Ipsos has released its latest Perils of Perception study.
The study is based on a survey of respondents in 33 countries with identifying key issues and features of the population in their country.
People were asked a number of questions – focusing on everything from crime to sex – and were ranked according to how close their answers are to the actual statistics.
Notably, in several countries around the world people are wrong about the scale of knife and gun crime in their country.
Although in 13 countries the majority correctly guess which is the biggest killer out of firearms, sharp objects such as knives or other physical violence, in other countries people’s perceptions don’t match what the crime statistics say.
Other countries overestimate the proportion of gun deaths, notably South Africa (where knives cause the most deaths), Netherlands and Sweden.
And even some countries where the scale of certain types of violence dwarf others, large minorities do not realise this.
For example, in the US – where firearms account for almost 70% of all deaths through interpersonal violence, only six in ten (59%) correctly identify guns as the biggest killer, and a similar pattern is seen in Columbia.
Do you think more people were killed by firearms, sharp objects such as knives or other physical violence?
Many countries correctly guess the most common cause of death through interpersonal violence, though some countries such as Great Britain, South Africa and Italy are very wrong.
53% of South Africans believe that most people are killed by firearms – but the reality is that knives make up the most (47%) deaths, with only 16% of murders attributed to guns.
What do you think the occupancy level of prisons in your country is?
People in most countries think prisons are even more crowded than they actually are. On average people think prisons are 30% over full capacity (130%) when they are 9% over capacity (109%).
Interestingly, the countries with the highest levels of overcrowding do tend to be the countries with the highest guesses.