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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Andy Davidhazy at the beginning (left) and end (right) of his hike
video
News
Taylor Swift is applying to trademark song lyrics from 1989
people
Voices
The popularity of TV shows such as The Liver Birds encouraged Liverpudlians to exaggerate their Scouse accent
voicesWe exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Parker says: 'I once had a taster use the phrase 'smells like the sex glands of a lemming'. Who in the world can relate to that?'
food + drinkRobert Parker's 100-point scale is a benchmark of achievement for wine-makers everywhere
News
i100
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
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

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing