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Understanding Society: The Perils of Perception

July 2015

Understanding Society: The Perils of Perception
Welcome to the latest edition of the Ipsos MORI Social Research Institute’s Understanding Society. This issue explores the challenges associated with measuring and understanding the way people think and act.

Our global study highlights that people are often wrong about the make-up of their population and the scale of key social issues. We consider possible explanations for the gap between perceptions and reality, alongside perspectives from Ipsos colleagues in Italy and Sweden – the two countries that came top and bottom of our "Index of Ignorance" respectively.

To explore misperceptions further, we are delighted to have contributions from Professor Ilya Somin of George Mason University, a leading thinker on the implications of voter ignorance. Mark Earls, author of several books on understanding human behaviour, argues that borrowed opinions are central to human life and help explain why people believe what they do.

We examine some of the ways we handle the perils of polling, particularly in accurately predicting voter turnout. We also explore the external threats that people worry about and whether they should be our biggest concerns. Finally, we look at the impact of real shifts in public perceptions by examining how the European Union is viewed by its citizens.

We hope you enjoy this edition, and if you would like to discuss any of the issues it raises, then please get in touch. 
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Bobby Duffy
Bobby Duffy

Managing Director, Social Research Institute

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Daniel Cameron
Daniel Cameron

Research Director

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