Shakespeare tops list of symbols giving Britons pride

William Shakespeare Shakespeare beat the pound, the monarchy and the BBC, according to the poll

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Playwright William Shakespeare tops a list of symbols which give Britons a sense of pride, a poll has suggested.

He beat the pound, the monarchy and the BBC, according to the poll commissioned by think tank Demos.

Parliament and the legal system came bottom.

Some 75% agreed with the sentence "I am proud of William Shakespeare as a symbol of Britain", but only 47% agreed with the sentence "I am proud of Parliament as a symbol of Britain".

The poll's participants were asked if they were proud of a range of things as symbols of Britain.

The results were: Shakespeare 75%; National Trust 72%; armed forces 72%; Union Jack 71%; the pound 70%; NHS 69%; the monarchy 68%; BBC 63%; sporting achievements 58%; the Beatles 51%; the legal system 51%; Parliament 47%.

Volunteering optimism

Demos said it believed volunteering was the biggest single factor determining how patriotic people were.

About 40% of those who had volunteered in the last 12 months "strongly agreed" with the statement "I am proud to be a British citizen", compared to 25% of those who had not volunteered.

A Demos spokeswoman told the BBC: "People who volunteer were far more likely to say they were patriotic.

"Patriotism isn't a top-down thing when politicians say we should be proud of our flag... that's not how you make the public more patriotic."

The organisation recommended 16 hours of volunteering as part of the UK citizenship test.

People who volunteer also appear more optimistic about the state of the country than those who do not, the poll suggested, with 27% of those who had volunteered in the past year disagreeing with the statement "Britain's best days are behind her", compared with 19% of those who do not.

The Demos poll was carried out by YouGov and polled 2,086 British citizens online and in focus groups between 4 and 9 May.

It accompanies the think tank's A Place For Pride report on pride and patriotism, which is launched on Monday.

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