Monday 7 December 2015

Things we know that ain't so

Today's Herald highlights public ignorance of basic policy facts.

Before you read any farther, go and take the Herald's quiz to see how well you do.

Here are the main errors (but don't read this part 'till you've gone and done the quiz yourself) where those choosing the wrong answer were in the majority.

  • Overestimating Kiwis' average age (66% chose the answer that was 7 years too old).
  • Underestimating the percentage of MPs who are female (70% chose the answer that was 7 percentage points too low).
  • Underestimating female labour force participation rates (55% chose the answer that was 12 percentage points too low).
But there were other interesting failures. 41% of respondents believed that New Zealand's wealthiest 1% own 50% of the country's wealth - that's a figure that's roughly right for the top 10%, but not the top 1%. And it also ignores that those with a lot of student debt (and consequently negative wealth) have huge human capital that offsets things.

Update: Ipsos summarises this one nicely:
Looking across the 33 countries included, many are even more wrong ...
  1. The top 1%: most developed countries greatly overestimate the proportion of adult wealth the wealthiest 1% in their country own. Britain is the most inaccurate (estimating it to be 59%, over twice the real figure of 23%), but France, Australia, Belgium, New Zealand and Canada are all at least 30 percentage points out of line. A few countries, though, underestimate how much of their country’s wealth is concentrated in the hands of the top 1% - Peru, India, Israel, Brazil and Russia (where the top 1% actually own an incredible 70% of all wealth). There is a lot of variation between the countries on what they think the figure should be, though most of them think it should be lower than it really is – with Russia again standing out as having the highest gap between the amount of wealth they think the top 1% should acceptably own (23%) and the true figure (70%).
Wow. You'd almost think there were some kind of coordinated international effort in OECD countries to fuel overestimation of the amount of wealth held by the richest.  

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