A new survey from Ipsos Mori reveals that the public in 38 countries have deeply inaccurate views about crime, terrorism and many other important social issues. And this is not just the result of random guessing – there is a systematic pattern to our errors. We tend to think things are worse than they are, and they’re going downhill fast.
The Perils of Perception study found that only 7% of people think the murder rate is lower in their country than it was in 2000 – but it is actually significantly down in most countries, and, across the countries overall, it’s down 29%.
Only 19% think deaths from terrorist attacks are lower in the past 15 years than they were in the 15 years before that – when they are also significantly down across most of these countries, and overall they are around half the level they were.
People hugely overestimate the proportion of prisoners in their countries who are immigrants: the average guess is 28% when it’s actually only 15%.
Teenage pregnancy is overestimated across the world, often by a staggering amount. Overall, the average guess is that 20% of teenage girls give birth each year when the reality is 2%. Some countries guess that around half of teenage girls give birth each year, when the highest actual figure in any country is 6.7%.