ABILITY to speak English is the most important characteristic of being British, says a report published today.
Knowing the language even came above having British citizenship in the study by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen).
It also found that attitudes to immigration have hardened in Britain over the past decade.
In 1995, 65% of people thought the number of immigrants to Britain should be reduced. The figure rose to 74% last year.
NatCen said the shift in views was shaped by growing belief that immigration has negative consequences for British society.
Lauren McLaren, of the University of Nottingham's school of politics and one auth- or of the report, said: "It seems there has been a cultural shift throughout society."