The English are more likely to be able to correctly name the date of the US Independence Day and St Patrick’s Day than they are their own national saint’s day, a new poll has found.
The survey found only 40 per cent were able to identify St George’s Day as falling on April 23, compared with 71 who could give July 4 as the American national holiday and 42 per cent who knew that March 17 was the Irish one.
British Future, a think tank specialising in identity and integration which carried out the study, says the results suggest many English people are too “nervous” to celebrate St George’s Day.
It cites concerns among many that national symbols like the St George’s Cross flag may be interpreted as racist by others, and that celebration of the national saint’s day could upset ethnic minority groups.
It also accused politicians failing to “engage” with the concept of Englishness, to help to promote more pride in it.
The poll found that people in England are twice as likely to say they are more English than British than the other way round. Forty per cent said they were more English than British, while only 17 per cent feel more British than English. Just over a third (37 per cent) felt equally English and British.
The survey also found that two-thirds of those polled in England considered the Irish saint’s day as more widely-celebrated in Britain that St George’s Day. Only seven per cent believed April 23 received more attention than March 17.
St Patrick’s Day is marked by parades in several English cities, such as London, Liverpool and Birmingham, which attract crowds in their tens of thousands. By contrast, events marking St George’s Day have traditionally been lower key.
The research did suggest, however, that there was an appetite among the English to do more to celebrate their national identity. Three quarters (76%) wanted St George’s Day celebrated more or at least as much as St Patrick’s Day. Just under two thirds (61%) felt the flag of St George should be flown more widely across England.
Four in ten (41 per cent) citied the lack of a Bank Holiday when asked why St George’s Day is not celebrated more. Less than one in three (29%) thought it was because people did not care.
Sunder Katwala, director of British Future, said: “Why shouldn’t we be able to celebrate Englishness? We’re all happy to come together as a nation when there’s football or cricket on, so why keep the flags in the drawer for the rest of the year?
“It’s a bit baffling that people in England will happily enjoy a pint of Guinness on St Patrick’s Day but then get nervous about celebrating St George’s Day too. We need to get over it and celebrate Englishness more.
“There’s clearly an appetite for bringing Englishness out of the stadium and into our everyday lives – but politicians have been very wary of engaging with it. It’s time they joined this national conversation. People think a Bank Holiday and flying more St George’s flags would help and it’s hard to see why anyone would disagree.”
British Future released the findings ahead of a “Festival of Englishness” it is holding in London this Saturday, with the Institute for Public Policy Research.
The event has been organised to discuss Englishness in areas such as politics, comedy and sport. Among those involved is Vanessa Whitburn, the former editor of The Archers, who will discuss English culture.
The poll was conducted by ICM among more than 1,700 people from England.
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