Ipsos’ latest Perils of Perception survey highlights how wrong the public across 40 countries are about key global issues and features of the population in their country. The Philippines is the 16th least accurate of 40 countries, based on Ipsos’ “Index of Ignorance” based on five questions on factual realities.
The Philippines gets some things very wrong and a few things right:
1. Like most other countries, we over-estimate the Muslim population, evenness of wealth distribution, and health spend; and under-estimate our level of happiness as a people.
- Current Muslim population: we hugely overestimate the proportion of Muslims in the Filipino population – we think that 2 in 9 Filipinos (or 23%) are Muslim, when actually just around 1 in 20 (5.5%) are.
- Future Muslim population: we also think that the Muslim population is growing to a much greater extent than it actually is. We think that 27% of our population will be Muslim by 2020, when projections from the Pew Research Center suggest Muslims will only make up around 5.7% of the Filipino population by then.
- Health spending: we are way out on how much as we actually spend on our health. We think we spend 24% of our total GDP on health expenditure (including public and private healthcare), when in fact we only spend 5%.
- Happiness: we think our fellow Filipinos are much more miserable than surveys of happiness show. We guess that only 58% of Filipinos would say they are very or rather happy, when actually 89% say they are.
- Home-owners: we are closer on the extent of home ownership, but still not quite right. We think under half (41%) of households in the Philippines own their own home, when in fact 55% do.
2. Meanwhile, we think Filipinos are more tolerant or more liberated than they actually are, when it comes to sexuality and abortion – quite the reverse for most Western countries.
- Homosexuality: we think people are rather more accepting of homosexuality than they actually report in surveys. We think that only 54% would find homosexuality morally unacceptable, when 65% actually say that.
- Sex before marriage: we also think that more people find premarital sex morally acceptable – we think that only 55% of the population find it morally unacceptable when in fact 71% do.
- Abortion: we also think less people are anti-abortion than there actually are – we think that 74% find abortion morally unacceptable, when 93% say they do (the highest anti-abortion figure for all the countries studied, based on Pew Research Center data).
3. Like most other countries, we get our population figures quite right.
- Current population: we’re pretty accurate on how large our population is in the Philippines – our average guess is 100 million and the actual population is around 100.98 million.
- Future population: we’re also unusually good at guessing our future population. We asked people what the population of their countries would be by 2050, to compare with UN projections – and the Philippines is one of a very few countries that guessed almost exactly right, at 148 million.
Bobby Duffy, Managing Director of Ipsos MORI Social Research Institute, London, said: “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.”
“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. In many countries, particularly in the West, we have a picture of our population that is unduly miserable and intolerant.”
“This is important: we know what people think of as the norm is important in affecting their own views and behaviours.”
“We also get facts wrong that will make us focus on some issues more than they perhaps deserve: for example, we tend to think our populations are much less likely to own their own home than they actually are. 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 these errors – from our struggle with simple maths and proportions, to media coverage of issues, to social psychology explanations of our mental shortcuts or biases.”
“It is also clear from our ‘Index of Ignorance’ that the countries who tend to do worst have relatively low internet penetrations: 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.”
“The survey also reinforces why ‘post-truth’ is the word of the year – and not just in Britain: ‘postfaktisch’ is the (more Orwellian sounding) German word of the year. Post-truth is defined by Oxford Dictionaries as circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief. And this is exactly the explanation for many of the patterns we see in our study.”
“We suffer from what social psychologists call ‘emotional innumeracy’ when estimating realities: this means we are sending a message about what’s worrying us as much as trying to get the right answers. Cause and effect run both ways, with our concern leading to our misperceptions as much as our misperceptions creating our concern. ”