The following guidance sets out how to collect and report statistics about national identity to ensure statistics about this topic are as comparable as possible across the Government Statistical Service (GSS).
This section provides guidance on the survey questions to use when collecting information about national identity.
The national identity question should be asked as a separate question in addition to the ethnic group question. Research has shown that classifying ethnic group is best achieved separately from national identity. It is recommended that the national identity question is asked immediately before the ethnic group question in surveys. The previous national identity question is provided in Annex A (Box A.1).
It is recommended that a show card is used in interviewer-led surveys. Where this is not possible (e.g. telephone interviews), the response categories should be read out by the interviewer in the same order as they appear on the show card.
The show card should include the instruction ‘Please choose all that apply’ in addition to being read out by the interviewer. The instruction ‘please describe’ should also be included on the show card following the ‘other’ response option (see sample show card in the Annex). This should be in non-bold font. These instructions should also be included on paper-based surveys.
The order of response categories should be changed depending on where the question is being asked. The recommended orders of categories are given in Box 1.
Box 1. National identity question (a)
Where cross-country comparability is a priority above comparability with respective census questions, categories for a single UK question have been recommended in Box 2. It is still recommended however that the category orders follow those presented in Box 1. Although there is a slight variation in response categories for Northern Ireland, an Irish category should be located between the ‘British’ and ‘Other’ categories. To comply with the Good Friday Agreement, the National Identity question should be asked in a way that no-one from Northern Ireland should be forced to choose between being British, Irish and Northern Irish.
Box 2. National identity question (b): Single UK presentation
Presentation of outputs
This section provides guidance for outputting the survey questions to use when collecting information about national identity.
GB, UK and Northern Ireland
The following data presentations should be used for the national identity question.
When presenting data separately for England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, presentation should follow order of response categories as per Box 1.
Note: XXX indicates where data will be in the presentation table.
Use this data presentation for national identity in GB and the UK (using questions in Box 1):
Box 3 Presentation for national identity data in GB and UK
Use this data presentation for national identity in Northern Ireland (or the UK if using the single UK question):
Box 4 Presentation for national identity data in Northern Ireland (or the UK using the single UK question
With the new devolved administrations, there has been an increasing interest in ‘national’ consciousness with many people wanting their ‘national’ identity to be acknowledged. As a result a ‘national identity’ question has been developed to take this into consideration. The question should be used in addition to the ethnic group question whenever there is a need to collect data about national identities; for instance, when respondents classify themselves as English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish, British, or another national identity.
National identity should be asked as a separate question in addition to ethnic group. This is because our research has led to the conclusion that classifying ethnic group is best achieved separately from national identity. There is an order effect that is best managed by asking national identity before ethnic group, as this allows respondents to describe themselves as English, Welsh, Scottish, etc. Research suggests that people were happier when asked about their national identity first.
The questions on Ethnic Group can be accessed at:
Box A.1 Previous harmonised national identity question
National Identity and Religion (PDF, 0.09MB)
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