Choices for Britain: Youth survey shows urge for closer ties with Europe: Experimental poll gives pupils opportunity to reveal image of nation they want to grow up in

BRITISH schoolchildren want the country to take a more active role in Europe even at the expense of national independence, according to an experimental in-depth opinion survey. Many also felt Britain should cut back on international involvements and concentrate more on problems at home.

Choices for Britain was the first poll of its kind in the United Kingdom. More than 2,000 pupils between 14 and 19 at schools in Avon took part in the pilot project. They were asked what they wanted Britain to be like in a decade. The aim was to give students an opportunity to discuss and learn about policy issues, before sampling opinion.

Business sponsors and political think-tanks are interested in the scheme as a way of involving people in decision making. Public Voice International, the Bristol-based research organisation which co-ordinated the experiment, hopes to launch a similar national poll. It also hopes that this kind of debliberative polling will become a regular feature of the national curriculum.

Full results of the pilot survey are published this week. About half the state schools and colleges in Avon participated. All the students were given tabloid-style information packs which asked them: 'What kind of future do you want to live in?'.

There were four options, ranging from an isolationist Britain, wholly focused on internal issues; to a global Britain, which plays a more altruistic role in the world. The four futures were derived with the help of educationalists and were specifically designed not to coincide with party-political visions for the country.

The children were also asked to develop their own future for Britain. Some drew posters; others wrote poems. In one school, some pupils made a video describing their vision. Over several weeks, pupils debated the futures in class and were then asked to participate in a poll. The results are instructive: participants were not as idealistic as some had supposed.

Most, for instance, had an emotional loyalty to environmental issues but decided that resolving social problems, such as homelessness, were in the end more important. The most popular 'future' (31 per cent) was 'Euro-Britain'. In this scenario, Britain shares its currency with other European states and is working towards a common defence and foreign policy. Britain is richer; but it has lost some of its independence.

Twenty-nine per cent voted for 'Island Britain', an alternative in which the UK curtails its international involvements and focuses on internal problems. Britain no longer regards itself as 'important' or tries to assert that it is.

Twenty-two per cent chose 'Global Britain'. In this case the country would involve itself much more in global problem-solving. The Third World would have more of a say in the future of the planet, with prices in Britain rising as a result.

'Great Britain' was the least popular (20 per cent). This version has Britain playing an important role in the world but dedicated to national integrity. It shuns European unity. Pupils were also asked a variety of questions about contemporary Britain, and a pessimistic consensus emerged.

Half of those taking part (50 per cent) believed that, in 10 years, the UK would be a worse place to live in than it is now. Only 17 per cent thought it would be better. Most were anxious that Britain should spend everything it has on self-improvement, and to focus exclusively on promoting local standards of living.

Fifty-six per cent did not want the UK to buy more from the Third World if it meant prices would rise at home; 47 per cent did not want British forces involved in peacekeeping if there was any prospect of casualties.

There were contradictions. Only 20 per cent agreed that Europe should adopt a common currency, despite the number that voted for the Euro-Britain future in which this would be a part.

Karl Berger, project co-ordinator, said the poll followed the precedent of a United States experiment in the mid-Eighties during which residents in four large cities were asked to examine their attitudes to the Soviet Union. 'If you ask questions stupidly then you get a stupid response. You cannot find out what people think about issues by asking them in the way of a traditional opinion poll; you have got to involve them. That was the point: to help the students clarify their own thinking.'

Jane McKinnell, of IBM, which was one of the project sponsors, concluded: 'I can see scope for it expanding to encompass useful business skills to prepare students for working life.'

The concept of deliberative polling is not universally accepted, and this study will prompt controversy. How much can we rely on the results as true indicators of what the pupils really believe? How much reflects their relative ignorance of very complex issues? Can such things be taught in a matter of hours? Mr Berger believes the importance of the method lies as much in the element of participation, as in the results: 'We asked these pupils: what do you want? And we discovered that they had never been asked that before.

'I do not believe that the public is tapped enough for its ideas. These children were interested in their future; and I think everybody else is too.'

Project results can be obtained from: PVI, 82 Colston Street, Bristol, BS1 5BB; pounds 10.

(Photograph and table omitted)

Leading article, page 17

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP BI CONSULTANT

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: SAP BI CONSULTA...

Infrastructure Manager - Southampton - Up to £45K

£35000 - £45000 per annum + 36 days holiday and more: Deerfoot IT Resources Li...

PHP Software Developer - Hertfordshire

£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: PHP Software Developer - Hertfordshire An es...

Electrical Engineer

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Long term contract role - Electrical Pro...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice