A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

31 32 2 34 4 35 5


At the request of Campaigns Division, a rapid statistical survey was made in the third week of December 1943 to study public reaction to the Fuel Saving Campaign. As the Wartime Social Survey was fully occupied at the time, the work was done by the British Institute of Public Opinion. The time limit imposed by Campaigns Division necessitated the use of a small sample, about 1,000, but the usual steps were taken to make this fully representative. The maximum margin of error on the total results is thus in the region of ± 4.5%.

1. This winter and last compared

Q: “Do you think people in general are trying to save fuel as much as they did last winter?”

Yes: 56%
No: 23%
Don't know: 21%

Results were analysed by 5 geographical areas, London and the S.E., the Midlands, Wales and the S.W., the North, and Scotland.

The significantly different results were :-

Yes No
% %
Midlands 30
Wales and S.W. 63 10
Scotland 62

The 56% of the total who answered “Yes” were asked:

Q: “Do you think people are saving more, or about the same as last year?”

More: 24% of 56%
About same: 76% of 56%

This means that 14% of the whole sample thought there was more saving than last year,

42% thought about the same,
23% thought there was less saving,
and 21% could express no opinion.

The 23% who thought there was less saving were asked:

Q: “What do you think is the reason?”

Complacency; people more careless; think war is won 10%
Cold weather came earlier this year 6%
Propaganda not good enough; effect wearing off 2%
Miscellaneous 5%
No answer, don't know 77%

2. Reasons for slackness over fuel saving

To find out if optimistic Government pronouncements had played any part, people were asked:

Q: “Have you heard of any well-known person saying that the coal situation will be all right?”

Don't know; no answer 94%
Yes, can't remember who 2%
Mr. Churchill 2%
Minister of Fuel 1%
Miscellaneous 1%

To find out the effect of news of coal strikes, the following was asked:

Q: “If people read about a strike in the coal-fields, do you think it makes them say:

We must save more coal because less is coming up, or What's the use of trying to save coal when the miners are not working properly, or Neither
% % %
Total: 40 26 34
Men 36 30 34
Women 44 22 34
Wales 23 31 46
Scotland 55 18 27

Economic analysis and the other geographical divisions showed no significant differences.

Note : The second alternative offered was badly phrased, since it contained two separate ideas - either of which might have been considered apart from the other. It is possible that some people refused to choose it, when they would otherwise have done so, because they sympathised with the miners.

3. Reasons for the fuel shortage

To find out how far export of coal was thought to be causing the shortage, people were asked:

Q: “Do you think that coal is being sent abroad, causing some shortage here?”

Yes: 39%
No: 21%
Don't know: 40%

A significantly larger number of men and smaller number of women thought coal was being sent abroad. The number thinking this was considerably larger in the upper income groups (54%), and larger in the middle income groups (47%).

An open question was put to see what was uppermost in people's minds in connection with the fuel shortage.

Q: “If you could ask the Minister of Fuel a question, what would it be?”

Are we all rationed fairly? Why not introduce fuel rationing? 11%
Why were miners called up? Why not recall miners? 8%
Are miners getting a fair deal? Why are miners dissatisfied? Why not pay miners more? 8%
Why not nationalise mines? 7%
Why was not a severe winter anticipated? 4%
Why not give out a frank statement of the situation? 3%
Why not stop strikes and prosecute miners? 3%
Are foreign countries rationed? Why is coal sent abroad? 2%
Do the coal owners create difficulties? 2%
Why not ask miners to consider others, and tell them they are not trying to help win the war 1%
Miscellaneous 25%
No answer; don't know 26%

4. The Fuel Saving Campaign itself

Q: “Have you seen any advertisements in the papers on how to save fuel?”

Yes: 88%
No: 12%

The only significant differences to emerge from breakdowns were:-

Yes: No:
% %
Wales and S.W. 75 25
Scotland 82 18

Q: “Do you happen to remember any hint they gave on how to save fuel?”

Use more slack, cinders, coal dust 8
Switch light off when leaving room 8
Use fire bricks 7
Mix coal with coke 6
Use poker sparingly 5
Go to bed early 5
Turn down gas fire; use one bar only on electric heater; have small fire 4
Share fire with neighbour 3
Heat one room only 3
Do more cooking at one time; use coal fire for cooking 3
5 inches of water in your bath 3
Lag pipes 3
Use less coal; gas, electric light 2
Damp down fire 1
Bank fire up 1
Light fire only in the evening 1
Remembers some hints but does not recall which 1
Miscellaneous 4
Don't know; No answer 32

Q: “Do you think that people stick to the suggestion about 5 inches of water in the bath?”

Most: Some: Few: Don't know:
% % % %
9 17 52 22

Notes : 1. Many of the interviewers reported that saying “Few” in effect meant “None”.

2. Approximately half the households in Great Britain have no bathrooms. It is likely that most of these people answered “Few” or “None”. This means that at least 24%, out of the 74% saying “Few” or “None”, had got a bath.

Q: “What do you think are the best ways to save fuel?”

First answer “Any other ways?” “Any more still?”
% % %
No answer, don't know 7.0 38.0 59.0
Mix coal with coke 3.2 2.7 1.4
Use more slack, cinders, coal dust 6.7 5.3 2.9
Use dross, refuse 0.3 0.7 0.5
Use logs, use more wood 2.7 2.1 1.0
Use fire bricks 5.7 3.2 1.3
Use false grate 0.8 0.2 0.2
Use poker sparingly 1.8 3.2 1.4
Prevent draught 1.5 0.8 0.4
Damp down fire 3.0 3.3 2.3
Bank fire up 1.5 0.5 0.2
Lag pipes 0.8 1.0 0.8
Turn down gas fire, use one bar only on electric heater, have small fires 7.3 3.0 1.5
Watch meters 0.3 0.2 0.4
Switch light off when leaving room 4.6 3.3 3.1
Use less powerful bulbs 1.0 1.5 1.0
Take unnecessary bulbs out 1.1 1.3 0.8
Listen to wireless with lights out 0.1 0.1 0.4
Light fires only in the evening, only when necessary 4.2 2.0 0.5
Live in one room 7.3 4.8 2.7
Share fires with neighbours 2.4 1.6 0.3
Go out, dine out 1.7 1.0 0.4
Go to bed early 7.3 2.8 2.3
Do more cooking at one time, cook less 4.8 5.9 4.0
Fill kettle only as far as required 0.2 0.2 0.3
5 inches of water in your bath 1.2 1.3 1.7
Don't wash under running tap 0.1 0.4 1.4
Regulate washing days 0.3 0.3 0.4
Use electrical appliances less 0.1 0.4 0.5
Travel less 0.1 0.3 0.3
Use less coal, gas, current, etc. 4.0 1.4 0.5
Stricter rationing, cut down large consumers 5.4 0.8 0.6
Finish BBC programmes earlier 0.7 1.0 0.3
Frank statement on situation, more propaganda 0.4 0.3 0.0
Curfew on use of light and power 0.3 0.1 0.1
We can't say more than we do 0.6 0.0 0.0
Miscellaneous 10.0 5.2 4.7

Notes : 1. Percentage figures do not add up to 100 because no figure has been taken beyond one place of decimals.

2. Many suggestions which were seldom chosen first were increasingly frequently chosen in the second and third questions. This may mean that these suggestions are deeper in peoples' memories - possibly “hang overs” from last winter's campaign.

5. Conclusions

1. About half the sample thought there was the same amount of saving as last year; about a quarter thought there was less; about one seventh thought there was more.

2. Important reasons for the falling off in saving appeared to be complacency,[Text Missing] the earlier cold weather, and the coal strikes. At the same time, the stri[Text Missing] appear to stimulate some people to save; while others have mixed sentiments[Text Missing] on account of sympathy with the miners.

3. The majority remember some fuel-saving hint, and are able to suggest at least[Text Missing] two ways of saving fuel. The Campaign appears, therefore, to have been not entirely unsuccessful.

Home Intelligence

31st December, 1943.

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