A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

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III. Awareness of the V.D. Statement

Spontaneous mention of V.D. (Question 6)

Before any mention was made of the V.D. campaign informants were asked: “Have you come across any information or advice put out by the Ministry of Health in the last few weeks about avoiding illness or disease? “

The purpose of this question was to find out what proportion of those interviewed would mention V.D. spontaneously and without being prompted in any way. The possibility that some informants may have remembered the V.D. statement when asked this question but refrained from mentioning it through reticence should not be over looked. Nevertheless V.D. was mentioned more frequently than publicity on any other subject.

Replies were as follows:-

V.D. 38
Coughs and sneezes 12
Diphtheria immunisation 5
Other publicity 4
None mentioned 47
Sample: 2459

The percentage given add to more than 100 as some mentioned more than one advertisement.

Breakdown by men and women is as follows:-

Men % Women %
V.D. 42 ± 3 36 ± 2
Coughs and sneezes 15 10
Diphtheria immunisation 5 5
Other publicity 4 5
None mentioned 43 50
Sample: 1037 1422

A rather higher proportion of men than of women mentioned both V.D. and “Coughs and Sneezes “, more women being unable to name any advertisement. The differences though statistically significant, are slight.

More marked differences are shown by an analysis by age groups:-

Under 20 20 - 30 31 - 40 41 - 49
% % % %
V.D. 29 ± 6 44 41 35 ± 3
Coughs and sneezes 15 13 13 7
Diphtheria immunisation 7 5 4 4
Other publicity 3 3 5 5
None mentioned 51 43 44 51
Sample: 286 584 775 808

In the youngest group a relatively low proportion answered V.D., and it was mentioned rather more frequently by the middle groups than by the oldest group.

The youngest and oldest groups show higher proportions unable to name any sort of publicity.

Breakdown by income group shows a rather higher proportion mentioning V.D. in the higher income groups than in the lower, inability to name any sort of publicity being more frequent in the lower groups.

* Higher income groups * Lower income groups
% %
V.D. 45 ± 4 37
Coughs and sneezes 11 12
Diphtheria immunisation 6 5
Other publicity 7 4
None mentioned 39 48
Sample: 316 2126

* For definition of those groups see Sample , page 24.

In connection with those results it should be noted that there is evident from other surveys that the higher income groups more frequently than the lower read newspapers and possess wireless set.

Extent to which statement was seen (Question 7)

Those informants who had not already mentioned the V.D. statement were asked: “Have you seen the Ministry of Health’s statement telling people about the venereal diseases?”

86% in all of the sample had seen the statement, 38% had mentioned V.D. in answer to the previous question, and this question revealed that a further 48% had seen it without saying so before.

There are two likely reasons for this difference. In the first place this type of open question may be unreliable as a means of discovering the extent to which a particular piece of propaganda has been seen or heard, but has greater value if used to compare the incidence of remembering different advertisement.

Secondly there may have been uncertainty in the minds of some informants as to whether V.D. was a “respectable” thing to talk about, and, as investigators’ comments on attitudes to the questionnaire show, embarrassment and reticence were present in a proportion of cases even though the informants showing these feelings were not unwilling to answer questions when asked.

The results given below show the proportions that had seen and had not already seen the statement, including those who mentioned it spontaneously before being asked:-

Had seen statement 86
Had not seen statement 12
Doubtful 1
No information 1
Sample: 2459

Analysis of these results by sex shows no statistically significant differences.

Analysis by age groups shows that a lower proportion in the youngest than in other groups had seen the statement:-

Those aged under 20 Whole Sample
% %
Had seen statement 71 ± 4 86
Had not seen statement 27 12
Doubtful 2 1
No information - 1
Sample: 286 2459

It will be remembered that a relatively low proportion in this group mentioned the V.D. statement spontaneously. It is possible that young people read newspapers less frequently than the older age groups, and this is perhaps the reason why a lower proportion saw the statement.

Breakdown by income group shows a marked difference, the higher income groups being aware of the statement more frequently than the lower:-

Higher Income Groups Lower Income Groups
% %
Had seen statement 94 ± 3 85
Had not seen statement 5 13
Doubtful - 1
No information 1 1
Sample: 316 2126

It has already been pointed out that the higher income groups more frequently read newspapers than the lower.

97% of those in managerial and professional occupations had seen the statement.

Extent to which statement was read (Question 11)

Between asking informants whether they had seen and whether they had read the statement, some other questions were asked.

In view of the nature of the subject it was thought that some informants might feel reluctant to admit that they had read the statement, thinking that such an admission might suggest that they had personal reasons for being particularly interested in it. To put informants at their ease over this it was thought desirable to ask some further questions about V.D. and the V.D. statement, which would show that for the purposes of the inquiry, the statements were recorded as matters in which the public might reasonably be expected to show an interest quite apart from personal considerations.

First of all informants were asked whether they know what the venereal diseases were and how they were spread. Then they were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the Ministry of Health “telling people about things like this in the newspapers or on the wireless”.

The results of these questions are given later in this report, but it should be noted here that the 2% of the sample who disagreed with V.D. publicity were not asked subsequent questions.

With the exception, and with the exception of the 3% with whom the interview was abandoned earlier, informants who had seen the statements or thought they might have seen it (i.e. the “doubtful”) were asked: “Did you read it through?”

The tables below show the proportions of the whole sample and of those who had seen the statement who did and did not read it:-

% whole sample % those who saw statement
Had read statement 72 85
Had not read statement 11 13
No answer 2 2
Not asked (had not read statement) 15 -
(Disagreed, or no information)
Sample: 2459 2085

Thus 85% of these who saw the statement, and 72% of the whole sample, said they had read it through.

Analysis by sex shows no statistically significant differences, and again the youngest age group differs from the older groups. Of this group (aged under 20) 75% of those who saw the statement said they had read it as against 85% of all those who saw the statement.

Of those who had seen the statement in the higher income groups 90% (. Or - 4) had read it as against 84% in the lower income groups.

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