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New statistics contained in a study recently conducted by Ipsos MORI suggest that the British population is ill educated on facts surrounding British society, particularly immigration issues. The international study was conducted in multiple countries to gauge the perceptions of those living there on issues surrounding immigration, the percentage of Muslim residents and wider issues such as unemployment rates. The so-called ‘index of ignorance’ that has been put together ranks Britain as 10th overall in terms of the inaccuracy of guesses surrounding these issues, some of which were as high as double the actual figure.
The poll found that British people thought that 24% of people who are currently living here are immigrants, whilst the actual figure is much lower at 13%. In addition, the general public estimated that 21% of people residing in Britain were of the Muslim faith. In actual fact, this statistic is a mere 5% of the population. The inaccuracy of these estimates saw Great Britain placed at joint 4th position in both the index of immigration estimates and the index of Muslim population estimates. When compared to the overall scoring of 10th place when incorporating wider issues within society, such as estimates of teenage pregnancy numbers, the question then arose as to where such a strong misperception of immigration numbers had originated.
Those Britons who overestimated the immigration and Muslim population figures by twice the amount or more (which was a massive 41% of people polled) were then asked where their perceptions had come from. The majority of people said that they had overestimated the figure because they believed there were more immigrants entering the country illegally that had not been accounted for in the official figures. Almost half of people also stated that they still believed the number to be much higher than the figure presented to them when they were told the actual statistics.
What was relatively shocking about the answers that respondents were giving was the worrying level of people who suggested that their misconceptions around immigration and Muslim residents had originated from information seen on television or in newspapers. These figures were scarily high at 21% for TV and 19% for newspapers, which presents obvious issues around how immigration is being presented to the public in popular media outlets. In terms of public debate and policy-making the managing director of Ipsos MORI’s Social Research Institute, Bobby Duffy, whose team conducted the study, said that he believed public priorities would be different if the accurate statistics were more widely known to the British people.
It is, perhaps, worth noting that all countries in the poll overestimated their immigration figures, as well as their country’s Muslim population. The most inaccurate guesses in this respect came from the Italians, Americans, Belgians and French respondents, whilst the closest estimates came from Australia, Sweden, South Korea and Japan. The full index of ignorance figures can be seen on the Huffington Post website.
If you would like to learn more about the actual immigration figures for the UK, or have any questions surrounding the study, contact one of our immigration experts for further information.