, though whites think it has fallen less and the proportion of those admitting some prejudice has flattened out at about 25 per cent for the past 15 years.

Trust and life satisfaction

The extent to which people place trust in others in their neighbourhoods is different from ethnic group to ethnic group. The proportion of white people who say they can trust many people in their neighbourhood is 52 per cent while for non-whites it is 28 per cent. For Black Africans it is lowest at 23 per cent while the ethnic group with the highest proportion are the Chinese with 35 per cent. Not one non-white ethnic minority group when considered by itself is within touching distance of whites when it comes to trusting others.

According to the Citizenship survey, 85 per cent of white people agreed that the area in which they lived was one where people of different ethnicities were respected. For all non-white ethnic groups, this figure was 88 per cent. But the proportion of people saying they agreed that people of different ethnic minorities are respected within their local area decreases as the level of deprivation rises. Similarly, the level is higher in London and the South than the North East and Yorkshire & the Humber.

The Citizenship survey also asked respondents if their area was one where people from different backgrounds got along. Most people say that people get along well where they live but there are 10 local authorities where the proportion is less than 60 per cent: Thurrock, Boston, Burnley, Fenland, Great Yarmouth, Pendle, South Holland, Barking & Dagenham, and Oldham.36

According to research from British Future, concern about community integration is highest in the North West where people are least likely to agree that inter-ethnic relations are better in 2012 than they were in 1948 – 36 per cent disagreed compared to 19 per cent of Londoners. 41 per cent of those in the North West did think things had improved, however.

Community cohesion is negatively correlated with the number of non-EEA immigrants but the relationship disappears when controlling for deprivation – communities that are the most deprived have both low levels of cohesion and high levels of immigrants.

Data from the Citizenship Survey of 2010/11 show that on the whole, most people are satisfied with their lives – some 89 per cent. When we look at ethnic groups, is little to distinguish most groups from the White British. There are two exceptions, namely Black Africans and Black Caribbeans. In the case of the former, the proportion saying they were satisfied was 83 per cent while for Black Caribbeans it was 79 per cent; this compares to 89 per cent of White British (all other differences were statistically insignificant).

How to encourage integration

When people are asked what they think will increase integration, they tend to have different ideas of what will work based on what they value. People will be prepared to meet each other half-way but disagree as to precisely where half-way lies.

The Citizenship Survey presented respondents with a list of activities that might reasonably be expected to encourage mixing and they were asked to say whether or not they thought these would prove successful. For both white people and non-whites, the activity that was most commonly thought to lead to mixing was “Going to work, school or college together”. However, while 41 per cent of whites thought this would be successful, this was only true of 32 per cent of non-whites. All the major non-white ethnic minorities named this as the activity they thought most likely to foster integration with the exception of Bangladeshis who named English language lessons as their number one choice (in second place was “Going to work, school or college together”).

The same survey suggests there is a lot of scepticism as to whether working and going to school together will actually bring people together. For not one ethnic group do the majority think it will work in the long run.


The data also show us how different ethnic groups have different priorities for mixing. So for instance, 17 per cent of white people think going to pubs and clubs together would be a good way to encourage mixing; however only 4 per cent of Bangladeshis and 5 per cent of Pakistanis think this would be a good idea. White people were much less likely to consider visiting the community centres of different groups a good way to encourage mixing – 13 per cent compared to for example 20 per cent of Black Africans.

There is also reluctance to force mixing through legislation. An Ipsos Mori poll for British Future in December 2011 found that when it came to encouraging more mixing in schools 51 per cent wanted to do so by encouraging parents and only 17 per cent by legislation (18 per cent wanted to accept parental choice even if it meant segregated schools). A slightly higher proportion of ethnic minorities, 26 per cent, were ready to accept legislation compared with 16 per cent of the White British.

When asked in a 2008 Ipsos Mori poll whether people would like to live in an area where people are from the same ethnic background as you are, 58 per cent disagree and 29 per cent agree. Just 10 per cent strongly agree, down from 18 per cent in 2003.37

Perceptions of racism and discrimination

It is very difficult to measure racial prejudice since it is something heavily condemned by society. Nevertheless, the British Social Attitudes survey (BSA) has been asking respondents if they were prejudiced against people of different races since 1983. Between 1988 and 2001, the proportion admitting to some level of racial prejudice fell from a high of 38 per cent to a low of 25 per cent. Since then, there does seem to have been a small rise reflecting perhaps the high levels of immigration, the rise of Muslim extremism and the economic crisis, though it is hard to distinguish what is real change from fluctuations due to sampling error.

As we saw earlier there has also been a shift to a more “integrationist” stance towards minority difference in recent years and a belief that newcomers should earn their rights. The British Social Attitudes survey on national identity in 2013 found that the number of people who thought that legal immigrants who were not citizens should have the same rights as British citizens fell from 40 per cent in 2003 to 27 per cent in 2013, presumably the result of a big increase in legal non-citizen immigrants from poorer European countries.

Whites think there is more racial prejudice than non-whites. In 2009/10, 25 per cent of white people thought there was more racial prejudice than 5 years ago, more than for all non-white ethnic groups. 23 per cent of visible ethnic minorities thought there had been a decline in the level of racial prejudice compared to 13 per cent of white people. Roughly equal proportions of whites and non-whites thought the level had stayed constant. Looking more historically at how perceptions of prejudice have fallen among black and Asian people—in 2013 29 per cent of Asians and 24 per cent of black people felt there was a lot of prejudice against them, in 1991 it was 58 per cent and 50 per cent respectively.

According to the Citizenship Survey the proportion of non-white people who felt they would be discriminated against by the criminal justice system declined sharply over the 2000s from over 35 per cent in 2001 to 15 per cent in 2010/11. For whites it fell less sharply from about 12 per cent to 8 per cent. Also, for non-whites, the proportions expecting discrimination by housing associations or council housing departments declined from 13 per cent to 6 per cent over the same time period. For white people, by contrast, it grew from 15 per cent in 2001 to a high of 25 per cent in 2007/8 before dropping to 20 per cent in 2010/11.

Black Caribbeans are more likely to report discrimination with 44 per cent doing so – 35 per cent of Black Africans and around 25 to 28 per cent of Asians report discrimination.38

There is little to distinguish ethnic groups in how they expect to be treated at the doctors: both 94 per cent of white and non-whites expected equal treatment. Nor is there much to distinguish them when it comes to how they expect to be treated by schools – with the exception of the Chinese for whom 75 per cent expected equal treatment compared to 84 per cent of all non-white minority groups. 9 per cent of Chinese expected better treatment – more than all other ethnic groups.

Ethnic minorities have distinct views on how the government should treat them. The EMBES study found that 70 per cent of ethnic minorities believed that government should take active measures to improve their situation compared to 20 per cent of White British. 28 per cent believed ethnic minorities should be given priority in job seeking to make up for past discrimination compared to 1 per cent of White British. Bangladeshis stood out at 37 per cent while support was much lower among Black Caribbeans at 20 per cent.39

Harassment on grounds of skin colour, ethnicity, or religion is much more likely to be experienced non-whites than whites. 13.6 per cent of respondents to the Citizenship survey reported experiencing harassment compared to only 2.2 per cent of white people. 7 per cent of white people said racial or religious harassment was a problem in their local area compared to 16 per cent of Asians, 17 per cent of blacks, 16 per cent of mixed ethnic people, and 9 per cent of Chinese. Higher proportions of those saying it was a problem in their local area were found in London, the West Midlands, and Yorkshire & the Humber; lower proportions in the South West, Wales, and the East Midlands. Perceptions of harassment have been declining marginally in recent years, including for Muslims.


4. Political and social engagement

Apart from Black Caribbeans most minorities have greater faith in the British political system than the White British though they participate less and over time they are converging on the more sceptical views of the majority. The problem of political under-representation is slowly improving and Labour’s domination of the minority vote is gradually eroding.

Party identification and participation

In the 2010 election Labour attracted 68 per cent of the non-white ethnic minority vote compared with just 16 per cent for the Conservatives. In the graph below are presented the more recent voting intentions of various ethnic groups. Note that these data are from 2014 when Labour was still ahead in the polls and thus do not reflect the results of the 2015 election itself. As we can see the White British are much more likely to vote Conservative than ethnic minorities as a whole who in turn are more likely to vote Labour.

Support for Labour was especially high among Black Africans (59.4 per cent), Black Caribbeans (56 per cent), and Pakistanis (52.8 per cent). Support while still strong is less pronounced for Indians and Bangladeshis. The Chinese are exceptional in that they are more likely to support the Conservatives than Labour. Support among the White British for UKIP stood at 14.2 per cent but it was also quite high among ethnic minorities too at 8.6 per cent, support was highest among White Others (10.6 per cent) but Indians also had a significant level of support (6.5 per cent). Overall, 70 per cent of non-white ethnic minorities think Labour represents the interests of blacks and Asians well; 25 per cent think so of the Conservatives while 35 per cent think so of the Liberal Democrats.40


Polling taken in the immediate aftermath of the 2015 general election on behalf of British Future showed that the number of ethnic minority voters had increased from 2.5 million in 2010 to nearly 3 million. Labour continued to dominate the ethnic minority electorate with 55 per cent but the Conservatives more than doubled their share rising to 33 per cent. The poll suggested that Hindus and Sikhs were more likely to favour the Conservatives for the first time, reflecting their greater social mobility. In the South, ethnic minorities are roughly evenly split between the Tories and Labour while the gap in favour of Labour is greatest in the North and the Midlands. While still substantial, it is not so great in London.

However, analysis from YouGov conducted by Ford, Janta-Lipinkski, and Sobolewska urges us to be cautious in handling these data. They argue that online surveys tend to attract Conservative-leaning ethnic minorities. Once this is taken into account, it does seem to be the case that some non-white ethnic minorities have switched over to the conservatives only the change is not as dramatic as the British Future analysis suggested.

The YouGov analysis found that the non-white vote share for the Conservatives increased from 21 per cent to 25 per cent between 2010 and 2015. A six percentage point increase was found among Asians. No evidence was found for a shift away from Labour – that remained at 54 per cent. Rather the decline was found among the Liberal Democrats whose support dropped from 21 per cent in 2010 to 7 per cent in 2015. The biggest gains were to be found among the Greens who increased their vote share among non-whites from 2 per cent to 7 per cent.

Ethnic minorities have historically favoured the Labour party, partly because they have in general been poorer and more state dependent, have lived in Labour areas and felt loyalty to the party that had the better record on race equality. But the association between Labour and the ethnic minority vote is clearly weakening over time. In 1997, 77 per cent of Indian voters identified with Labour but in 2014 it was 45 per cent. Over the same period the proportion of Pakistani voters identifying with Labour has declined from 79 to 54 per cent while African support has dropped from 79 per cent to 59 per cent.

It seems there is growing dissatisfaction with all parties. For instance, 43 per cent of Black Caribbeans said there was no party that represented their views well. Also, among non-white ethnic minorities there are substantial proportions who feel there is a need for ethnic specific political parties: 19 per cent of Indians, 27 per cent of Pakistanis, 21 per cent of Bangladeshis, 22 per cent of Black Caribbeans, and 20 per cent of Black Africans.41

At the 2015 general election, the Tories actually fielded more non-white candidates than Labour, both in absolute and proportional terms. This is in spite of Labour’s traditional support from ethnic minorities. The Tories had 62 ethnic minority candidates (9.8 per cent) compared to Labour’s 53 (8.4 per cent). The Liberal Democrats fielded 47 (7.5 per cent), the Greens 23 (4.2 per cent), while UKIP had 42 (6.9 per cent). Plaid Cymru and the Scottish Nationalists both fielded only one non-white candidate each. Note that for the main national parities, the proportions of non-white candidates are slightly less than the national average of 12.9 per cent as of 2011.

That said, the 2015 parliament is the most ethnically diverse ever although the numbers of ethnic minority MPs are disproportionally small – there are 41 (6 per cent) compared to 27 in the last parliament (Conservative 17, Labour 23, SNP 1). This is a 50 per cent increase.

Ethnicity does seem to have some baring on our voting behaviour. Analysis by Josh Zingher and Benjamin D. Farrer showed that white Labour supporters were more likely to vote for a white Labour candidate than a non-white one. They argued that a white Labour candidate would get 77 per cent of their core vote compared to 67 per cent for non-white candidates. The same white candidate would get 80 per cent of the non-white core-Labour vote while an ethnic minority candidate would get 89 per cent of the partisan non-white vote.

Self-reported turnout at the 2010 general election among non-white ethnic minorities was lower than for white people at 69 per cent compared to 79 per cent (note these estimates based on surveys are higher than actual turnout which was 65.1 per cent – put simply people are misremembering whether they voted or not). Reported voting was lowest among Black Africans at 60 per cent and Black Caribbeans at 65 per cent. Electoral participation among Asians was somewhat higher; for Bangladeshis it was 78 per cent, Pakistanis 72 per cent, and Indians 74 per cent. Reported voting tended to be slightly higher among 1st generation immigrants than 2nd generation immigrants.42

Ethnic minorities are also much less likely to be registered to vote. 7 per cent of White British people are not registered. This compares to 28 per cent of Black Africans, 16 per cent of Black Caribbeans, 18 per cent of Indians, 15 per cent of Pakistanis, and 17 per cent of Bangladeshis. Note that these figures are referring only to British and Commonwealth citizens.43

Despite these figures, ethnic minorities are more likely to agree that voting is a sense of civic duty – 86 per cent of non-white ethnic minorities thought it was their civic duty to vote compared to 78 per cent of white people.44

Ethnic minority people have a greater faith in their political influence than the White British, even though they have lower levels of political and civic participation (as we will show later). Data from the Citizenship Survey of 2010/11 show 29.2 per cent of ethnic minorities agree they can have influence on decisions affecting Britain compared to 19.8 per cent. Such a sense of efficacy is higher among Black Africans (36.2 per cent) and mixed ethnic people (37.8 per cent) but lower among Black Caribbeans (28.7 per cent).

A similar disparity is found in relation to influencing local decision making. 45 per cent of ethnic minorities agreed they could influence decisions affecting their local area compared to 36 per cent of White British people. Again, a sense of political efficacy is more pronounced among Black Africans (55.3 per cent) and mixed ethnic people (51.5 per cent).45

Generally, those born outside of the UK have a greater sense of political efficacy than those born within – 28 per cent of immigrants thought they could influence decisions at national level compared to 20 per cent of those born here.46

In terms of interest in politics Bangladeshis report a slightly lower level than other groups at just 23 per cent of respondents to the EMBES study of 2010. This compares with 33 per cent of Pakistanis and 40 per cent of Indians. Interest among Black Africans and Black Caribbeans stood at 48 and 42 per cent respectively while for whites it was 41 per cent.47

Many immigrants will retain an interest in the politics of their country of origin. As seen in the graph below, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis are both less interested in politics in general than the other groups surveyed and slightly more interested in the politics of Pakistan and Bangladesh than those of the United Kingdom. Indians, Black Caribbeans, and Black Africans all were more interested in British politics than overseas politics with their levels of interest comparable to that of the White British. Perhaps most tellingly, in no instance can the majority of any of the ethnic groups for which we have data be said to be interested in politics.48


White people tend to have a much higher level of knowledge of British politics than the major ethnic minority groups. The British Elections Study of 2010 along with EMBES contained a little general knowledge quiz on British politics – 82 per cent of white people scored at least 3 out of four correct answers compared to 57 per cent of the major ethnic minority groups. Knowledge was lowest among Bangladeshis and Black Africans with 50 per cent and 51 per cent respectively getting 3 or more correct answers. Knowledge levels were somewhat higher among Indians, Pakistanis, and Black Caribbeans.49

The EU referendum

Overall minorities have supported remaining within the European Union. However, it is not the case that they form a uniform voting block with roughly one third backing ‘leave’.

According to polling conducted by Lord Ashcroft in the immediate aftermath of the referendum on EU membership, whites were more likely than non-whites to have supported ‘leave”. 53 per cent of whites supported leaving the EU compared to 32 per cent of non-whites. For Asians it was 33 per cent, blacks 27 per cent, and Chinese 30 per cent.

Concerning religion, 30 per cent of Muslims voted to leave as did 30 per cent of Hindus. For Jews and Sikhs, support for ‘leave’ was greater at 54 per cent and 52 per cent respectively. (Note that sample sizes are quite small in these latter two cases)

Trust in the political system

Black Caribbeans have lower levels of trust in political institutions – 33 per cent trusted government compared to 51 per cent of white people. Of the other major ethnic minority groups, trust tended to be higher especially among Indians, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshis at around 61 to 67 per cent. 1st generation immigrants report higher levels of trust than 2nd generation immigrants. Black Caribbeans also report much lower levels of satisfaction with British democracy while Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Indians, and Black Africans all report greater satisfaction than white people. Satisfaction with democracy is also higher among 1st generation immigrants than the 2nd generation among whom there is a convergence on the more cynical attitudes of the White British majority.50


Volunteering & active citizenship

26 per cent of white people had engaged in formal volunteering at least once a month (voluntary associations, clubs, organisations to help others and the environment) compared to 18 per cent of non-whites. Rates of participation tend to be higher for black people than Asian people – 25 per cent of all black people participated compared to 16 per cent of Asians. Concerning informal volunteering (unpaid help to people who are not relatives), 30 per cent of white people had participated compared to 25 per cent of non-whites. Again, participation tended to be stronger among black people than Asians – 39 per cent vs 29 per cent.

There are also distinct variations in the type of organisations in which ethnic groups volunteer. For instance, white volunteers are much less likely than non-white volunteers to participate in a religious voluntary association – 33 per cent compared to 60 per cent. Conversely, white volunteers are more likely to volunteer in recreational and social clubs – 43 per cent compared to 22 per cent of non-whites. There is no difference between white and non-white volunteers in the rates of participation in children’s education and schools.

Membership of political parties stands at 2.1 per cent for the White British according to data from Understanding Society51. This compares to 3.1 per cent of Pakistanis, 1 per cent of Indians, 2.4 per cent of Bangladeshis, 2.7 per cent of Black Africans, and 1.2 per cent of Black Caribbeans. Note that these figures are higher than official estimates that put party membership at just 1 per cent.

One study found Indians were the most likely group surveyed to report belonging to an ethnic/cultural association at 44 per cent as did one third of Black Africans. For Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, and Black Caribbeans, the proportion lies between 20 and 30 per cent.52

Research by Lindsay Richards suggested there had been a widening of the gap in civic participation between whites and non-whites since 2001.

The gap in volunteering is probably partly explained by the fact that white people are more likely to be older and more affluent. Non-white minority groups and especially Bangladeshi and Black Africans are more likely to site child care responsibilities. Study commitments also present a greater barrier for non-whites than whites – 24 per cent of non-whites cited study as an obstacle to volunteering compared to 13 per cent of whites.

Charitable giving

The Citizenship survey also contains some useful data on charitable giving. In the four weeks prior to being interviewed, respondents were asked if they had given money to charity. 73 per cent of whites said they had compared to 63 per cent of non-whites. Of the non-white ethnic groups, Pakistanis reported that they had given to charity the most.

Concerning the actual amount of money given during those 4 weeks, there is no significant difference between that given by whites and non-whites.


Further Reading

Duffy, B. & Frere-Smith, T. (2014) Perceptions and Reality. Ipsos Mori Social Research Institute

Heath, A., Fisher, S.D., Rosenblatt, G., Sanders, D., & Sobolewska, M. (2013) The Political Integration of Ethnic Minorities in Britain. Oxford University Press: Oxford

Heath, Anthony (ed) (2015) Migrants and Their Children in Britain. Routledge: Abingdon

Jivraj, S. & Byrne, B. ‘Who feels British’ in Jivraj, S. &  Simpson, L. (2015) Ethnic Identity and Inequalities in Britain. Policy Press: Bristol


  • 1 Duffy, B. (2012) What do people think about integration? Ipsos Mori Social Research
  • 2 Heath, A., Fisher, S.D., Rosenblatt, G., Sanders, D., & Sobolewska, M. (2013) The Political Integration of Ethnic Minorities in Britain. Oxford University Press: Oxford
  • 3 Data are taken from the 2011 Census of England & Wales and Scotland
  • 4 Jivraj, S. & Byrne, B. ‘Who feels British’ in Jivraj, S. &  Simpson, L. (2015) Ethnic Identity and Inequalities in Britain. Policy Press: Bristol
  • 5 ibid
  • 6 Heath et al op.cit.
  • 7 Data are unweighted
  • 8 Integration Hub own analysis
  • 9 Duffy, B. op.cit
  • 10 Heath et al op.cit.
  • 11 ibid
  • 12 ibid
  • 13 Integration Hub own calculations
  • 14 ibid
  • 15 ibid
  • 16 ibid
  • 17 ibid
  • 18 ibid
  • 19 Department for Communities and Local Government and Ipsos MORI, Citizenship Survey, 2010-2011 [computer file]. Colchester, Essex: UK Data Archive [distributor], December 2012. SN: 7111, http://dx.doi.org/10.5255/UKDA-SN-7111-1
  • 20 ibid
  • 21 ibid
  • 22 ibid
  • 23 ibid
  • 24 ibid
  • 25 Integration Hub own analysis
  • 26 Heath et al op.cit.
  • 27 Platt, L. ‘Is there assimilation in minority groups’ national, ethnic and religious identity?’ in Heath, Anthony (ed) (2015) Migrants and Their Children in Britain. Routledge: Abingdon
  • 28 Sanders et al. ‘The democratic engagement of Britain’s ethnic minorities’ in Heath, Anthony (ed) (2015) Migrants and Their Children in Britain. Routledge: Abingdon
  • 29 University of Essex. Institute for Social and Economic Research and NatCen Social Research, Understanding Society: Waves 1-4, 2009-2013 [computer file]. 6th Edition. Colchester, Essex: UK Data Archive [distributor], November 2014. SN: 6614, http://dx.doi.org/10.5255/UKDA-SN-6614-6
  • 30 Heath et al op.cit.
  • 31 Heath et al op.cit.
  • 32 Integration Hub own analysis
  • 33 ibid
  • 34 ibid
  • 35 ibid
  • 36 Goodhart, D. (2014) The British Dream. Atlantic Books: London
  • 37 Duffy, B. op.cit.
  • 38 Heath et al op.cit.
  • 39 ibid
  • 40 ibid
  • 41 Heath et al op.cit.
  • 42 Sanders et al op.cit.
  • 43 Heath et al op.cit
  • 44 ibid
  • 45 Citizenship Survey 2010/11
  • 46 ibid
  • 47 Heath et al op.cit.
  • 48 ibid
  • 49 ibid
  • 50 ibid
  • 51 Integration Hub own calculations
  • 52 ibid