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Monday, 9 December, 2002, 10:05 GMT
Are the British becoming more tolerant?
Britain has become a nation of increasingly tolerant, money-saving car lovers who phone their mothers at least once a week, according to research published on Wednesday.

The British Social Attitudes survey which was carried out by NatCen, also reveals that the we have become less racist and less homophobic than in the past.

However, there is less tolerance when it comes to congestion charging and the legalisation of hard drugs,

The report - now in its 19th year - surveyed more than 3,000 people for their attitudes towards life in modern Britain.

Do you agree with the survey? Have the British become more tolerant?


This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


The British have never been tolerant, just content behind a mask of complacency

Donald, UK
The British have never been tolerant, just content behind a mask of complacency. The British have a deluded view of themselves which baffles other people in the world. So don't ask a British person about their tolerance, ask a foreigner, possibly a well mannered German fellow. I'm going now because I can feel anger welling up again.
Donald, UK

Despite some of your correspondents mentioning bad driving behaviour, the vast majority of British drivers are still polite and tolerant on the roads. However, we will never combat xenophobia and arrogance towards other nations so long as the tabloid newspaper and its ilk are around.
Kevin, England

When people take part in questionnaires asking questions like this, or whether they would give to charities, they nearly always say yes. They don't want the interviewer to think they are racist or plain mean. If Government and companies want sensitive questions like this answered honestly, the interview should be completed by the respondent themselves, in strictest confidence, in order to get a true record of views. I believe the people of this country are not intolerant, but, if this survey had been answered honestly, they would have said they've got to boiling point over the way the Government is dealing with the numbers of illegal immigrants entering the country.
Veronica Panting, England

If we are a tolerant society, what then is our attitude to those we consider "intolerant"?
Fred Knight, Ireland


This country, particularly England, is in a serious cultural crisis

N. Nikitin, England, UK
This country, particularly England, is in a serious cultural crisis and mere "political correctness" is not sufficient to hold it all together. All the diverse cultural backgrounds have to gain better understanding and respect for each other, as well as for heritage of the land they now live in. Furthermore, deeper understanding does not mean idealization. Within every culture/ethnic nationality, as perhaps within every person, there are traits of unique goodness and at the same time traits of unique folly. Proper understanding of both of these is essential for proper integration.
N. Nikitin, England, UK

I'm not sure - but this may be the beginning of a so-called PC backlash. Many people, left to their own devices, will be broadly tolerant but they are constantly bombarded from all sides being told what to think and what is or is not acceptable. Is it any wonder that most people just throw up their hands in despair and retreat?
Darren Stephens, UK

Tolerant? I don't think so. Just look at most of this morning's papers and the reaction to Sangatte refugees arriving here.
Rob, UK

I do not think that Britain is a tolerant society. We only have to see the right wing press for that. The homeless, the poor, immigrants have all experienced British "tolerance".
Vish, UK

While our common ideal may be for tolerance and understanding, in some parts tempers are becoming frayed. You only have to look at the North-South divide, or the situation in places like Oldham, to see that we have different problems, and it is hard to be tolerant when others make your life that much harder.
Mike, UK


It seems we are becoming more parochial

Nick, Wales
When I drive around the UK I am surprised by the number of English, Welsh and Scottish flags I see. This was not the case a few years ago. It seems we are becoming more parochial, and less tolerant of each other in the UK.
Nick, Wales

The word 'tolerant' is over-used and inappropriate. Diversity is not an inconvenience to be 'tolerated', but rather something to be embraced and celebrated.
Faye, UK

More tolerant? No I think a few people have just given up on this country.
Becky, UK


Many of the well educated prefer to leave Britain

DJ, USA
I have lived and worked professionally in Britain for more than three years. At the surface the British are the most polished, on a quick glance one feels this is a very tolerant country. But I have attended multiple interviews/meetings even professionally, where colour and where you are from are the main concerns. To go further if there is a white person in the panel then irrespective of the experience or education of others, they are always given priority. This is racism at the heart of Britain. Many of the well educated hence prefer to leave the country after a few years.
DJ, USA

British is best. After leaving London to work in the US, I have to say we are very educated, understand the world better than any country, half decent and can tell right from wrong compared to other states.
Julian UK/USA

The people who were asked are obviously completely out of touch. Ask anyone of Asian extraction if they think white Britons are racially tolerant. You may get a different view.
G McAleer, UK

This is Blair's Britain, an anything goes society, in which the only maxim is 'it's every man for himself'. We are not more tolerant only more disinterested.
Paul, England

I think James is quite right. There are those who are seething underneath and those that have temporarily given up against the tide of politically correct thought control. Unfortunately this disenfranchised majority will find their voice through far right parties like the BNP. The British have always been like this, slow to anger, long suffering with a stiff upper lip but always capable of swift, decisive and ruthless action when pushed too far.
John, UK

Try being overweight or have a mental illness, to see how tolerant we are.
William Aitken, Britain

The only things Britons are tolerant of are those that should truly anger them: West End pavement urinals.
Leslie Renfrew, UK

19 years ago the country was in the grip of Thatcherism. If I thought we were still mired in that selfish, Philistine apology for a society, I would emigrate. All this study indicates is that we are returning to normal, civilised standards of behaviour after 20 years of barbarism.
Tom, UK


There's intolerance of anyone with an upper middle class voice

John, UK
Depends on the particular quality you're talking about. There's a good deal of intolerance of anyone with an upper middle class voice or any of the traditional middle class attitudes. Have you noticed that most movie villains are now southern Englishmen with posh voices - the only minority which can safely be vilified in this crazy era of political correctness?
John, UK

More tolerant to what? Unpunctual public transport, violence, apathy, being unemployable over 35 years¿ England is still in the Middle Ages and just as insular and will tolerate any behaviour. If a set of circumstances doesn't affect you, then it doesn't exist.
Paul Waller, Japan


Why bother trying to change anything?

Matt, England
Is it the fact that we're more tolerant or the fact that we're fed up wasting out breath trying to change things? The present government has proven undoubtedly that it doesn't listen to the public, so why bother trying to change anything?
Matt, England

More tolerant of race and sexual differences but almost certainly more stressed at work and on the road.
Gerry, Scotland

The attitude of urban dwellers towards rural communities is certainly one of great intolerance. The way people in the country are stereotyped by certain ignorant people doesn't shout out tolerance to me.
Mark, England


We are an adaptable, reasonable people

Joel, UK
It has to be admitted that apathy is a major problem... apathy because we don't need to care as we are happy in our own individual units. Community life is also waning. We abuse the environment a lot. There is no sacrifice for the sake of future generations. Snobbery is still rife. However, we are an adaptable, reasonable people and things can only get better. I have lived in the East for a while and I missed the sense of humour more than anything else!
Joel, UK

I think it's a good thing the British nation is becoming more tolerant towards racial and religious differences. But the bad thing is that we have become more tolerant in quality of life ie drugs, smoking, swearing, etc.
Kimberley, England

Apathy rules. I think it was Karl Marx who stated that the only way you could incite a revolution amongst the British was by taking their beer away. 100 years later this still rings true!
Gary, UK


3,000 people cannot provide an adequate reflection of the 50-60 million people on this island

Chris, London
It may be that the British are becoming more tolerant, or are more likely to be wary of what they say. But the problem is that once again these conclusions are reached on the back of so small a sample of the public. 3,000 people cannot provide an adequate reflection of the 50-60 million people on this island. Especially if the survey was conducted in London, which has a diversity hardly reflected across the country.
Chris, London

For a person who has studied, lived and worked in England for over 30 years and now living in the US, it is very clear to me the British are more educated, thoughtful, decent and tolerant.
B. Ratnam, USA

We're certainly not tolerant of other road users. The standard of driving keeps getting worse. I suspect part of the problem is down to the current "nanny state" government.
Dougie Lawson, Basingstoke, UK


I am proud to live in such a country

Lo, UK
British people accept differences now because we have become aware that we are all different from being exposed to such rich diversity. I am proud to live in such a country.
Lo, UK

I think you are suffering the same fate as Canada, Australia and other countries where we are too afraid of offending anyone, too tolerant of misbehaviour and too afraid to speak up ourselves.
Charlie, Canada

Genuinely tolerant people make up only a small proportion of our society. The majority are intolerant and have always been unashamedly so. The chattering classes and politically correct may kid themselves that they are tolerant but we all know the real truth don't we?
R.C. Robjohn, UK


The British are far less tolerant when it comes to certain politicians' behaviour

David Howe, UK
I think generally the British are becoming far more tolerant of racial, religious and social diversity. We have however also become far more educated than politicians think we are. The result is that the British are far less tolerant when it comes to certain politicians' behaviour and those that spout rubbish and expect us to be so gullible as to believe them.
David Howe, UK

It's not tolerance it's apathy! There are other countries in the world that would never put up with the nonsense we are dished up.
Jim W, England

I believe that, in many ways, we have become too tolerant. We tolerate obscene language, spitting, drunken yobs and snarling malevolent youth. British society is terminally ill.
Brian Langfield, Yorkshire, UK

It can only be a good thing that we are more tolerant of minority groups who were previously hounded for nothing more serious than having differently coloured skin. What is less acceptable is the way we have also become more tolerant, although in a more resigned manner, to the ever-declining quality of life in exchange for ever-higher taxes and to the apparently inexorable rise in crime.
John B, UK

I don't believe we've become more tolerant - rather, I think we are more careful about who we reveal our true feelings to. People are terrified of being identified as racist or homophobic, fearful of possible reprisal. I wonder whether the number of 20-somethings who speak French or German has increased? I doubt it. We are as insular as ever, sadly.
James, England

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