Toronto, ON – A survey of six countries whose soldiers fought on the
Western Front in the First World War has revealed that Canadians are the most likely to have
attended a war remembrance ceremony in the past 12 months, but they’re among the least
likely to say that they remember learning about the First World War in school. The survey was
conducted for the Vimy Foundation, and comprised 1,000 interviews in each of Canada, the
United States, Great Britain, France and Germany, and 500 interviews in Belgium.
Fully one quarter (25%) of Canadians say they’ve attended a war remembrance ceremony
in the past 12 months, while fewer residents of Great Britain (18%), the US (16%), Belgium
(14%), France (11%) and Germany (4%) say the same.
While Canadians are the most likely to have been to a remembrance ceremony, they’re
the least likely – perhaps due to proximity – to say that they’ve visited a First World War
battlefield, cemetery or historic site (18%), less likely than residents of the US (24%), Great
Britain (27%), Germany (29%), France (48%) and Belgium (59%). Moreover, Canadians are
among the least likely (5%) to say they’ve attended a First World War anniversary event in the
past 12 months. While more likely than Germans (3%) to have done so, Canadians are less
likely than those in Great Britain (9%), France (10%), the US (11%) and Belgium (11%) to say
Similarly, four in ten (43%) Canadians have visited a museum which contained an exhibit
on the First World War, slightly more likely than those in the US (42%) and Germany (38%), on
par with those in France (43%), but well behind those in Belgium (53%) and Great Britain
Doing Enough to Mark the Occasion
For the last two years, and for two more upcoming, countries around the world have been
commemorating the 100th anniversary of the First World War. But only one half (52%) of
Canadians agree that Canada is doing enough to mark the 100th anniversary of the First
World War, meaning that the other half (48%) of Canadians disagree that enough is being
done. While only Americans (33%) lag Canadians in believing their country has done enough
to mark the occasion, Canadians are less likely than those in Germany (58%), France (60%),
Great Britain (63%) and Belgium (70%) to say so.
Moreover, Canadians trail most of the European countries in saying that they remember
learning about the First World War in school. Two thirds (66%) of Canadians and those in
Great Britain (64%) remember learning about the First World War in school, behind those in
Germany (70%), the US (72%), France (78%) and Belgium (80%), more of whom remember
learning about the Great War in school.
Personally Remembering those who Served
Nearly one half (46%) of those in Great Britain say that they are a descendant of someone
who served in the First World War, meaning that they’re the most likely to have a personal
connection to the Great War. Fewer residents of France (36%), Germany (34%), the US (31%),
Belgium (30%) and Canada (29%) have this type of connection.
In an effort to stay connected to the First World War, many intend to visit a First World War
battlefield, cemetery or historic site before the end of 2018, led by those in Belgium (25%),
followed by those in the US (19%), France (17%), Canada (11%), Great Britain (10%) or
The Battle of Vimy Ridge
The year 2017 marks the centenary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, where it has been argued
that Canada became a nation on account of fighting under its own command (not alongside
British soldiers) for the first time. Given its significance to Canada, it’s not surprising that
Canadians are by far the most likely to have heard of the battle (61%). However, only 17% of
those in France have heard of it, despite being the location of the battle. Moreover, only two in
ten (20%) Germans have heard of the battle, despite being the opposing force to Canada.
Remembering those Who Died
Respondents of each country were asked to identify, unaided, the number of soldiers that
died while serving in the First World War, not only those serving for their own country, but for
other countries as well. The chart below outlines the average guess, compared to the actual
number of deaths that occurred.
The numbers reveal some interesting findings:
- Average error puts France as the most accurate; Canada and USA as the least
- Canada, USA, Belgium, UK over-estimate their own losses; France and Germany under-
estimate their own losses
- Canada over-estimates own losses, US and Belgium, under-estimates, UK, France
(massively) and Germany (under by more than a million people!)
- Everyone over-estimates Canadian losses
- Everyone grossly under-estimates French and German losses
- Only people in the UK have a reasonably clear understanding of their own losses;
everyone else under-estimates by at least a quarter million, with the Americans being the
These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between March 29 and
April 1, 2016, on behalf of the Vimy Ridge Foundation. For this survey, a sample of 1,005
Canadians from Ipsos' online panel was interviewed online. Weighting was then employed to
balance demographics to ensure that the sample's composition reflects that of the adult
population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the
sample universe. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval.
In this case, the poll is accurate to within +/ - 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all
Canadian adults been polled. The credibility interval will be wider among subsets of the
population. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including,
but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.
For more information on this news release, please contact:
The Vimy Foundation
Ipsos Public Affairs
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