How NZ gets crime, immigration, unemployment & climate wrong
Crime, immigration, unemployment and climate change – how New Zealanders get it wrong: Ipsos ‘Perils of Perception’ study
Wellington, 17th December 2018 – Ipsos’ latest ‘Perils of Perception’ study shows which key facts the online public [Interviews carried out online with adults aged under 65. In countries with a low level of internet penetration, the sample will reflect a more urban, educated, and higher income profile than the general population] across 37 countries get right about their society – and which they get wrong. Now in its fifth year globally [This is the 3rd measure for New Zealand], the survey aims to highlight how we’re wired to think in certain ways and how our environment influences our (mis)perceptions.
How accurate is the New Zealand public?
• CRIME – New Zealand was among the most accurate nations when it comes to deaths by crime, with 58% correctly identifying that in New Zealand more people are killed by physical violence other than firearms or knives. We are one of 13 countries to correctly identify the greatest killer of the three and in fact had the 8th highest proportion of people correctly identifying the biggest cause of deaths from crime.
• PRISON POPULATIONS - People overestimate the scale of overcrowding in prisons in New Zealand. The average guess is that prisons are at 122% of capacity when the actual figure is 106%.
• RENEWABLE ENERGY - New Zealanders are too optimistic about the levels of energy consumed that comes from renewable sources. The average guess here is 44% when it is actually just 31%.
• TEMPERATURE CHANGE - Similarly, New Zealanders underestimate the level of temperature change over the past two decades. We think 10 of the past 18 years were the hottest on record globally when in reality it is 17.
• VACCINATIONS - New Zealanders guess that around three quarters of infants (72%) have been vaccinated against Diphtheria, Tetanus, Whooping Cough, Polio and Measles when levels are much higher at 94%.
• UNEMPLOYMENT - Levels of unemployment are hugely overestimated in New Zealand. People think that 18% of working age New Zealanders are unemployed and looking for work when the actual figure is less than a third of that (5%).
• THE ECONOMY - When it comes to gauging our economic place in the world, New Zealanders are too pessimistic, the average guess is that New Zealand has the 70th largest economy by GDP when in reality it is 51st.
• AGEING POPULATION – New Zealanders estimate that half their population (49%) will be over 65 years old in 2050 which is double the figure projected by the World Bank of 24% in New Zealand.
• IMMIGRATION - People overestimate the proportion of immigrants in New Zealand with an average guess of 32% when the actual figure is 23%.
• MUSLIMS - We are very wrong about the percentage of Muslims in New Zealand. The average guess of 11% is greater than the actual figure 1%.
Commenting on the study, Ipsos New Zealand Public Affairs Director and Head of Wellington office, Amanda Dudding, said: “Although New Zealand gets it wrong on almost every aspect of our society, either under or overestimating the actual figures, when compared to the 37 countries surveyed, we are the second most accurate. We are more pessimistic when it comes to the size of our economy, unemployment and levels of immigration.
“Ipsos’ global Perils of Perceptions study shows that, around the world, many people overestimate the real extent of some social issues, while underestimating the importance of others. Our latest research reveals that in many countries certain signal crimes really grab the public’s attention more than official statistics suggest they should. Additionally, people are perhaps too complacent when it comes to climate change and the use of renewable energy sources.
“There are many different reasons why we may be wrong about various facts of society. These can include external influences on us, such as what we hear in the media or online, but our own internal biases are just as important. These biases include our tendencies to focus more on negative stories over positive ones, to believe that things were always better in the past, to put too much emphasis on our own individual experience, and simply not being very good with numbers. The emergence of ‘fake news’ in the past couple of years makes the interpretation of what is right or wrong even more challenging at both a local and international level.
“But what is crucial to understand is that we overestimate what we worry about as much as we worry about what we overestimate - in other words, misperceptions can be a very useful pointer to people's real concerns. It also means that trying to correct misperceptions by only repeating the facts is unlikely to work - instead we need to engage with the more emotional reasons that might be driving why people are worried about a topic,” Dudding said.
In several countries around the world, people are wrong about the scale of knife and gun crime in their country. Although in 13 countries the majority correctly guess which is the biggest killer out of firearms, sharp objects such as knives or other physical violence, in other countries people’s perceptions don’t match what the crime statistics say.
New Zealand is one of those 13, with 58% correctly nominating physical violence as the biggest killer of the three. Thirteen per cent nominate guns as responsible for the most deaths and 30% think knives are responsible for the most deaths. Interestingly these results are similar to Australia where the respective figures are 59%, 10% and 30%.
New Zealand is however, more accurate, than several other countries. For example, in Great Britain, 71% of people think knives cause the most deaths, when they actually account for just 25% of all deaths by interpersonal violence. In the US – where firearms account for almost 70% of all deaths through interpersonal violence, only six in ten (59%) correctly identify guns as the biggest killer.
People in most countries think prisons are even more crowded than they actually are. On average people think prisons are 30% over full capacity (130%) when they are 9% over capacity (109%). People overestimate the scale of overcrowding in prisons in New Zealand. The average guess is that prisons are at 122% of capacity when the actual figure is 106%. Australia also overestimates prison populations thinking that they are 120% over capacity, when the actual figure is 96%.
Seventeen of the past 18 years have been the hottest since records began. However, every country in the study underestimates the global temperature rise over the past 18 years. The average estimate across the study was 9 years, which was also the figure for Australia. New Zealanders think 10 of the past 18 years were the hottest on record globally when in reality it is 17.
The majority of countries also overestimate the amount of energy used that comes from renewable sources in their country. The average guess is 26% when it’s actually only 18%. New Zealanders are too optimistic about the levels of energy consumed that comes from renewable sources. The average guess here is 44% when it is actually just 31%. Australia’s average guess was 21%, when the actual figure is 9%. Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, China and Singapore were the furthest out.
All countries in the survey underestimate the near universal level of infant vaccinations in their country. The average guess is 73% when the actual figure is 94% according to World Health Organisation (WHO) figures. New Zealanders guess that about three quarters of infants (72%) have been vaccinated, when the actual figure is 94% while in Australia, it’s 76% versus 95%.
Every country in the study heavily overestimates the proportion of people unemployed and seeking work in their country. The average guess across the study was 5 times greater than the actual (34% when in reality it is closer to 7%). New Zealanders think that 18% of working age people are unemployed and looking for work when the actual figure is less than a third of that (5%). Australia thinks 23% of its population is unemployed when the actual figure is 5%.
People tend to underestimate the size of their country’s economy relative to others. The majority of people placed their country’s GDP rank lower than the reality. The average guess is that New Zealand has the 70th largest economy by GDP when in reality it is 51st. Australians guess they have the 30th largest economy, when it actually ranks 12th.
Every country massively overestimates the levels of growth of their elderly population. Across the countries on average, people think 54% of the population will be 65+ in 2050 when in reality the projection is less than half that (25%). New Zealanders estimate that around half their population (49%) will be over 65 years old in 2050 when the actual figure is only 24%. Australia had similar figures at 51% versus 22%.
The majority of countries hugely overestimate levels of immigration; a pattern we have seen in previous studies. The average guess across 37 countries is that 28% are immigrants when the actual figure is less than half that (12%). New Zealand had an average guess of 32% when the actual figure is 23% and in Australia the figures were 41% and 29% respectively.
Nearly every country in the study also over-estimates their Muslim population by a large margin. The average guess was nearly double the actual figure (20% vs 8%). New Zealand also hugely overestimates its Muslim population saying it is 11% when the actual figure is 1% and in Australia the figures are 17% versus the 3% reality.
Looking across seven key questions where we get people to estimate factual realities, there are clear patterns in which countries have a more accurate view of their countries. To capture this, we’ve calculated the Ipsos “Misperceptions Index”, as shown in the table below.
This year Thailand receives the dubious prize of ‘least accurate’ in their perceptions, closely followed by Mexico and Turkey. Hong Kong is the most accurate, followed by New Zealand, with Sweden in third.
Misperceptions Index Rankings
|Hong Kong||37||Most accurate|
Notes to Editors:
These are the findings of the Ipsos MORI Perils of Perception Survey 2018. 28,115 interviews were conducted between 28th September – 16th October 2018.
The survey is conducted in 37 countries around the world, via the Ipsos Online Panel system in Argentina, New Zealand, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hong Kong (SAR, China), Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey and the USA. The following countries used either online or face-to-face methodologies: Montenegro, Serbia.
Approximately 1000 individuals aged 16-64 or 18-64 were surveyed in Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Mexico, Montenegro, Serbia, Singapore, Spain and the USA. Approximately 2000 individuals aged 16-64 were surveyed in Japan. Approximately 500 individuals aged 16-64 were surveyed in Argentina, Belgium, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Hungary, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, Poland, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand and Turkey.
21 of the 37 countries surveyed online generate nationally representative samples in their countries (Argentina, New Zealand, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hong Kong (SAR, China), Hungary, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Poland, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and United States).
Brazil, Columbia, China, Chile, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, South Africa, Thailand and Turkey produce a national sample that is more urban & educated, and with higher incomes than their fellow citizens. We refer to these respondents as “Upper Deck Consumer Citizens”. They are not nationally representative of their country.
The “actual” data for each question is taken from a variety of verified sources. A full list of sources/links to the actual data can be found at https://perils.ipsos.com/.
Where results do not sum to 100 or the ‘difference’ appears to be+-1 more/less than the actual, this may be due to rounding, multiple responses or the exclusion of don't knows or not stated responses.
Data are weighted to match the profile of the population.