Study: The U.S. Is One of the Most “Ignorant” Countries

Ipsos MORI Perils of Perception Survey highlight how wrong the U.S. and 39 countries are on their perceptions.

How ignorant do you think you are? How congruent are your perceptions with reality? The Ipsos MORI Perils of Perception survey 2016 sought the answer to this question by asking respondents from 40 countries specific questions touching on religion, moral issues, and wealth.

Study: The U.S. Is One of the Most “Ignorant” Countries[/tweetthis]

27,250 interviews were conducted between September 22 and November 6, 2016 in 40 countries. Approximately 1,000+ individuals aged 16-64 or 18-64 were surveyed in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Spain, U.S.A., and approximately 500 individuals aged 18-64 were surveyed Czech Republic, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Serbia. Approximately 500+ individuals aged 16-64 or 18-64 were surveyed in the remaining countries.

The study revealed insights into the perceptions versus reality dichotomy that exists in the U.S.A. and in the rest of the world, particularly touching on religious matters. For instance, Americans are guilty of grossly overestimating the number of Muslims in the country. In the survey, respondents estimated that 1 in 6 people are Muslim, translating to 17 percent of the country’s population. However, only 1 in 100 people are Muslim, which means that respondents were off the mark, more than the other 39 countries that featured in the survey.

When asked to estimate the size of the Muslim population in their respective countries in 2020, respondents also missed the mark by a wide margin. Americans think 23 percent of our population will be Muslim by 2020, when projections from the Pew Research Center suggest Muslims will only make up around 1.1 percent of the population by then. Other countries hugely overestimate the levels of growth in Muslim populations over the next four years. The average guess in France is that 40 percent of the population will be Muslim in 2020 when the actual projection is 8.3 percent (an increase of just 0.8 percent from the current level of 7.5 percent). Belgium, Germany and Italy, also overestimate the growth in their Muslim population.

Many countries over-estimate their Muslim population. In France, the average guess is that 31 percent of the population is Muslim when it is 7.5 percent. Belgium, Germany and Italy the guesses are way off. Both the U.S. and Canada are off the mark guessing 17 percent against actual figures of 1 percent and 3.2 percent respectively.

Countries with high Muslim populations underestimate such as Turkey estimated 81 percent when the actual Muslim population is 98 percent.

In other areas of the survey, it turns out that people are often wrong on how acceptable their fellow citizens find homosexuality and pre-marital sex with citizens all over the world being more tolerant than was guessed. All countries also think that their population is less happy than they are. Finally, most countries believe wealth is more evenly distributed than it is.

The Ipsos Perils of Perception survey shows that the United States was ranked #5 in the “Index of Ignorance”, while Netherlands and Great Britain are amongst the most accurate countries.


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