The Office for National Statistics’ Annual Population Survey invited a sample of local people to declare their identity among the options of British, English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish or ‘other.’
In the year to June 2016, in the lead-up to the Brexit referendum, 57 per cent of survey respondents in the Derbyshire Dales said that they identify as English – but this fell to 44 per cent in the year to December 2021.
Over the same period, the proportion identifying as British increased from 46 per cent to 63 per cent.
It was a similar story across England as a whole, with 44 per cent identifying as English in the year to December 2021, down from 52 per cent in the year to June 2016. The proportion identifying as British increased from 49 per cent to 59 per cent over the same period.
Sunder Katwala, director of the think tank British Future, said: “Most people in England have two flags and two identities, English and British.
“The strength of feeling ebbs and flows according to events – we will see a lot of Union Jacks during the Jubilee celebrations, but it will be the England flag flying for the World Cup in November.”
He added: “How you ask the question also affects the result. While seven in ten said they were English in the last census, it will flip this time now British comes first on the tick-box list.”
John Denham, director of the Centre for English Identity and Politics at the University of Southampton, said the findings should be approached with caution.
Any shift may appear exaggerated as survey participants do not tend to select more than one option for their national identity, so it will not capture the extent to which they may identify as both English and British.
John said: “There has been movement towards identifying as British – probably due to demographic change. Young people more likely identify as British than older generations.”
According to recent polling for British Future, just ten per cent of people described themselves as more British than English, while 44 per cent said they feel equally British and English.