On 75th anniversary of D-Day, Canadians know little about key Second World War battle: Ipsos poll

WATCH: As the 75th anniversary of D-Day approaches, we tested Canadians on what we know. We failed.

If the Second World War was a category on a quiz show, Canadians would do well to avoid it.

An Ipsos poll for Global News in partnership with Historica Canada found we failed when asked six multiple choice questions on D-Day, the date which Allied forces invaded northern France.

“D-Day is the beginning of the end, the largest seaborne invasion in world history,” says Anthony Wilson-Smith of Historica Canada. He notes that it was the day — June 6, 1944 — of “enormous importance,” with 14,000 Canadian soldiers taking part. It was also a day of tremendous loss — of the 150,000 Allied soldiers fighting, 10,000 lost their lives.

WATCH: Ipsos poll shows Canadians know little about D-Day battle

Yet fewer than half (48 per cent) of those polled were able to answer three out of the six questions correctly, and 19 per cent weren’t able to answer even one question correctly.

“I was optimistic for Canadians,” says Sean Simpson, vice-president, Ipsos. “And I was hoping a majority of Canadians would pass the short quiz but I was slightly disappointed.”

Sixty-two per cent were able to correctly identify what D-Day was while 68 per cent knew Canada was a participant. Yet only 58 per cent pegged the Adolf Hitler-led Germany as the country the Allies were fighting.


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“We found that Canadians didn’t even get the most basic questions,” says Simpson.

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The quiz included three questions that went beyond the basics. Asked what year the invasion took place, 34 per cent were able to correctly pick 1944.

Active and veteran members of the Canadian Army's 1st Hussars parade through London, Ont., on June 1, 2014, to commerate the 70th Anniversary of D-Day. The 1st Hussars landed on Juno Beach in Normandy France as part of operation Overload.

Active and veteran members of the Canadian Army's 1st Hussars parade through London, Ont., on June 1, 2014, to commerate the 70th Anniversary of D-Day. The 1st Hussars landed on Juno Beach in Normandy France as part of operation Overload.

THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Mark Spowart

And when given the names of the five beaches involved in the assault (Omaha, Utah, Sword, Gold and Juno), 46 per cent picked Juno correctly.

The toughest question – identifying 14,000 as the number of Canadian troops that landed that day – was known to 17 per cent of respondents.

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Because there were only five multiple-choice options for every question, “even with a guess, you’d have roughly a 20 per cent chance of getting it right, but time and time again, we’d have a significant number of Canadians say, ‘I don’t know,’” says Simpson. “They didn’t even know enough to venture an uneducated guess.”

The battle, code-named Operation Overlord, took months of planning and mass deception to confuse the Nazis into thinking the invasion was to take place somewhere else. American, British and Canadian Forces spearheaded the assaults on five beaches over 80 kilometres of coastline.

American E6 soldier, John, from Virginia Beach, whose grandfather was a pilot in the Canadian Air Force during WWII, pays respect in the Colleville American military cemetery, in Colleville sur Mer, western France, Sunday June 5, 2016, on the eve of the 72nd anniversary of the D-Day landing.

American E6 soldier, John, from Virginia Beach, whose grandfather was a pilot in the Canadian Air Force during WWII, pays respect in the Colleville American military cemetery, in Colleville sur Mer, western France, Sunday June 5, 2016, on the eve of the 72nd anniversary of the D-Day landing.

AP Photo/Francois Mori

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the battle that led to the end of the Second World War.

Historica Canada is putting resources into educating Canadians about Juno Beach leading up to the anniversary.

“People have so much going on, you have to get their attention,” says Wilson-Smith. “That’s the real battle.”

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When you break down the numbers, baby boomers were more likely (53 per cent) to get three answers correct than millennials (41 per cent) — yet far more millennials (54 per cent) believe they’re learning enough in school about the world wars than boomers (27 per cent).

And a slight majority of Canadians (52 per cent) agree that other countries like the U.K. and the U.S. do a better job of preserving their D-Day legacy than Canada does.

“Nobody does ceremony like the British do,” says Wilson-Smith.

“Americans are much more military-focused, so in that sense, it’s true. I like the way we do it. We don’t do a lot of pageantry, but we do a lot of clear-eyed realism. And we commemorate the sacrifice made but in a sober, clear-eyed way.”

Exclusive Global News Ipsos polls are protected by copyright. The information and/or data may only be rebroadcast or republished with full and proper credit and attribution to “Global News Ipsos.” This poll was conducted between February 7 and February 11, 2019, with a sample of 1,000 Canadians aged 18+ interviewed online. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. This poll is accurate to within +/ – 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadian adults been polled.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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