Are British people really so self-effacing?

May 19, 2015, 11:06 AM GMT+0

British people are less self-assured across six key personality traits than Americans, Australians and Chinese people – but other populations are even more modest

The British are famous for being understated and self-effacing. A new international survey from YouGov shows that - although they are more modest than the Americans - other populations are far less pleased with themselves.

YouGov has polled eight countries in Europe, North America and Asia to discover confidence in six personality traits key to self-image.

The American caricature of a self-assured extrovert turns out to be apt – they are the most confident in their self-image across the board, being the most likely to say they are 'very' friendly, disciplined, intelligent, confident, funny and attractive.

British people average around the middle of the table, slightly ahead of Germans and quite a way ahead of the other Asia-Pacific countries. They are the least likely to say they are 'very' attractive, and second to last on being 'very' confident.

There are four significant differences between British 18-24 year-olds and over-60s. The largest are on discipline (over-60s are 20% more likely to say they are 'very' disciplined) and friendliness (62% of the elder generation compared to 46% of 18-24s). But young people are also more likely to say they are awkward and less likely to say they are confident. 

The greatest difference across the five countries is on intelligence – a 37% gap between the proportion of Americans (47%) and Hong Kong citizens (10%) who say they are 'very' intelligent. YouGov has previously found that most Americans (55%) think they are more intelligent than the average American, as do 47% of British people.

The surveys were carried out by YouGov UK, YouGov GermanyYouGov America and YouGov Asia PacificAsia-Pac surveys representative of online populations. See the full GB and US results.