Does class matter more in Britain than elsewhere?

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
March 05, 2010, 1:29 AM GMT+0

People are still defining themselves in terms of class, even as upwards social mobility continues to increase. Despite media speculation in recent years of a widespread popularisation and cross-class sharing of culture, many still believe that class is a largely British idea; the definition of how the social strata into which you are born makes a significant difference to the outcome of your life.

In a poll conducted for the Daily Telegraph, nearly half (47%) of those polled think class matters more in Britain than in other western European countries, although less so now than fifty years ago – a massive 82% thought class was a major factor in people’s lives when asked about how they saw society half a century ago. When considering nowadays, though, this figure has been slashed by nearly half, with only 42% declaring that class is less important than someone’s individual abilities when it comes to deciding whether a child born recently will do well in adulthood.

Social mobility

This comes among confirmation of the growing levels of people considering themselves to be middle class. While 30% still think of themselves as working class – the social group to which most people have historically claimed to belong – a huge 66% of the population defined themselves as middle class in one way or another.

And despite recent reports that social mobility has slowed in the past decade, 52% considered their parents to be working class, suggesting that many felt they had risen above their predecessors’ generation. And as only 37% of young people saw their parents as working class compared to 61% of the oldest respondents, it would appear that social mobility, or crucially, people’s perception of it, appears to have continued in earnest for several decades.

54% continue to believe that class matters, hinting at a more negative view of society among a significant portion of the public. If nothing else, class continues to divide people in more ways than one.

Related article – How do we define class?

For full survey details and results, please click here