A political realignment is taking place across British society, with Brexit fuelling an anti-politics surge and political distrust.
The emerging tensions are fuelling a growing ‘culture war’ between those who celebrate diversity and those who perceive it as a challenge to their position in the world, according to polling unveiled today in a major new report from HOPE not hate Charitable Trust.
One of the most comprehensive reports of its kind looking into the changing nature of British identity and attitudes to race, faith and belonging – Fear & HOPE 2019 – shows how Brexit has changed Britain.
This report was funded and published by the HOPE not hate Charitable Trust.
Welcome to Fear and HOPE 2019 the latest in our on-going analysis of British society and the attitudes of its citizens.
We commissioned this report because we were keen to explore how Brexit, and the fact that we were still in the EU after the date that we were meant to have left, had affected us. We wanted to know how the Brexit debate had changed our political and cultural allegiances, whether it was a simple case of Remain and Leave or – as we suspected – there were sub-groups within each of these.
Our first report was in 2011, and British society was still deeply traumatised by the economic crash and the beginning of austerity. Our follow- up February 2016 report reflected a country more at ease with itself – despite austerity, many people were feeling more economically secure and this reflected more relaxed attitudes towards immigration and multiculturalism.
Our third report, in July 2016, was conducted just after Britain voted to leave the European Union and reflected a complete change in attitudes. Those who had been most angry in our February 2016 report, and who voted most heavily to leave the EU, were now the most content. Those had had been content, and who voted most heavily to remain, were now the most angry and resentful. Brexit had polarised Britain.
Fear and HOPE 2017 found this polarisation had continued and, if anything, had deepened. An increasing number of people were more tolerant and open to immigration and multiculturalism, but a quarter of society remained firmly opposed – and their views were hardening.
The findings in this new report today are clear: Brexit has changed Britain. Old allegiances and affiliations have been ripped up. The anger from social liberals that was so palpable in the immediate aftermath of the 2016 EU Referendum has been replaced by frustration and anger from Brexiteers at our failure to leave.
Because of these changes we decided that our previous Fear and HOPE identity tribe segmentation, breaking down society into six groupings (ranging from more liberal to more
hostile views), was no longer sufficient. Just as Brexit had driven a coach and horses through our traditional political allegiances, so it had also altered our cultural and identity identities.
This new report now identifies seven distinct groups in society, as opposed to the six in our previous studies. Two of these new groups are positive toward immigration and multiculturalism, and both are strongly Remain. Then there are two who are deeply hostile to immigration and multiculturalism, though one is more driven by Brexit than the other.
The group that is not as driven by Brexit is in turn more hostile to immigration and Muslims, and also much more pessimistic about life and the future, as well as more relaxed about violence. This is the group where the supporters of Stephen Yaxley-Lennon are most likely to be found.
We believe that our new seven tribe segmentation will make this report more useful for understanding British society today.
In another departure from our earlier reports, this edition of Fear and HOPE draws on a much wider data set than we have used previously. While most of our report is based on a poll of 6,000 people we conducted in late April 2019, we have also drawn on over 15 other polls HOPE not hate has commissioned over the past months.
In addition, we have also drawn on other data analytics to help us interpret society, including the use of Multi-Level Regression with Poststratification (MRP) – a statistical technique for estimating public opinion in small geographic areas or sub-groups using national opinion surveys.
The culmination of this polling and advanced data analysis is perhaps the most comprehensive study of opinion in Britain today.
As with previous reports, this study will help guide our work over the next couple of years. It will help us target the communities most at threat from extremism, deliver the most appropriate message and highlight areas where further research is required. We are also keen to make this data available to our partners and friends so they too can use it to improve their own work.
In an increasingly complex world, understanding the society around us will massively help our ability to engage in it.
Brexit exposed many pre-existing social divisions, but it also added a new dimension to our identities that determined which information we chose to believe and how we saw others around us.
Since 2011, our Fear and HOPE reports have studied public attitudes to a range of social issues, dividing the country into six ‘tribes’ based on the overlay between economic security and cultural anxieties. Our 2019 Fear and HOPE report introduces our seven new tribes to better understand how Brexit has changed Britain, to reflect the strength of our Brexit identities and a changing relationship with traditional politics.
There are significant divisions in our core identities and how we see ourselves and interpret the world around us, with a growing ‘culture war’ between those who feel celebrate diversity and those who perceive growing diversity as a challenge to their own position in the world.
As the deadlock in Parliament over Brexit goes on, and infighting swamping the major parties, political mistrust has swelled.
Where we sit on Brexit has become an important part of how many identify, and the strength of our Brexit identities is shaping how we feel about a range of social issues and questions of values. But there remain a large proportion of the population who feel more ambivalent about the issue.
The importance placed on tackling climate change by the public has rapidly jumped, following high profile campaigns, and the vas majority of people say that they are willing to make sacrifices in their own lifestyles to stop global warming.
Support for immigration continues to grow incrementally, with the share of those who think that immigration has been more good than bad for the country up to 63% from 60% in July 2018, and 40% in February 2011.
People feel more and more positive about multiculturalism, but it remains a divisive issue, with many cynical about the state of integration in the UK linked to anxieties and prejudice about Islam and Muslims in Britain.
People continue to see Muslims distinctly differently – and overwhelmingly more negatively – than any other religious group.
The British public now consider the far right the greatest threat to public order, above Islamist extremism. Although far right narratives have become increasingly mainstream, violence on the far is a red line for most people, limiting their appeal.
The new tribes reflect both how Brexit has changed us as a nation, and the growing polarisation we have recorded in our previous Fear and HOPE reports.
As with our previous segmentation studies, we have identified two groups with strong socially liberal views. Both of these groups identify strongly as remain voters, and see immigration and multiculturalism as overwhelmingly positive, though to different levels of enthusiasm.
And just as with our previous reports, we have identified two groups who are strongly opposed to immigration and multiculturalism, showing active hostility towards Muslims and Islam in Britain. However, there are clear attitudinal differences between these groups.
One group strongly identifies as Leave voters, motivated by Brexit, identifying strongly with Nigel Farage and the Brexit Party. This group are optimistic about Brexit, and feel it will bring economic gains to them and their families, as well as the country as a whole.
The other tribe feel completely detached from the political system, and while some voted for Brexit, they do not feel that it will change anything for their own situation. This group are overwhelmingly pessimistic, are dissatisfied with their own lives, and are most likely to think violence is acceptable.
In the middle sit three tribes, all who feel less motivated by Brexit, but see identity issues differently, though none to any extreme. Established Optimists are most likely to identify with the Conservative party, and see immigration positively. They differ from all the other tribes in their optimism for the future, and satisfaction in their own lives.
The other two middle-ground tribes feel there are more important issues than Brexit, though one sees immigration very positively. The other has some anxieties about immigration andÂ multiculturalism, though not to the same extent as the two hostile tribes, and feels disconnected from the political system.
The two liberal, Remain supporting tribes make up 28.7% of the population, although the share of the population who belong to immigration-positive and multiculturalist groups make up 45%. The share of the population who fit within the two hostile tribes make up 32.3% of the population. This reflect our polarised debate around cultural and identity issues.
A significant difference between the new tribes and our previous Fear and HOPE tribes is that these groups do not divide as clearly on the overlay between economic security and cultural anxieties, but also on political trust and their expectations from Brexit.
Attitudinal segmentation studies divide the population into a series of groups according to their attitudes and motivations, in order to better understand how the population is divided over key values, and how cultural and economic issues intersect differently among different groups of people. Once relevant attitudinal clusters are identified, they are further analysed for any other shared or similar traits such as demographic or behavioural attributes.
It helps us to understand voting intentions, messaging and campaigns that will reach certain audiences, and the limits of how these will appeal. Attitudinal segmentation draws red lines along questions of key values, from which we separate out each of our new tribes.
The most socially liberal and politically active of the tribes, this tribe hold the strongest remain identity and are most concerned about Britain’s departure from the EU. They see immigration and multiculturalism as overwhelmingly positive, and have likely hardened their liberal views in response to the increase in racism since the referendum, which they are outraged by. They predict dire consequences for the country, and are the most pessimistic about the future as a result, but they maintain trust in the establishment- 40% feel represented by at last one political party.
This group are most likely to have voted Remain, and to have voted Labour or Lib Dem. The majority of Labour’s 2017 vote came from this tribe, who are the most likely to be members of a political party of all the groups. They are most likely to live in London and the South East, and most possess a university degree. They have a smaller share of BAME members than the Liberal Remainer tribe, are generally middle class, and are most likely to read the Guardian.
This group share the liberal values of the Active Multiculturalist tribe, albeit to a slightly lesser degree. They are driven by Brexit, and are most likely to identify strongly as Remain voters. They have a higher proportion of BAME and EU citizens than any other tribe, and are three times more likely than the average person to identify as European. They identify most strongly with Jeremy Corbyn and are most likely to have voted Labour, Lib Dem or Green in 2017, and to have voted to Remain in the European Union. This tribe contains the highest proportion of young people and are
The majority of this tribe have a degree, are high earners, and are more likely to live in London or Scotland. They are most likely to be non-religious, and unlike their liberal counterparts the active multiculturalists, are indifferent about different religious groups, although a small minority within this tribe hold anxieties about Muslims and Islam in Britain.
This tribe share the closest affinity to the Conservative party, and are the only tribe who are more optimistic than pessimistic about the future. This tribe contains an equal proportion of Leave and Remain voters, and overwhelmingly see a positive effect from immigration and multiculturalism, though are not as active as the two liberal tribes in their articulation of this.
This is a pragmatic, comfortable, middle-Englander group that favours centrist politics. They are most likely to have voted Conservative in 2015 and 2017, and have an unfavourable view of Jeremy Corbyn and Nigel Farage.
Comfortable ambivalent: Cluster 6 16.2% This group are more likely to see immigration and multiculturalism positively than the average person, and are on the whole ambivalent about cultural issues, but have some concerns about Islam and Muslims in Britain. Of all the tribes, they are the most ambivalent about Brexit, and see health as a more important issue.
This group contains a high proportion of BAME people, tend to be of working age, and are likely to have a degree, although are not as likely to be high earners.
This group are not motivated by Brexit, and have negative views towards immigration, Islam and Muslims, though to a much lesser extent than the hostile Brexiter or Anti-establishment pessimist tribes. They feel very detached from the political process and are pessimistic about the future.
They are most likely not to vote, but those who do are just as likely to vote leave as remain, or for any of the main political parties. They have generally left the education system at a young age, and are most likely to be white and working class.
This group are motivated by Brexit, are opposed to immigration and multiculturalism and are more likely to see themselves as English than British. Almost a third of Labour’s lost 2015 vote come from this group, with many feeling disconnected from and resentful of it’s growing liberal base. The largest share of UKIP and the Conservatives’ 2017 vote came from this tribe, although they now feel little affinity to the Tories, feeling let down by Brexit. They identify most with Nigel Farage and are now most likely to vote for the Brexit party.
They are most likely to read The Sun, The Daily Mail, or the Express, are almost homogenously white. They are on the whole older than the other tribes. Most do not have a degree, and are more likely to live in towns than cities. The highest proportion of people in the West Midlands fit into this tribe.
They are optimistic about the effects of Brexit for themselves and the country as a whole, which they feel will bring about greater opportunities and economic gains. They are very concerned about Islam
and Muslims in Britain, and 67% of this group believe that there are no go zones in Britain where Sharia law dominates and non-Muslims cannot enter. However, they are less concerned about immigration as a whole than the anti-establishment pessimist tribe, and many from this group see positive economic effects of immigration despite their cultural anxieties.
This group are very strongly anti-immigration and multiculturalism, but are much less motivated by Brexit. They are overwhelmingly pessimistic, are most unhappy about their lives so far, and are most likely to think things have gotten worse over the last ten years. They are also most detached from the political system, and only 13% feel that at least one of the main political parties represent what they think. They do not share the Brexit optimism of the hostile brexiters group, and tend to think things will stay the same, or get worse, after Britain leaves the EU. The vast majority of this tribe think that immigration has been a bad thing for the country. They are least concerned about the economy of all the tribes, indicating their disconnect from ‘the establishment’ and institutions.
This tribe is working class, almost homogeneously white British, are least likely to have a degree, with the majority holding a GCSE level education or equivalent, and many holding no formal qualifications. The highest share of unemployed people is in this tribe, and they are most likely to live in poor households. The majority of Tommy Robinson’s support comes from this tribe.
When we published our first Fear and HOPE report in 2011, we found that a traditional left-right, class based political axis was failing to explain peoples’ values, attitudes and voting behaviour. We found that attitudes in relation to culture, identity and nation were formed on the basis of a complex interplay of class, personal experience, life circumstance, and media consumption.
We worked with the polling experts Populus to develop a richer framework to better understand these issues. We split the population into six ‘identity tribes’; The two groups most open to immigration and supportive of multiculturalism are the Confident multiculturalists (22% of the population) and Mainstream Liberals (16%), while the two most hostile were Active Enmity (7%) and Latent Hostiles (13%). The two groups in the middle are the Culturally Concerned (16%), slightly older, more affluent voters who have cultural concerns around immigration and integration, and Immigrant ambivalence (26%), who are less concerned about cultural issues but worried about further immigration because of their economic anxieties.
These tribes were not static entities, and over time, we saw a shift in attitudes, with the share of the English population belonging to the two liberal ‘tribes’ growing from 24% to 39% in 2017. Over this period, we conducted four sets of Fear and HOPE polling and saw the middle ground shrink, while the proportion of the population identified in the two hostile ‘tribes’ remained constant. We saw growing polarisation and in particular, a hardening of attitudes towards Muslims in Britain.
Major events and political changes all contributed to a shift in how people saw identity issues. In 2011, while people were still feeling the effects of the 2008 recession, immigration was being increasingly politicised as a politics of culture, identity and nation. The decline of the BNP saw the growth of the EDL and UKIP attempt to capture this appetite. By 2016, people were feeling more positive about a range of identity issues. At the same time, UKIP had surged to prominence, while the rise of ISIS and terror incidents in Woolwich, Paris and elsewhere have kept Islamic extremism in the headlines. In our 2017 report, we found the series of Islamist terror attacks in the UK had a profound impact on attitudes to race and faith.
However, the 2016 referendum is the event that had the most profound impact on identity politics and social divisions. The EU referendum exposed many pre-existing divisions in the UK, which held immigration as a key dividing issue. Leave appealed most to those sceptical about immigration, pessimistic about cultural change and assertive about English nationalism. Remain appealed most to those with a cosmopolitan worldview, pro-migration attitudes and optimism about the future.
Of course, those who voted Leave and Remain were in no way homogenous groups. But the 2016 referendum was unique in offering two clear cut camps where two very different visions of Englands clashed. By 2019, almost three years on from the referendum, people continue to associate more strongly with Remain or Leave than any other political or value-based position. We have also seen people’s values change as a result of which side of the referendum they most identify with.
Fear and Hope 2019 attempts to better understand the state of the nation in light of these changes, creating a new framework of ‘identity tribes’ to reflect how Brexit has changed Britain.
Understanding identity issues means we have to understand how people feel about Brexit. People have identified less and less with political parties since the 1970s, yet when asked if people think of themselves more as a Remain voter or a Leave voter, the vast majority of people see themselves strongly pinned to one side or the other. Being a leaver or a remainer has become part of our identity politics, one to which people feel an emotional bond, a frame through which we process information and make political choices.
When asked whether people consider themselves more of a Remain voter, or more of a Leave voter, the majority of people (60%) now see themselves at either extreme. While we have seen sizeable shifts over time in what people want from Brexit, there has been little shift in how people identify, with Remain voters in particular hardening their stance.
The strength of our Brexit identities is not imitated in regards to any other political allegiance. A huge 73% of our new poll said that none of the main political parties reflect what they think, a figure that has risen dramatically, from 61% in December 2018, to 68% in July 2018. It is now only a small minority of people, 27%, who are confident that at least one of the main political parties reflect what they think. There is very little warmth towards any of the major political parties in the UK, and less than 10% of people said that they closely identified with any leading figure of any of the main political parties.
The strength of opinion shown during and since the referendum over Britain’s membership of the EU was also about much more than how we feel about being European. Our relationship with Europe has always been complicated. Even before the referendum, fewer people in the UK felt any sense of European identity than in any other country in the European Union. The 2014 British Social Attitudes Survey found that just 15% of people in Britain identified as ‘European’, a figure that had changed little since 1996, when the question was first asked. Similarly, our Fear and HOPE studies have found that a sense of ‘European’ belonging has remained a minority view, with no significant change in the proportion of those identifying as European between 2011 and 2019- which now stands at just 7%.
Brexit has created a new identity politics, which has not just exposed pre-existing divisions, but offers a new, emotionally charged political structure through which we filter information and perceive the world around us.
Our Fear and HOPE reports have traced whether people feel optimistic or pessimistic about the future since 2011. We found this to be a key driver behind attitudes. People who were more optimistic about their own lives tended to hold more liberal views than those who felt pessimistic. People who were more optimistic tended to feel more in control of their own lives and were less likely to hold negative views toward immigration and multiculturalism.
Using the sophisticated data analytics technique MRP (multilevel regression with post-stratification) to map attitudes, we found that the most optimistic places in the country were areas within core cities and prosperous university towns. Eighteen of the most optimistic constituencies in February 2016 were London boroughs, with Bath and Edinburgh North and Leith also among the most hopeful for the future.
Conversely, we found pessimism in places where unemployment was more prevalent, where there were fewer opportunities and the standard of living was declining. Among the least optimistic in our 2016 pre-referendum poll were Grimsby, Rotherham, Hartlepool, Blaenau Gwent and Boston & Skegness. In all these areas less than 40% of people felt optimistic for the future- just 36% in Clacton, the least optimistic constituency in the UK.
The most pessimistic constituencies were also among those with the strongest Leave vote in the 2016 EU referendum, while the areas with the highest levels of optimism were among the strongest Remain voting constituencies.
However, the EU referendum completely reversed these patterns of optimism and pessimism. Two years on, our July 2018 YouGov poll found that seventy-one percent (71%) of Remain voters said they felt pessimistic for the future, more than twice the proportion of Leave voters (35%). Eighteen percent (18%) of Remain voters felt that the next generation would have more opportunities than us, compared to 53% of Leave voters. Forty-six percent (46%) of Leave voters felt that Brexit would increase the economic opportunities for people like themselves, compared to just seven percent (7%) of Remain voters.
Our MRP constituency data found that areas with the greatest fall in optimism for the future between February 2016 and July 2018 were among the areas with the greatest Remain vote in the referendum. Hornsey and Wood Green became 23% more pessimistic over two years, Bristol West 22.3% more pessimistic, and Islington North 21.8% more pessimistic than in the months before the referendum.
Conversely, Leave voting areas saw a surge in optimism. Boston and Skegness, the constituency with the strongest Leave vote in the referendum was 15% more optimistic in our July 2018 poll, with other Brexit strongholds such as Clacton (14.6%), Castle Point (12.4%) and Louth and Horncastle (12.4%) all more optimistic for the future than in February 2016.
This crossing line in optimism and pessimism between Leave and Remain matters, because many of the places experiencing newfound optimism are among those most likely to feel the impacts of predicted economic downturn after the UK leaves the EU.
For example, in Dudley North. Economic projections suggest that the West Midlands economy could shrink by up to 13% after Britain leaves the EU, which would have a direct negative impact on people living in Dudley, where there are already pockets of acute deprivation. However, just 3.6% of Leave voters in Dudley North feel their economic situation would improve if the UK remained in the EU. An area where under 40% of people felt optimistic for the future in February 2016, by July 2018 optimism in the constituency has surged by 8%.
Our latest Fear and HOPE poll shows that we are overwhelmingly a country of pessimists. On the whole, the majority of Britain is pessimistic about the future (55%), with a minority saying they are optimistic (45%). However, the optimism gap between Leave and Remain voters is closing, with remain voters more pessimistic (60%) than Leave voters (51%). Delays to the UK’s departure from the EU have dampened some of the optimism Leave voters felt in July 2018, when only 35% of Leave voters felt pessimistic. Remain voters too, are recovering from their initial shock, 11% more optimistic than they were ten months prior.
However, we remain divided on our expectations from Brexit. 82% of remain voters think that the British economy as a whole would be better if the UK remained in the EU, while 74% think their own economic prospects would be better and 82% think there would be better opportunities for children growing up today.
By contrast, 66% of Leave voters think that the British economy as a whole would be better if the UK leaves the EU, while 46% think their own economic prospects would be better and 37% think it wouldn’t make much difference either way. 56% think there would be better opportunities for children growing up today if the UK goes ahead with Brexit.
Our Brexit identities continue to shape how we feel about the future, and how we filter information, with Remain voters more likely to believe information about projected economic downturn and job losses, and Leave voters unlikely to think this is true.
Our December 2018 poll conducted by Populus found that 65% of people think that Britain is now more divided as a result of the referendum. Only 12% of the total population disagreed that Brexit has made us more divided. The proportion of people who are concerned that Brexit is feeding prejudice and division and taking our country backwards rose over a 6 month period, from 57% in July 2018 to 62% in December 2018. Only a quarter of people disagreed (26%).
Indeed, we have seen a rise in recorded hate crime since the 2016 vote, and in our own work in communities across the country, we have witnessed discrimination enabled not just against EU migrants but also British Muslims. Many saw the anti-migrant Leave campaign, which also played on anti-Muslim messaging around refugee flows through Europe and Turkey’s membership of the EU, as an enabler of prejudice and racism. However, it is important to separate these sentiments and actions from all Leave voters.
Nonetheless, the strength of our Brexit identities has also enabled animosity towards voters on the other side of the referendum debate. Slurs about ‘Remoaners’, a term used by right-wing media and Eurosceptic agitators to describe those who are outraged and frustrated at the outcome of the EU referendum, has engrained a binary and a discourse of division between those who voted to leave the EU and remainers, depicted as middle class, out of touch, and self-interested.
In focus groups on Brexit that we ran through the summer of 2018, we found that some Leave voters felt belittled by remain voters, and felt that warnings from the remain side about economic decline was a ‘sore loser’ response just to protect their own interests. Many described Remain voters as elite, self-righteous, cosmopolitan city residents who were only concerned about potential economic decline because it might affect themselves:
“The only reason all these affluent people are up in arms now is because it’s the first time their boat’s been rocked a bit and they’re scared”
“It was when Obama started telling us to remain in the EU. I don’t like anyone telling me what to do. And what’s it got to do with him?” Peterborough: Leave voters
“Now all these things come up on the news, trade and that…but they’re making it more complicated because they don’t want to leave, ‘cos these big shots in London are gonna lose the most, not the working class.“ Blackpool: Labour Leave voter
Anger towards remain supporting politicians, and animosity towards ‘remoaners’ is just one side of the coin. We have also noted increasing intolerance from progressives with strong Remain identities, aimed towards Leave voters.
In our Brexit focus groups, most people were measured and respectful of those who felt differently about Brexit to themselves, but we frequently heard Remain voters dismiss those who had voted to leave the EU as racist, inward-looking and uninformed.
There were also occasional sneering comments from Remain voters that maybe those who voted Leave were ‘getting what they deserved’, that they were ‘turkeys voting for Christmas’, in response to suggestions Leave voting communities may be made poorer by any economic decline as a result of Brexit.
In our 2016 Fear and Hope study, conducted immediately after the referendum, we found the two most liberal tribes were overwhelmingly furious with the tone of the Referendum campaign and the result. These factors had reinforced and hardened their own support for immigration and multiculturalism, reflected in even stronger views on these issues in our poll. Horrified at the result and the increase in racist incidents, the liberal 48% appeared to have become the angry outsiders.
Immediately after the referendum, we saw the views of the immigration-sceptic tribes soften on many social issues, arguably less angry than they were a few months, and less angry than they would have been if the UK had voted to remain in the UK. At the same time, we saw the attitudes of the two liberal tribes reinforce and harden their support for immigration and multiculturalism, overwhelmingly furious with the tone of the Referendum campaign and the result.
It was clear that Brexit had shifted our perceptions of society, as we aligned closer to our values. Between February 2016 and July 2017, 20% fewer of those in the two liberal tribes, most likely to have voted to Remain in the EU, claimed not to know anyone Muslim well, despite there being very little demographic change over this time. There were less significant shifts among the other social groups- just 6% fewer among the Active enmity tribe claimed not to know anyone Muslim well over the same time period.
Brexit exposed many pre-existing social divisions, but it also added a new dimension to our identities that determines which information we choose to believe and how we see others around us. Our 2019 Fear and HOPE report introduces our seven new tribes to better understand how Brexit has changed Britain.
Our Fear and Hope report paints a bleak picture of attitudes in Britain, a nation more pessimistic than optimistic about the future, with a lack of consensus on brexit and declining trust, greater fragmentation and growing antagonism between us, and widespread hostility towards Muslims.
But behind these headlines, our research actually shows a continued liberal shift in social attitudes. Here are some reasons to have hope:
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