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Social misperceptions in the UK in figures by Ipsos: how public opinion contradicts the reality

A recent study by the UK research company Ipsos MORI has shown that we perceive some common social issues like early births, aging of population, unemployment or immigration in a more negative way than things really are.

However, among 14 countries surveyed, the UK ranks 10th in the Index of ignorance, which means that the level of public perceptions accuracy is higher than in Italy, the US or South Korea—the top three countries on the list where the gaps between perceptions and reality are the the biggest.

Pic.: global Ignorance Index 2014 (based on survey of 14 countries), Ipsos MORI 2014

Pic.: global Ignorance Index 2014 (based on survey of 14 countries), Ipsos MORI 2014

The agency asked the UK respondents about eight socio-economic or cultural facts, such as: teenage maternity, adoption rates of Christianity or Islam, immigration, aging, unemployment, life expectancy, and murder rates. Here’s what they’ve found:

  • Teenage pregnancy: the British think one in six (16%) of all teenage girls aged 15-19 give birth each year, when the actual figure is only 3%.
  • Muslims and Christians: the British overestimate the proportion of Muslims in the country  assuming that one in five British people are Muslims (21%) when the actual figure is 5%. In contrast, the British underestimate the proportion of Christians thinking that 39% of the country identify themselves as Christian, compared with the actual figure of 59%.
  • Immigration: the Brits are sure that 24% of the population are immigrants—which is nearly twice the real figure of 13%.
  • Ageing population: British people think that their population is much older than it actually is—the average estimate is that 37% of the population are 65+, when it is in fact only 17%.
  • Voting: the Brits underestimate the proportion of the electorate that voted in the last general election. While the average guess is 49%, when the official percent is 66%.
  • Unemployment: British people think nearly 24% of the working age population are unemployed when the actual figure is much lower at 7%.
  • Life expectancy: the Brits overestimate the life expectancy by three years, thinking the average for a child born in 2014 will be 83 years, when the actual estimate is 80 years.
  • Murder rates are perceived the most accurately: 49% think it is falling, which is correct.
Pic.: proportion between  perceptions and actual facts — how accurate the public opinion in Britain is

Pic.: proportion between perceptions and actual facts showing the accuracy of public opinion in Britain, Ipsos MORI

The survey “Perils of Perception” was conducted by Ipsos MORI in August 2014 among 11, 527 respondents aged 18-64 from 14 countries: Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Poland, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Great Britain and the United States of America.

The full report is available at Slideshare.

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