INDIA ranked first in terms of ignorance this year, according to a survey released this month, but shares the top 10 with other major world economies like the U.S. (fifth place) and China (2nd place).
Also in top 10, according to the study titled ‘Perils of Perception 2016’ by Ipsos Mori Social Research Institute, are India’s other Asian neighbours such as Taiwan (3rd), Thailand (7th), Singapore (8th) and Indonesia (10th).
The London-based global market research firm said Indian citizens received the “dubious honour” of being the most inaccurate in their perceptions on a host of issues, including politics, health, religion, and sexuality, among others.
Published Dec 14, the study examines how wrong the public across 40 countries are about a number of key global issues, as well as the features of the population in their country.
Among the key patterns highlighted in the study, Ipsos found that most countries thought their population to be much more Muslim than they actually are – and that the Muslim population is increasing at an incredible rate.
It also found that “all countries think their population is less happy than they actually say they are” and that nearly all countries think wealth is more evenly distributed that it actually is.
“Across all 40 countries in the study, each population gets a lot wrong. We are often most incorrect on factors that are widely discussed in the media, such as the proportion of our population that are Muslims and wealth inequality.
“We know from previous studies that this is partly because we over-estimate what we worry about,” said Bobby Duffy, Ipsos managing director.
“But in this new study we also show that we’re often unduly pessimistic about how happy people are and our tolerance on controversial issues such as homosexuality, sex before marriage and abortion.”
Duffy added that from its research, Ipsos found that many countries, particularly in the West, view their population as unduly miserable and intolerant.
“This is important,” he pointed out. “We know what people think of as the norm us important in affecting their own views and behaviours.”
These factual misunderstandings, he said, would lead to populations paying unnecessary attention to issues that do not deserve that much focus.
“For example, we tend to think our populations are much less likely to own their own home than they actually are,” he said.
“In many countries we have received the message loud and clear that pressure on housing and affordability are serious issues, but we’ve underestimated how many still own their home.”
There are multiple reasons for such errors, Duffy added.
Among them are the public’s failure to understand simple mathematical equations and proportions, or media coverage of certain issues. Some misunderstandings or false perceptions are also fuelled by explanations in social psychology of biases or mental shortcuts, which tend to generalise or over-simplify human characteristics.
Another significant finding, Duffy said, is that those countries that fared poorly on the index have relatively low Internet penetration.
“Given this is an online survey, this will reflect the fact that this more middle-class and connected population think the rest of their countries are more like them than they really are,” he said.
The Perils of Perception survey involved interviews with 27,250 respondents from 40 countries conducted between Sept 22 and Nov 6 this year.
Approximately 1,000 individuals aged 16-64 or 18-64 were surveyed in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Spain, USA, and approximately 800 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.