How can wanting to learn more possibly be demonized? Would we rather have a situation where a big influential vote affecting the future of an entire nation comes up and no one does any research about it?
Young students are a group who may likely search for this information after the vote when it had a major impact on their country as before the vote it wasn't necessarily important for them to have detailed knowledge about it.
I'd hope we would never penalize someone for trying to get background information, no matter how "simple", before making an important decision, regardless of whether they're a student or an adult.
To an even broader point, imposter syndrome is hard enough when you just feel like you're behind on your fundamentals, let alone when you are actually behind on your fundamentals. Improving yourself should never be stigmatized.
Concluding that people probably know what the EU is while searching very specifically using the phrase "What is the EU" is no more accurate or truthful than concluding that they don't know what the EU is.
The author says at one point, "perhaps we can more likely conclude". Perhaps we can. But perhaps we shouldn't make any conclusions and just stick to the thesis that the press should know better when reporting facts?
The less clueless-sounding queries have spikes on Google Trends that appear very correlated with the "who is"/"what is" spikes, for what it's worth.
I didn't know how exit would happen via "Article 50", so I couldn't search for that term.
This election cycle has demonstrated that Google is acting politically, not a neutral repository with great search tools.
Funny enough, that's exactly what happens in the US though...
The key there is that the research is happening after the vote. They story being told about searches is wrong, but if it was true it would be notable.