Friday (23 April) will be St George’s Day, celebrated for centuries as England’s national day. George was a Christian martyr of the fourth century AD who has been England’s patron saint since the fourteenth century, in succession to Edward the Confessor. The slaying of the dragon was not attributed to George until the late twelfth century.
In anticipation of the 2010 commemoration, This England magazine commissioned OnePoll, the online market research company, to conduct (between 7 and 14 April) a multinational survey into patriotism among 5,820 adults aged 18-65 drawn from its membership panel.
This reveals England as the least patriotic of the nine European countries surveyed, with a marked disinclination to fly the St George’s Cross. Moreover, only one in three of the English knew St George’s Day was this Friday, and more than four in ten were ignorant of the reasons for St George being England’s patron saint.
These proportions can be compared with an equivalent study for This England last year, conducted online by YouGov on 3-6 April 2009 when 44% of 1,714 English adults aged 18 and over correctly gave the date of St George’s Day and 50% knew why George is the patron saint of England.
Of course, this level of knowledge may be exaggerated, since one of the problems about asking factual questions in online surveys is that respondents can look up the answers on the internet or in a book and thus cheat!
Interestingly, given the choice, only 25% of 512 practising Christians in the UK would choose St George as the patron saint of England, according to a ComRes poll for Premier Christian Media between 22 April and 1 May 2009. 11% preferred St Augustine, 9% St Alban, 5% St Cuthbert, 4% St Thomas à Becket, while 20% did not want England to have a patron saint at all.
A press release about the OnePoll survey will be found at: