Britain may be at the heart of Europe according to the rhetoric, but a new poll has showed up one significant difference. We are terribly worried by the state of education, while our Continental colleagues are blithely unconcerned, writes Susan Young.
A survey of 13 European countries this week revealed that education rates third in the domestic concerns of British voters, mentioned by 30 per cent as being one of the nation's most pressing problems.
By contrast, education is nowhere to be seen in the European list of the top 10 concerns. Mentioned by just 6 per cent of the sample overall - and that includes the British - it comes in way below AidsHIV, which is rated tenth.
Michele Corrado of the market reseach firm MORI, which carried out the work in Britain, said: "This level of concern about education here wasn't a surprise because our regular polls have told a similar story since the early 1990s. What was a surprise was how much more of a concern it was with the British than their European counterparts. "
The cause for such a marked difference is not known, although it does suggest that for whatever reason other nations are more satisfied with their schools' performance. Italy, where 8 per cent of those questioned rated education as a major concern, was the most worried nation on the subject after Britain.
In other ways, the responses of the British were closer to their European cousins. Both put unemployment at the top of their domestic concerns, with law and order rating second place in Britain and third place in Europe.
We are concerned about the European Union, poverty, and housing, whereas the overall survey worries about race relations and the environment.
The European list is also concerned about the sexual abuse of children and political and judicial corruption, partly as a result of the Belgian abuse scandal and its ramifications.
The aim of the survey was to provide research for a United Nations Population Fund project to raise awareness of global issues of population, reproductive health and development.
British concern about sexual health and information, both at home and globally, was half that of Europeans.
The top ten global concern both in Britain and Europe was war, with famine and environmentpollutio n in the top three. Poverty, population growth, unemployment, debt, drug abuse and trading and terrorism also featured on both lists, with Britain additionally concerned about religious fundamentalism and Europeans about the nuclear threat.