In February, YouGov asked 1,692 British adults about what it means to be woke and whether they would use the term to describe themselves – and the full results were published on Tuesday.
While 12% of Brits overall said they were woke, it turns out that 59% of respondents don’t know what the term means, while 30% of those have never actually heard it used.
Of the 41% who say they do understand its meaning, 29% classified themselves as woke, while 56% said they are not. The other 16% weren’t sure if they could claim wokeness.
Among the same cohort able to grasp the concept of being woke, 26% said they think it is a good thing, compared to 37% who deem it a bad thing. Another third felt it was neither good nor bad.
YouGov said its research into what it means to be woke follows the term’s journey into the mainstream lexicon.
The pollster explained that the US-imported word originally referred to a need for people to “wake up to” and “stay woke to” the situation faced by black people during racial segregation.
After the word gained mainstream popularity on the other side of the Atlantic, the Oxford English Dictionary included “woke” in its 2017 update, again tracing its roots back to black American culture. YouGov noted, however, that the word has now evolved to refer to “a more general sense of awareness to social injustice against all groups.”
Indeed, YouGov’s research comes during what could be described as an ultra “woke” period in UK history as the country still grapples with its colonial past following last summer’s Black Lives Matter demonstrations, sparked by the police killing of black man George Floyd in the US.
The BLM movement also featured in YouGov’s research, with 56% of those who understand the term saying that supporting those activists was a “woke” thing to do. Another 28% felt BLM itself was not specifically woke, but that woke people might be involved in it, while just 8% said it is not woke at all.
Also very woke, according to 60% of in-the-know respondents, is supporting the removal of statues with links to historic abuses such as the slave trade – a key feature of the 2020 protests. Holding a negative view of the British Empire also falls into wokedom, 40% of respondents said.
It was not just statue-toppling protesters who were accused of trying to be woke last year, however.
The BBC also took heat for trying to alter programming to be more socially aware, including by removing British patriotic songs from the Last Night of the Proms, sparking some major anti-woke backlash.
Such antics may have informed the YouGov responses, with 34% of those who understand the term saying the public broadcaster is among the more woke news outlets. That was the same percentage of people who thought the left-leaning Guardian newspaper was woke. Only 14% of Brits overall, however, considered the BBC and Guardian to be woke.
Meanwhile, the Guardian’s more conservative counterpart, the Times, was seen as woke by only 7%, while even fewer (6%) considered the Daily Mail to be woke.