New Survey Reveals Americans' Biggest Misconceptions — Money and Immigrants

Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

Americans, on average, believe there are more than double the immigrants in the United States than there actually are, according to an Ipsos Mori survey. Respondents guessed 33% of America's population is comprised of immigrants. The actual figure — 14%. 

It's one of the many findings in the Perils of Perception 2015 report, which surveyed people in 33 countries, asking them about everything from money to religion. Researchers Bobby Duffy and James Stannard surveyed people from Oct. 1 to Oct. 18 and published their findings Wednesday. 

The purpose of the survey is to identify the most common misconceptions and "encourage debate with policymakers, academics and the public on key social realities and public misperceptions," according to the report.

Another subject the American public appears to be grossly miseducated on is religion. Most guessed nonreligious people — i.e. "atheists, agnostics and those who say they do not identify with any religion" — account for 40% of the U.S. population, when in actuality the godless or the questioning account for only 16%.

And most developed countries vastly overestimated the proportion of household wealth owned by the top wealthiest 1%. The majority of people guessed 57% in America, while the accurate number is actually 37%. And when Americans were asked what percentage of wealth the top 1% should own, their answer was much more in line with reality: 27%.

Residents of the United Kingdom were the furthest when it came to missing the mark on wealth. "The average guess [in the U.K.] is 59%, when the actual figure is 23%. In fact, Britain is the most wrong on this out of any of the 33 countries included in the study. And when asked what percent they think the wealthiest 1% should own, the public say on average 20%, only slightly below the actual figure," states the analysis.

There is another misconception across the board and a potentially dangerous one, at that. "Nearly every country we surveyed underestimates how much of a problem weight is in their country," Ipsos Mori explains. "The average guess for the proportion of overweight or obese people is 40%, which is much lower than the actual figure of 54%."

If nothing else, the survey reveals crucial social and political issues — from finance to health to immigration — are misunderstood by a substantial proportion of people across the globe. Not only does this invariably have influence within a country, but when it comes to hegemonic powers like the United States, the implications are likely to be far-reaching. 

For those who seek validation or are competitive, take the survey below (and now that you know the answers, you'd better get an A):

The good news, however, is there's a quick fix to our collective ignorance like never before: Google. 

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Natasha Noman

Natasha is a News Staff Writer covering global affairs. She previously reported on regional affairs from Pakistan. Natasha is based in New York and can be reached at natasha@mic.com.

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