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What do British, American, German and French people know about the Sustainable Development Goals?

Published 7 August 2019 in Surveys

Unsurprisingly, there is a lack of knowledge and understanding of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a framework adopted in 2015 by 193 countries. Only a small minority of people seem to have heard of the SDGs.

On average, a quarter of people questioned in France, Germany, the UK and the US have heard of the SDGs, without however really knowing what they were. The rest say they have not heard of them.

Looking more closely at the results, we might be tempted to conclude that French people were better informed about the SDGs than German, British or American people.

But in reality, this is probably because the term "sustainable development" has long been part of the French lexical and political landscape, ever since the Sustainable Development Conference in Rio in 1992 which led to much debate, media attention and policy-making in France. Thus, it is possible that French respondents see the "Sustainable Development Goals" as something related to the already-familiar general term of sustainable development work around ecology. This is borne out by asking the question with the simple addition of "United Nations" to the SDG title: positive responses from French people fall to 9% or around the levels of claimed knowledge seen in Germany, the UK and the US.


This data comes from our survey conducted by the YouGov Institute and piloted by the research team at University College London and the University of Birmingham as part of the project Aid Attitudes Tracker which measures the evolution of opinions and behaviors on issues of international solidarity in four countries.