People in Italy are the most wrong on facts about their society

How wrong are people about key social realities in their country? An Ipsos study has some answers.

The Perils of Perception – Why We’re Wrong About Nearly Everything is an Ipsos study released in a book by Bobby Duffy on 6 September on how wrong people were about key social realities in their country from 2014 to 2017. This work is part of a larger project run in 40 countries.

The study was run across 13 countries: Italy, France, Belgium, Spain, Poland, United Kingdom, Germany, and Sweden (in Europe), and the US, Japan, South Korea, Canada, and Australia.

The survey is based on 50,000 interviews and 28 questions on issues like immigration levels, crime rates, teenage pregnancy, obesity levels, how happy people are, unemployment rates, smartphone ownership, and many other social realities.

According to the survey, Italians are very wrong about many aspects of their society, for example: “Italians guessed that 49 percent of working-age Italians were unemployed, when in reality it was 12 percent”, they also thought that “30 percent of their country were immigrants, when actual figures were 7 percent”.

Swedes are at the opposite side of the ranking: “for example, the Swedish guessed that 32 percent of prisoners in Sweden were immigrants, when the actual figure was 31 percent”.

“Why is Italy much worse at guessing these facts than Sweden? We’ve looked at many possible explanations in the book, everything from the education system, to the nature of media and politics, levels of trust and attitudes to government. And one of the very few factors that seems to be associated is how ‘emotionally expressive’ the country is – that is whether people in the country tend to argue loudly, touch each other and laugh a lot”.

“This may seem a bit strange, but we need to remember that our guesses at these questions are partly emotional – they send a message about what’s worrying us. If immigration is a big concern, we automatically pick a big number, even if in reality immigration levels are much lower. Our misperceptions are about our emotions as much as our ignorance of the facts, and therefore it’s not that surprising that emotionally expressive countries have more exaggerated guesses”, explained Bobby Duffy.