NOP/Independent Poll: Voters in favour of 'solemn ceremonies': One-third of the public do not know what D-Day is - Deepest ignorance found among 18-34 age group

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If commemoration of D-Day next month serves to increase public knowledge of the Allied invasion of France in June 1944, it will have served a worthwhile purpose.

One-third of the voting population do not know that is what D- Day was, an NOP poll for the Independent has revealed. And most of those who do not are women. In our poll 78 per cent of men correctly identified what D-Day was, but only 57 per cent of women did. And it is reasonable to suppose that young women are the most ignorant of all about D-Day.

Not unexpectedly, the deepest ignorance, male and female, is among those in the 18 to 34 age range, in which 33 per cent replied 'don't know' when asked what occurred on D-Day, and another 13 per cent got it wrong. In the 34 to 55 age group, 30 per cent could not say correctly what it was, and even among the over-55s - all of whom were alive during D-Day - 21 per cent fell into the same category.

Nevertheless, the large majority who do know what D-Day is have strong views about how it should be commemorated. Sixty-two per cent of all electors - and 72 per cent of those old enough to remember it - think the occasion should be marked by 'solemn national ceremonies of commemoration to remember the dead', far more than those put together who favour 'joyful celebration with street parties or children's events', a national holiday, or no commemoration at all.

Fifty-two per cent disagree 'with the Government's plan to have a national celebration', and 65 per cent agree with criticism among D-Day veterans that the anniversary would be 'trivialised by firework displays and street parties'.

But there is a notable contrast between the views of young people on plans for 'celebration' of D-Day and those of older age groups. A narrow majority of 18- to 24-year- olds - 46 per cent compared with 43 per cent who disagree - agree with the proposal. That is reversed in the 35 to 54 age group (53 per cent disagree and 37 per cent agree) and even more so in the case of the over-55s, 62 per cent of whom disagree. But even among the youngest group the idea of street parties and children's events is deeply unpopular. Only 12 per cent of the 18 to 34 year-olds are in favour, compared with 56 per cent who want 'solemn national ceremonies'.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, given that the word 'government' appears in the question, Tories are more inclined to agree (47 per cent, compared with 42 per cent who disagree) with the idea of a 'national celebration' than Labour voters (54 per cent who disagree, 37 per cent who agree). But there is no statistically significant difference between the main parties on the type of commemoration. Sixty-one per cent of Labour voters in the last election and 62 per cent of Tory voters, want it to be 'solemn national ceremonies'.

When the electors are divided by politicial allegiance the most critical of all are Liberal Democrats; 72 per cent agree with criticisms that the anniversary would be trivialised by street parties and fireworks.

But there is little difference in the attitude of different social classes. For example, 64 per cent of those in the top stratum, AB, favour 'solemn national ceremonies'. So do 65 per cent of C1s; 61 per cent of C2s and 60 per cent of DEs. And more DE voters (64 per cent) agree with criticisms voiced by D-Day veterans than C1s (61 per cent).

NOP interviewed 1,062 adults in 52 constituencies across Britain on 20 April.

--------------------------------------------------------------------- WHAT HAPPENED ON D-DAY? --------------------------------------------------------------------- % Allied invasion of France in WW2 (June 1944) 67 Other (wrong) answer 13 Don't know 20 --------------------------------------------------------------------- DO YOU THINK THAT THE ANNIVERSARY SHOULD BE MARKED BY . . ? --------------------------------------------------------------------- % A national public holiday? 17 Solemn national ceremonies of commemoration to remember the dead? 62 A joyful celebration with street parties or children's events? 10 Or should it not be marked at all 8 Don't know 3 ---------------------------------------------------------------------