Half of the people in England would rather the English football team won the World Cup than Scotland remain part of the United Kingdom, according to an exclusive Huffington Post UK poll published on Thursday.
The Survation survey, conducted for HuffPost UK to mark the start of the tournament in Brazil today, revealed the English are evenly split, 50-50, when forced to choose between the two agonising options.
Those polled were asked to pick which of the following options they would prefer: "England's football team wins the World Cup in July?" or "Scotland votes in September to remain part of the United Kingdom and preserves the Union?".
The poll findings reveal that despite the warnings from London that the break-up of the UK would be bad for the English as well as the Scots, half of those asked on Wednesday are more concerned about how Roy Hodgson will manage England's opening game against Italy on Saturday than whether Alex Salmond will be the first coach of an independent Scotland after the referendum on 18 September.
The survey also appeared to confirm gender stereotypes about football fans. A majority of English men, by a clear margin of 53.6% to 46.4%, would rather see Steven Gerrard lift the Fifa World Cup Trophy in Rio de Janeiro on July 13 than see Scotland remain part of the UK.
However, English women by contrast would prefer to see the 300-year-old United Kingdom remain intact by a margin of 53.5% to 46.5%.
There are also age and regional variations in the results of the HuffPost UK/Survation poll. Of those people who were alive to watch when England last won the World Cup, 54.1% would rather see England get knocked out of the tournament than wave goodbye to Scotland.
Damian Lyons Lowe, chief executive of Survation, which conducted the poll of 1,019 English adults, observed: "Interestingly, the group who are old enough to actually remember the legendary 1966 World Cup victory (those aged over 55) are the most likely to want the United Kingdom to remain whole in this forced choice."
The poll also revealed that the closer the resident of England is to the Scottish border, the happier they are to see the back of the Scots.
A majority of people in the Midlands (50.9%) and North (55.3%) of England would prefer to see the World Cup trophy brought home next month. However, only a minority of those in the South of England (46.8%) would rather see an England football victory than see the UK remain intact and united.
Yet given the football fever that will no doubt grip the nation if England progress into the knock-out stages, and the indifference with which Scottish politics is often viewed by the English, the poll may actually suggest deeper affection for the Scots than might be expected.
Lyons Lowe said: "Despite what is now '48 years of hurt' our poll today for the Huffington Post shows that even when presented with a forced choice of either the current England team winning this year's World Cup or instead Scotland remaining in the UK after the Independence Referendum, English people are still unable to be enticed to choose the former," he said.
"Given the enticement of a once-in-half-a-century opportunity for England's football team to win the title, only half of English people told us they'd rather the union stayed together."
An England World Cup win may have an impact on the Scottish independence vote. It has been suggested that the outpouring of English national pride that would follow England 'bringing football home' might irritate enough Scots to push them towards the exit door.
Not that half the English appear to care.Suggest a correction