A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


After the answers to the open question “In what way do you eat more potatoes?” were obtained, the informants were prompted with the five slogans of the Ministry of Food publicity campaign. The results of this prompting are shown in the following table:-

Table 8
Do you eat more potatoes in the following ways? Did you get this idea from the Ministry of Food?
Yes No N.A. Yes No N.A. All who carry out the idea
% % % % % %
1. Do you serve potatoes for breakfast 3 days a week 29 71 - 21 76 3 646
2. Do you make your main dish a potatoes dish on 1 day a week? 48 50 2 29 65 6 1078
3. Do you refuse second helping of other and have more potatoes instead? 21 70 9 22 69 9 477
4. Do you serve in new ways? 34 65 1 56 33 11 767
5. Use potatoes in place of flour 31 68 1 56 39 5 697

The most striking result is that so many more people say they use more potatoes in the way mentioned when prompted than when answering the open question. The danger of understatement in an open question has already been discussed. It is known from experience in survey work, both here and in America, that any prompted question tends to elicit an overstatement of facts from certain informants. But even if some divergence of results in Table 7 and Table 8 is accounted for by these two factors, the difference is too great to be explained entirely in this way. The only possible explanation seems to be that the Ministry of Food publicity on these points has gone home to these people, who felt obliged, mainly through patriotism, to say they carried out the suggestions. However, only between one-fifth and half of those who carried out the suggestions said that they were conscious of being influenced by the Ministry of Food publicity.

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