Britons Clueless About Immigration, Religion And Every Other Fact About UK Society

The Poll That Proves How Wrong Everyone Is About Everything In Britain

Everyone is wrong about almost everything, a new poll has found.

The international study by Ipsos MORI discovered that basic facts about the makeup of British society elude the general population, who tend to hugely overestimate when asked how common they think certain things are.

British people are largely clueless about immigration, teen pregnancy, the proportion of the population that is Muslim and how many of us work - and give wildly inaccurate and overblown figures for each, Ipsos MORI found in the poll of how wrong different countries were about different issues.

The poll showed British people estimate 21% of their countrymen are Muslims, while the actual figure is 5%.

Britain's ignorance of how many people are Muslim ranked against other countries, on Ipsos MORI's 'index of ignorance'

We also think 24% of people living here are immigrants. It's actually 13%.

Only 3% of girls aged 15 to 19 give birth a year. When asked for their best estimate on this, British people guessed 16%.

British people also thought:

  • The proportion of UK citizens professing to be Christians was 39%, 20% lower than the actual figure
  • That 37% of us are over-65, which would come as news to the 17% who actually are
  • Nearly a quarter, 24%, of working-age people are unemployed, which, if true, would be one of the highest in the world. It's actually 7%
  • Only 49% of people voted in the last general election. That polling station may have looked quiet, but actually 66% turned out in 2010
  • Children born in 2014 have a life expectancy of 83. It's actually 80. Better than our other guesses though, well done Britain!
  • We're also a bit better clued up about crime - 49% of Brits polled correctly said the murder rate was falling, while 25% said it was rising

Bobby Duffy, the managing director at Ipsos MORI's Social Research Institute, said: “These misperceptions present clear issues for informed public debate and policy-making. For example, public priorities may well be different if we had a clearer view of the scale of immigration and the real incidence of teenage mothers.

"People also under-estimate 'positive' behaviours like voting, which may be important if people think it is more 'normal' not to vote than it actually is."

A total of 41% of British people polled thought the level of immigration was at least twice what it actually is.

They were asked why they gave that answer, after being informed of the actual figure, and said they believed the official figure was wrong because the number of immigrants was under-counted, while nearly half said their view was based on "what I see in my local area".

Why people in Britain think immigration is higher than statistics say

...And where our ignorance of immigration ranks

Americans overestimated teen pregnancy the most, thinking 24% of 15 to 19 year old girls give birth a year. In fact, 3% was the highest figure in any of the 14 countries

But - all is not lost. The data was produced as part of the first international study to look at misperceptions of a range of issues and our woeful ignorance puts us among the "better informed" countries.

Mr Duffy added: “This is the first international study to look at these misperceptions across a range of issues and countries – and it shows the British are far from alone in being wrong. In fact we’re among the better informed countries – but there are still huge gaps between perceptions and reality on a number of key issues in Britain.”

Of the 14 countries surveyed, we're the 10th least ignorant - only the Spanish, Japanese, Germans and Swedes know their own country better than we do.

Ipsos Mori's 'Index Of Ignorance'

The most ignorant were Italians, followed by Americans, South Koreans, the Polish, Hungarians, the French, Canadians, Belgians and Australians.

No one nation was consistently the most ignorant on every subject but, in all 14 countries, people overestimated the number of immigrants and Muslims.

The biggest overestimate of the Muslim population was in France, where only 8% of people follow the faith but the poll showed people believe 31% do.

The least wrong were the Japanese, where people guessed 4% were Muslim, which, given the actual percentage is 0.1%, was roughly 4% too high.

Ipsos MORI's findings in full

Perils of Perception - Global from Ipsos MORI

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