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Everything you think you know about the news is probably wrong

An Israeli Border Policeman and a Palestinian scream at each other face to face in the Old City of Jerusalem October 13, 2000 as the Palestinian is refused entry to the al-Aqsa mosque for Friday prayers. Israeli security forces prevented thousands of Palestinians from attending Friday prayers over concern for continued unrest and clashes following the prayers due to the increased tensions and fighting in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. REUTERS/Amit Shabi
Reuters/Amit Shabi
Everybody’s wrong.
By Zach Wener-Fligner

2014-15 Fellow. Quartz Things team.

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

Around the world, people have a pretty good sense of the life expectancy of their country’s inhabitants.

When it comes to most other social statistics, they have no idea.

That’s the conclusion to be drawn from a study of public perception in 14 countries by Ipsos MORI, a UK-based market research firm. Ipsos polled over 11,000 residents in total about a range of social factors—from immigration to teen pregnancy to religious demographics. Here is the overall “Index of Ignorance,” from least to most informed:

1. Italy
2. US
3. South Korea
4. Poland
5. Hungary
6. France
7. Canada
8. Belgium
9. Australia
10. Great Britain
11. Spain
12. Japan
13. Germany
14. Sweden

And here’s how each country stacked up on the individual issues. In the charts below, the “Guess” column represents the average of answers given by those polled. The “Difference” column represents the number of percentage points by which people missed the mark, on average. The “Actual Value” column is the actual statistic for each country.

Teen pregnancy

The US has the highest rate of teen pregnancy, which might be why the country overestimates it the most.


People were prone to overestimating the number of Muslims in their country, and underestimating the number of Christians.


Every country overestimated its percentage of immigrants.


Every country underestimated the percentage of people who vote in a major election.


Everyone substantially overestimates unemployment in their country.

Life Expectancy

But people have a pretty good sense of how long their children are expected to live.

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