Friday, April 30, 2004

The marching morons

(with apologies to C M Kornbluth)

After the sterling contribution by Anthony “Ant” Costa, a member of the boy band Blue, to the fund of human knowledge (see “Great Debate” item), stand by for another story. One is tempted to say, “you couldn’t make it up”, although somebody just did. The Scotsman has retailed a story about a OneTel survey, which found that half the people quizzed (40 percent) were “completely clueless” as to which ten countries are to join the EU on Saturday.

Worse still, however, the online poll asked people to select the countries they believed are set to join the EU on May 1 from a shortlist. But the list of countries contained a red herring, Luvania, which not only did 8% of people think was a country, but also that it is to become an EU member.

So delightful is the story, I have reproduced the rest, unedited (apologies this time to the Scotsman). But the piece also makes a serious point. Says the report author, “People aren’t generally aware. They’re more involved in their day-to-day lives rather than the bigger picture of what is going on in the EU.” The story continues…

Surprisingly more over-50s plumped for the mythical Luvania (11%) than any other age group casting to wind the theory that political apathy and ignorance are strongest among the young. In fact, the section of the population with the best knowledge of which countries are joining the EU was 18 to 29-year-old men living in London – just 4% picked the red herring.

London was found to be the area in the country most clued up on the EU with just 5% who claimed Luvania was joining. Worst, according to the survey, was Scotland where 19% of people decided none of the countries on the list were joining and 9% opted for Luvania as a new member.

Women fared particularly badly with nearly a quarter (23%) deciding that none of the listed countries are to become EU members compared to 60% of men who guessed all the countries correctly. And women aged over 50 and living in the South were found to be the least knowledgeable group of all about the matter with 11% choosing Luvania.

The survey of 2,500 people also found that 15% of respondents thought Austria will be joining on May 1 – despite the country being a member for nearly 10 years, since 1995.

Carol Barnes, spokeswoman for One.Tel who carried out the research to see if demand for international calls would rise after the new countries join, said people’s apparent lack of knowledge about Europe was shocking. She said: “Everyone knew new countries are coming on board but no one is too sure which ones and some people picked one that doesn’t even exist so that was quite surprising.

“We don’t believe the actual countries that are joining have been particularly well presented and the UK public has not been particularly well educated on it. “People aren’t generally aware. They’re more involved in their day-to-day lives rather than the bigger picture of what is going on in the EU.”

To see the comment-free article, click here.

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