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FactCheckEU poll: 56% of Germans think the EU wants cucumbers to be straight

FactCheckEU, France

19 March 2019, Updated: 19 March 2019

FactCheckEU poll: 56% of Germans think the EU wants cucumbers to be straight

A majority of Poles also believe in this false claim, a poll for FactCheckEU and the University of Exeter shows.

Admitting that you don’t know something is never easy. But a new survey from FactCheckEU, in collaboration with the University of Exeter, shows that many Europeans are willing to say it when asked tricky questions about the European Union.

On the other hand, our poll of 6067 citizens from Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Sweden and Poland shows that many of them also believe in false facts about the European Union. Respondents who were more favourable towards the EU were also more likely to believe in a false statement that was positive towards the Union. Our poll was designed with a team of researchers from the University of Exeter led by Dr Florian Stoeckel and Prof Jason Reifler. Here are our key findings.

If you don’t know now you know, Europe

The European Union is often portrayed as a wasteful institution, especially when it comes to its administrative costs. That’s why we asked our respondents to tell us the proportion of the EU’s 160 billion euros budget they thought was spent on administrative costs. Interestingly, a majority of people from the countries we polled (61%) were willing to say that they didn’t know. This is pretty good news for fact-checkers, as people who admit that they don’t know things may be prone to look at things with an open mind.

Ironically, people willing to answer got the percentage wrong by an awful lot. The average answer was a whopping 34%, when the actual proportion of the EU budget spent on administration is around 6%.

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EU can’t always give what you want

Another good news: most respondents knew whether their country gets more than it gives to the EU. A majority of Polish people are aware that their country receives more than what it gives to the Union. In Spain, where the difference between the EU spending in Spain and the Spanish contribution to the Union’s budget is less substantial, 37% of respondents said they thought the amount going to the EU and coming from it were about the same.

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Do you remember? The curvature rule for cucumbers?

Cucumbers come in all shapes and forms. However, a majority of Germans and Poles seem to believe the false claim that the European Union is imposing a strict regulation on the curvature of Cucumbers and other vegetables. There's a catch, as an article from our partner Libération explains: there used to be such a regulation, but it was repealed in 2008. The curvature of cucumbers has since been a recurring themes in the German conversation about EU regulations, and is one of the most popular myth about the EU in the country.

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One way or another, it’s gonna fool ya

In our poll, some questions were purposely tricky. We wanted to see whether people with a more favourable opinion of the EU were more likely to believe false claims that would shed a positive light on the Union. It turns out that it is the case. We asked our respondents to rate their feelings towards the Union on a scale from 0 to 10. The closer people were to 10, the more likely they were to believe a positive false statement about the EU.

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“These six countries probably are a good reflection of the whole of Europe," said Jason Reifler. "When it comes to the European Union, people are both uninformed and misinformed. It is important that we understand this as different problems. Fortunately, fact-checking is a tool that is likely to address both of these problems, though perhaps in different ways."

All of this is rather good news for the fact-checking community: people are sometimes willing to say that they don’t know, especially when they have to give out a precise answer. But there’s also a need for fact-checking, as a significant percentage of respondents is wrong on some of the claims we present them.

Jules Darmanin for FactCheckEU

Graphics: Nicolas Boeuf for WeDoData

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