A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46



N.S. 2/1941

An investigation by the Wartime Social Survey into Public Reaction to the Films made by the Films Division of the Ministry of Information

2. 3.


The purpose of the investigation was to answer a number of questions put by the Films Division. Enquiry was made in 3 centres selected for their representation of certain types.

Leamington. A reception area town with many evacuees from adjacent bombed industrial districts.
Bristol. A town much expanded by war production, and severely bombed.
Glasgow . A northern and Scottish industrial concentration.

Results are given for the 3 areas in each case, and no attempt has been made to construct what, in view of the small number of areas covered, would inevitably have been an unrepresentative and misleading composite figure.

Interviewing took place between September 2nd and 13th in all areas. Some 1,700 calls were made on individuals selected by random sampling methods from the index of ration cards in each area.

Some of the main findings are summarised below.

1. What percentage of Film audiences are conscious of having seen M.O.I. Films

In Glasgow 82%, in Leamington 70%, in Bristol 71%

All cinema goers remembered seeing M.O.I. Films.

The investigation established that in the 3 areas covered some 37% cinema goers only visited the cinema occasionally, i.e. less than once a month. It will be seen therefore that the physical penetration of M.O.I. Films reaches a high level.

In 2 areas men were more conscious of having seen the films than women.

82% men against 70% women in Glasgow;

80% men against 65% women in Bristol.

In Leamington, however, women were more conscious of having seen the films than men; 75% women against 68% men.

2. Do Cinema goers prefer Dramatised or Undramatised Films (Documentary) .

There were marked differences in the reactions recorded in the 3 areas.

Preferred Glasgow % Leamington % Bristol %
Dramatised 56.6 40.4 68
Undramatised 43.4 59.6 32

A detailed analysis of the results by social class indicated that the general position indicated above was found in all social classes in that town. It would appear therefore that regional preferences are of established importance in this connection.

3. Do you enjoy M.O.I. Films or would you prefer to see the usual type of show picture.

This question aimed at testing M.O.I. Films by comparison with the type of picture shown to most cinema goers.

The results indicated that in no town or Social Group were there less than 70% expressing a definite liking for these films.

Enjoy Films % Do not mind % Would prefer usual type %
Glasgow 79.3 17 3.7
Leamington 73.4 22.7 3.9
Bristol 80.7 11.8 7.6

It will be seen that the proportion of persons preferring the ordinary type of films is very small.

4. What Influence do M.O.I. Films have on Cinema goers.

(a) Questions were asked to establish the extent to which the films were discussed.

Have you discussed these films with Friends or at home.

Glasgow % Leamington % Bristol %
Have discussed Films at home - with friends 68 55 65
Have not discussed 32 45 35

It will be seen that in each town a majority of cinema goers have discussed M.O.I. Films. It was further established that in each area a majority of cinema goers had heard M.O.I. Films discussed by others. Detailed analysis revealed that even amongst non-cinema goers appreciable proportions recalled hearing the films discussed.

Have you heard the Films discussed.

Non-Cinema goers Glasgow % Leamington % Bristol %
Have heard films discussed 41 25 31
Have not heard films discussed 59 75 69

(b) Beyond noting how far the films were discussed an attempt was made to estimate the extent to which M.O.I. Films made an impact on cinema goers. (For this purpose those interviewed who said that they had learnt from the films and those who stated that their actions had been influenced by the films, were grouped together as ‘influenced’).

A significant difference as between the 3 areas emerges from the figures given below.

Glasgow % Leamington % Bristol %
Not influenced 47 57 34
Took action 30 21 42.5
Learnt only 23 22 23.5

Of those indicating that they had taken some action following on seeing the film:

About 22% mentioned greater attention to avoiding waste, collecting salvage, etc.
About 26% indicated that the films inspired a desire to do more, to participate in the war effort in some way, or that the contact felt more patriotic.
About 12% indicated that contacts were avoiding careless talk.
About 18% indicated greater care in observing A.R.P. or Blackout.

Running through both types of comments - those indicating that something had been learnt and that action had resulted from seeing the films, there were general indications that the value of films lay in their helping people to “realise things more clearly”, that “the war had been kept in my mind by the films, and does not seem so far off”.

5. Were Cinema Goers conscious of the fact that public money was spent on these Films.

In Glasgow 64%; Leamington 38%; and Bristol 34%, of cinema goers were conscious of this fact. This figure includes those saying “The Government”, “The taxpayer”, “I pay for them”, or the “Ministry of Information”.

6. Was it thought that money was put to good purpose or would other media of information be preferred.

Glasgow % Leamington % Bristol %
Put to good purpose 85 87.6 90.2
Spend rather on newspaper and Magazine advertising 4 .4 .6
Spend rather on posters 2.2 1.2 Nil
Other ways 1.7 2.4 .6
Don’t know 7.1 8.4 8.5

It should be noted that these figures do not give indications of positive reactions in favour of the other media noted. The figures noting preference for other media are only the expression of negative reaction towards Films as a medium for information.

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