Brits 'wrong on immigration data'

12 Jul 2013 | Posted by Carl Thomas


British people have been shown to have opinions on a number of important matters that are rather far removed from the truth.

Research conducted by Ipsos Mori through a phone survey of 1,015 people aged between 16 and 75 looked at ten of the biggest misconceptions held by the British nation, one of which is the public's perception of UK immigration figures.

According to the research, of those surveyed, 31 per cent was the average figure cited as the percentage of the UK population that consists of recent migrants. The actual figure is less than half this at just 13 per cent. Even when illegal immigrants are included in the accurate data the figure only rises to 15 per cent.

Ethnicity was also shown to be a popular misconception with black and Asian people thought to make up some 30 per cent of the population, when the actual figure is around 11 per cent.

Among the other areas the study looked into were benefit fraud, teen pregnancy rates, crime and foreign aid. There was an overall trend for people to sensationalise an issue with many exaggerating perceived problems.

Hetan Shah, executive director of the Royal Statistical Society, commented on the research suggesting that the government and education system have a responsibility to present the public with the accurate information in future.

He said: "Our data poses real challenges for policymakers. How can you develop good policy when public perceptions can be so out of kilter with the evidence?

"We need to see three things happen. First, politicians need to be better at talking about the real state of affairs of the country, rather than spinning the numbers. Secondly, the media has to try and genuinely illuminate issues, rather than use statistics to sensationalise."

Mr Shah cited "better teaching of statistical literacy in schools" as the third factor in improving people's awareness of the facts.