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A vague understanding about the Sustainable Development Goals for the French people

Published 7 August 2019 in Surveys

If 9% of French people claim to know "what the Sustainable Development Goals are", their perception of the SDGs still seem to be fairly vague, with many respondents providing "I don’t know" or fairly random answers to more detailed questions.

To which countries to the Sustainable Development Goals apply?

This is the one detailed question about the SDG framework which generated the most right answers. In average, 29% of respondents know (or understand) that the SDGs apply universally to all countries. More men (33%) than women (25%) correctly answer this question, but this result should be considered with the fact in mind that women are consistently more likely to give a "I don’t know" answer than men in opinion polls. This is true for this question, where 37% of men gave a "I don’t know" answer compared to 49% of women.

Young people are most likely to know about the SDGs, as well as in parallel being the least likely to give a "I don’t know" answer.

Similarly and in similar percentages, center-voters have better knowledge of the SDGs than left-wing voters, and substantially better than right-wing voters.

And unsurprisingly, since people often learn about and understand the SDGs through studies, the level of education also has a strong influence on respondents’ ability to answer correctly or to answer at all.

Lastly on this question, there is better knowledge of the SDGs for those who claim to come from a large urban center: 29% of those correctly answering the question about where the SDGs apply came from urban areas of fewer than 20,000 people, compared to 34% for towns of more than 100,000 people and up to 36% for those living in the greater Paris region. This can also be linked to greater density of those with higher qualifications living in more populated areas.

How many Sustainable Development Goals are there?

This seemingly simple question immediately demonstrated the lack of knowledge about the SDGs amongst the French public. 81% did not know how many SDGs had been agreed (by the United Nations). Only 8% knew there were 17 Goals, a result which must also be taken with a pinch of salt for those who had correctly guessed at the answer, possibly similar to the 9% of French people who claim that they know what the SDGs are.

When we delve a bit deeper into the answer, we can see once again that young people have better knowledge than older generations of the SDGs.

Center-voters are also, and again, more like to respond to the question. This engagement may be related to other socio-economic reasons (level of education, geographic location, etc), even if in fact these respondents were barely more likely than left-wing or right-wing voters to answer the question correctly.

Overall, the level of education had a clear impact on the ability of respondents to provide an answer to the question, but a precise knowledge of the number of SDGs was overall very low.

One simple solution to improve this poor score may be for those working on the SDGs to ensure that any mention of the framework was always accompanied by the number 17.

What is the deadline to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals?

Like the question before on the number of SDGs, answers to this question are mostly characterised by "I don’t know" (63%), even if (for those who did reply) there are more right answers (i.e. by 2030), distributed by similar socio-economic categories, to this question than to others above.