On 3-4 February 2022, YouGov did a survey about Britons’ preferences for using imperial and metric units for different purposes. It showed that the younger the age group, the stronger the preference for metric units.
YouGov broke down the data by political allegiance, votes for Remain or Leave in the EU membership referendum, gender, age, social grade and region. YouGov interviewed 1671 adults for this survey. For each question about user preferences for imperial or metric units, YouGov asked “If you were asked the following questions about measurements, how would you answer?”.
One notable trend in the survey is correlation between the popularity of metric units and youth (i.e. the younger you are, the stronger your preference for metric units). This is a common trend for all questions YouGov asked in the survey. The youngest age group in the survey is 18-29 and the oldest is 70+. The figures expressed here do not add up to 100% because some answered “don’t know”.
When the over 70s were asked how tall someone is, 93% preferred to answer in feet and inches and just 5% preferred to answer in metres and centimetres. For the 18-29 age group, the figures were 71% for feet and inches and 18% for metres and centimetres.
When the over 70s were asked how fast a car is travelling, 95% expressed the speed in mph and just 2% in km/h. The equivalent figures were 81% and 11% for the 18-29 age group.
When the over 70s were asked how away something is, if it is a long way away, 94% answered in miles and 3% in kilometres. The equivalent figures were 70% and 18% for the 18-29 age group.
When the over 70s were asked how away something is, if it is a short way away, 85% answered in yards, feet and inches, and 12% in metres and centimetres. For the 18-29 age group, these figures were almost the reverse, with 19% using imperial and 71% using metric.
When the over 70s were asked how hot something is, 36% answered in Fahrenheit and 54% in Celsius. Celsius was the overwhelming favourite 18-29 age group; 84% of them used Celsius and just 5% used Fahrenheit.
When asked how much someone weighs, 47% of the 18-29 age group and 86% of the over 70s answered in stones and pounds. 44% of the 18-29 age group and just 11% of the over 70s answered this question in kilograms.
When asked how much an item weighs, 11% of the 18-29 age group and 74% of the over 70s answered in pounds and ounces. 81% of the 18-29 age group and 22% of the over 70s answered this question in kilograms and grams.
This YouGov survey shows that the younger you are, the more likely you are to use metric units for a variety of different measurements in daily life. This suggests that time is on our side and metric is becoming more popular as time goes by.
Will the ever-increasing popularity of metric units among the younger generation lead to a renewed push to complete the metric transition in the UK? Only time will tell.
You can find the full results of the YouGov survey at the following link:
YouGov’s report about this survey can be found at:
12 thoughts on “Metric popularity rises with youth”
I can only say all the metric usage figures are shockingly low, and a disgrace to the nations education, social and government environment.
If that is all our humanity can achieve in not only fifty years, but since WW1 I think the military realised that they ‘had to learn metric’, then I hold out little hope for the future of our country in a modern world.
I have to agree with Brian. Even though there is a higher percentage of the youths using metric, the choice for metric is less than 50 % for all age groups, with the exception of temperature. I’m sure if polled, the same exception would apply to pricing for petrol.
I wonder though how different the results would be if the imperial exposure was highly reduced. That is no imperial in the media nor imperial measuring devices to be found, etc.
A big step would be for DfT to eliminate miles on the roads, thus removing the greatest exposure to imperial.
Without that we are totally stuck in the 18th century.
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I agree we are stuck in the 18th century or should that be the land of the last Luddites!
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Lets be honest – the Imperial system is a nineteenth century invention. The laws relating to it were passed in 1824.
The Imperial reform of 1824 was one of many reforms carried out from time to time on a much older collection of units going back to Roman, Greek, Babylonian times, etc.
It was not a 19-th century invention.
A very popular British political commentator on YouTube has blasted the government proposal to scrap metric and use Imperial:
Very well put. Hope the video gets a very wide audience!
Can you provide a link to this video?
Australian Broadcasting Corp has a nice video looking back at the switch to Celsius 50 years ago:
Thanks to someone on the USMA mailing list for this link.
Just wondering why the report includes someone who says that converting back then to metric speed or rainfall was harder. Any have info or thoughts?
One American in New Mexico is trying to keep hope alive that the USA will some day metricate:
I suspect American youth are more amenable to metrication just as British youth are. 🙂
It would be an interesting exercise to have two surveys run at the same time on unis of measure. Both surveys would target the population at large (taking care that no one individual would be selected for both surveys). Both surveys would have a set of questions to see what people’s attitudes are to use of metric and imperial units.
The only difference between the two surveys would be that one of the surveys would have the following additional questions which would be asked before the questions about one’s attitudes:
1. How many ounces in a pounds?
2. How many yards in a mile?
3. How many pints in a gallon?
4. How many square yards in an acre?
5. How many grams in a kilogram?
6. How many centimetres in a metre?
7. How many cubic centimetres in a litre?
8. How many square metres in a hectare?
A comparison of the two questionnaires would show the extent to which people’s attitudes are affected by their knowledge of units of measure. An analysis of the questionaries of how people’s attitudes vary with their understanding of units of measure would also be interesting. Note that I have tried to be as neutral as possible when identifying the eight questions above (4 imperial and 4 metric).
Those type of questions never seem to have any affect on convincing anyone that metric is better simply because the questions in metric are easier to answer. The Luddites will tell you that they never ever do these types of calculations. They measure something in pints and never convert to gallons. They never convert a field measured in acres to square yards. ETC.
In other words, not knowing these relationships is not going to convince anyone to abandon this difficult collection of units for SI.