NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Quick, answer this: Do you think the murder rate is rising in America? True, false or you don't know. If you said rising, you're wrong. But don't feel bad. Nearly half (49%) of the people from around the globe who answered the question got it wrong. In all countries where the poll was taken, murder rates are actually falling. Only 27% answered correctly.
A 14-country survey by the Ipsos MORI Social Research Institute has determined the extent to which perceptions are not reality. Rather bluntly named the "Index of Ignorance," you may be pleased to learn that the United States did not top the list. Italy did. But we ranked second, edging out South Korea, Poland and Hungary in the top five. Of the countries surveyed, Sweden is home to the most informed, followed by Germany, Japan, Spain and Great Britain.
Americans got a lot of the questions wrong, big time. We topped the list of the unknowing for this one: "In your opinion, what percentage of girls aged between 15 and 19 give birth each year in the U.S.?" We were way off in our guess on this one, but we won't tell you the answer so that you can take the quiz.
The questions we got right -- or at least were close to being correct – were: "Out of 100 people in the U.S., how many do you think are Christian?" and "Out of 100 eligible voters, how many do you think voted in the last election?"
“This is the first international study to look at these misperceptions across a range of issues and countries – and it shows the British are far from alone in being wrong," said Bobby Duffy, managing director of the UK-based Ipsos MORI Social Research Institute. "In fact we’re among the better informed countries – but there are still huge gaps between perceptions and reality on a number of key issues in Britain.”
Britain ranked fifth-most knowledgeable in the survey.
“These misperceptions present clear issues for informed public debate and policy-making," Duffy added. "For example, public priorities may well be different if we had a clearer view of the scale of immigration and the real incidence of teenage mothers. People also under-estimate 'positive' behaviors like voting, which may be important if people think it is more 'normal' not to vote than it actually is."
Brave enough to see if you're smarter than a Swede?Take the test here.
Hal M. Bundrick is a Certified Financial Planner and contributor to MainStreet. Follow him on Twitter: @HalMBundrick