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Thursday, September 24, 1998 Published at 22:47 GMT 23:47 UK


A class act

Many people in Britain believe they belong to the working class, a poll suggests.

The survey, carried out by ICM Research for BBC Radio 4's Today programme, spoke to 1,178 people of different ages at the beginning of September and asked them four questions on social class.

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To the question "Which class do you feel you belong to?", 55% said working class, 41% said middle class and 1% said upper.

Managing Director of ICM Research, Nick Sparrow, said the poll was a reflection of Britain's population statistics, which divide people into social classes according to their professions, qualifications and status.

"According to the statistics, 51% would do the sort of jobs that put them in the working class strata. This corresponds to the results of the poll, in which 55% said they belonged to the working class.

"However, statistics say that 22% of people in Britain, as a result of their professions and status, belong to the upper class. But in the poll, this came out as only 1%."

The general reluctance to be included in Britain's upper classes, he said, was due to people still thinking historically. The aristocracy or wealthy landowner no longer had the same significance as in Britain's olden days.

What is also clear from the survey is that people have substantially different views of their own class to those which market researchers use.

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A quarter of people in managerial jobs still see themselves as working class, while the same number of skilled and unskilled workers regard themselves as middle class.

Mr Sparrow described this as a sign of Britain's growing middle class.

"This does indicate a gravitation towards the middle class. Also, out of the 27% of people who thought their parents were middle class, nearly double thought that they themselves now belonged to the middle class."

On the question of whether the current administration is committed to the interests of all classes equally or to one in particular, 45% said Labour did not favour one class over another but 47% said it did.

Of these, 35% believed the upper classes were favoured over other social groups. Just 27% of people felt Labour was more committed to the working class.

However, the party will take comfort from the fact that half the population believe old class loyalties no longer apply to the party.

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