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Discrepancy between public perception and facts.

(22 Posts)
varian Thu 31-May-18 16:53:39

In most political discussions people make statements about statistics which they think back up their argument, yet so often there is a discrepancy between the figures quoted, which may be based on personal experience or may be gleaned from the media, and the true facts.

For instance many people believe that whereas migrants from other EU countries are of working age and come to the UK to "steal our jobs" or "live on benefits", British people living in other EU countries are nearly all retired.
This is untrue.

The majority of British migrants living in Europe are of working age, even in Spain, the most popular EU country for UK citizens to settle in, new figures show.

The Office for National Statistics data contradicts the widely held belief that most Britons in Europe are pensioners sunning themselves in southern France or Spain. ONS figures show two-thirds of the 784,900 British citizens recorded as long-term residents in the EU, excluding the UK and Ireland, are aged between 15 and 64 and more of them live in Spain than any other country.

Bridgeit Thu 31-May-18 16:59:44

Yes you are right,I think many of us get a glimpse of headlines & don’t look any further than the usually inflammatory suggestion.
More often than not the headlines have little bearing on the facts.

varian Thu 31-May-18 17:02:42

Here is another quite startling example of how far out people's guesses can be.

In December 2017 the Royal Statistical Society (RSS) released their ‘UK Statistic of the Year’. The statistic was 0.1%, the proportion of land area in the UK which is densely built up.

Following on from this, Ipsos MORI asked the British public what percentage of land in the UK they think is densely built up. The findings show the public hugely overestimate the figure with a mean guess of 47%.

Bobby Duffy, Managing Director of Ipsos MORI Social Research Institute, London, said:

People are way out in their estimate of how much of the country is densely built up, thinking around half the country is when actually on 0.1% is. This will partly reflect the way we live – the majority of people live and spend their time in built-up areas and this will make up most of their mental image of the country.

MaizieD Thu 31-May-18 17:31:24

From 2013:

A new survey for the Royal Statistical Society and King's College London shows public opinion is repeatedly off the mark on issues including crime, benefit fraud and immigration.

The research, carried out by Ipsos Mori from a phone survey of 1,015 people aged 16 to 75, lists ten misconceptions held by the British public.

In view of views being expressed on another thread I think this one is particularly pertinent:

Among the other surprising figures are that 26 per cent of people think foreign aid is in the top three items the Government spends money on (it actually makes up just 1.1 per cent of expenditure),

M0nica Thu 31-May-18 17:31:24

The same happened when people were asked about what proportion of the population were born outside the UK and had migrated here. Many people thought as many as 50% of the population were migrants. It is in fact just under 15% and the majority are from the EU.

Again it is the fact that so many people live in urban areas that leads to the over estimation. Migrants tend to move toand stay in big towns and cities.

Jalima1108 Thu 31-May-18 17:32:44

I think I posted on another thread that about 60% of land in the UK is farmland and only around 6% is built on (including roads etc, not just housing), as someone was under the impression that farmland is being taken over for housing.

My figures may not be totally accurate but it does give an indication of how little is actually built-on environment.

MawBroon Thu 31-May-18 17:44:44

I have always enjoyed the informed common sense of economist Tim Harford in his programme “More or Less” on Radio 4 in which he picks apart the sort of statistics featuring in headlines and generally debunks them
I have before now been irritated by or even despaired at the sort of thread on GN where pearls are clutched at misconceptions or misleading headline figures.
We should always check the facts whatever the source (Fox News, Guardian or DM as we all know the bias of the popular press and it is a given that most of them “never let the facts get in the way of a good story”.

varian Thu 31-May-18 18:06:59

"More or Less" is one of my favourite programmes, too, Maw. If I was in charge I would make it compulsary listening as part of a good education, -that and a basic course in statistics.

I think that English education (as opposed to Scottish), ends up dividing children into arts or science streams too early, and as a result many journalists are functionally inummerate.

Maggiemaybe Thu 31-May-18 18:09:04

Just because people are below the state pension age doesn't mean they're working or looking for work though. The vast majority of British people living in Spain are over 50, and many will have retired from the workforce early. Also, so many WASPI women like me are not working, or at least not for pay, but are technically not pensioners until we're 66. It'd be interesting to know how many are actually still working, rather than of working age.

varian Thu 31-May-18 18:18:25

I don't know the answer to that Maggie but it might be no different from the numbers under retiring age in the UK who are not employed for one reason or another.

One example of a pensioner living in another EU country who certainly should be put out to grass is the climate change denier, arch brexiteer and utter hypocrite Nigel Lawson, who lives in France.

Nigel Lawson, a former chair of the Vote Leave campaign during the EU referendum and one of tens of thousands of Britons living in France, is to apply for his official French residency card.

The former chancellor said he had started the process of applying for one of the cards, known as a carte de séjour, which British expatriates are being encouraged to obtain to help bolster their rights after the UK withdraws from the EU, but added that he was “not particularly worried”.

Lord Lawson was speaking to the Connexion, a newspaper for the English-speaking community in France, which asked him if he was concerned about the impact of EU immigration controls. European officials have warned that Britain’s new blue passports could lead to travel delays and extra paperwork rather than the enhanced freedom promised by the government.

He replied: “I’m not particularly familiar with it, but as I live in France I’m not concerned. There may be a few bureaucratic hoops to be gone through, which are tiresome, but I don’t think it’s a serious problem.

varian Sun 03-Jun-18 17:15:00

Why is it that some people prefer to believe lies than true facts? Simon Wren-Lewis, Emeritus Professor of Economics and Fellow of Merton College, University of Oxford, addresses the persuasive power of the UK right wing press-_

"Despite its falling readership, this press still also has considerable influence over the broadcast media's agenda. So when certain journalists call Corbyn’s response to these smears creepy and disturbing, this is the context in which to view such comments. To say it suggests an attack on our free press is nonsense, because the predominantly right wing press in the UK is not in any meaningful sense free. That these papers are owned by extremely wealthy people who can dictate these paper's political agenda seriously distorts democracy. It also means this press has considerable power over the government. The UK press will not be reformed under a Tory government: Leveson 2 has been shelved.

Those who want to go back to a world without Brexit and Trump have to ask why Brexit and Trump happened. There is no point treating the symptoms and not the disease. A key part of the reason we have Trump and today's Republican party in the US is Fox News, and a key reason we have Brexit in the UK and ministers calling the leader of the opposition a traitor is the right wing press.

GillT57 Sun 03-Jun-18 17:27:24

Some very interesting points here, and I agree about the More or Less programme, I wish more people would listen to it. His debunking of the myths of how much the EU was costing the UK was very interesting and should have been compulsory listening before the vote. It is also acknowledged ( will try to find a link, in case nobody believes me!) that the fear of crime does more harm to a community than crime itself. On our local village hub there was a post from someone saying that she had called the Police because somebody had knocked on her door at 10pm and she was was pointed out by a few brave souls that she could have checked without putting herself in danger, it could have been a neighbour needing medical help, someone reporting an injured cat, anything, but the poster and most of the others ( agree, hun) seemed convinced that it was an axe murderer and that she had done the right thing.

M0nica Sun 03-Jun-18 17:27:56

Jalima, ah, yes, but! In total only 1% of the UK is built on, but that includes vast acreages that are unsuited for agriculture and are generally in less well populated parts of the country - moor and mountain areas, mainly in the north of England and Scotland.

The main areas of population are around large towns and cities, that for historic reasons are mainly in agriculturally productive land. So, of the amount of green field land currently being developed for all sorts of uses, housing and industry, a disproportionate amount is good quality farmland .

varian Sun 03-Jun-18 18:13:08

In December 2017 the Royal Statistical Society (RSS) released their ‘UK Statistic of the Year’. The statistic was 0.1%, the proportion of land area in the UK which is densely built up.- 0.1%, not 1%.

However it is true that there are vast tracts of land which are less suitable for development and it makes sense to redevelop "brownfield sites" rather than agricultural land. These are often more expensive to develop, because of the need for decontamination, so perhaps more incentives should be offered.

Jalima1108 Sun 03-Jun-18 18:47:31

densely built up
I don't live where the housing is dense and there are many villages around here - but it is still built on and there are roads leading to these small towns and villages which is counted as 'built on environment'.

It is still a very small proportion of the land mass.

I agree about using infill and brownfield sites varian.

It's pointless taking farm land for building houses because, the more the population increases, the more food we need to produce.

M0nica Mon 04-Jun-18 08:38:02

Not every area has brown field sites that can be developed. If you live in a previously predominantly rural county like Oxfordshire, with no large comurbations and no dead or dying land-hungry industries, the majority of brown field sites are small and can only cope with a fraction of the new housing required. There are also extensive areas of offices, industrial sites and warehousing being built.

With few exceptions all the new building in this county is going on what was, until very recently, productive agricultural land. The same applies to Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, both counties I am familiar with.

There may be huge areas of brown field sites and moor and waste in the north of the country, but this is not where the pressure for new housing and industrial sites is.

varian Mon 04-Jun-18 14:01:21

It is the concentration of wealth and opportunity in certain parts of the UK at the expense of everywhere else that contributes to the widening gap between facts and perception on topics like immigration, which the right wing tabloids have fuelled for their own ends.

varian Thu 07-Jun-18 22:41:37

This article was published in 2014 and reveals a startling level of misconception about population statistics, not just in the UK but elsewhere. Looking back we can see how these exaggerated estimates could well have distorted public opinion and voting patterns.

"Most people around the world are pretty bad when it comes to knowing the numbers behind the news. But how issues such as immigration are perceived can shape political opinion and promote misconceptions. The actual percentage of Muslims in the UK is 5%, but those surveyed by Ipsos Mori said they thought it was 21%. Britons meanwhile underestimate the proportion of Christians, believing it is 39% when the correct figure is 59%."

varian Thu 14-Jun-18 10:38:47

Children and young people today are growing up in a globalised world and are processing information from a wider variety of sources than ever before. They need the critical literacy skills to navigate the potential pitfalls when consuming news, particularly when using online sources and social media.

But the final report from the Commission on Fake News and the Teaching of Critical Literacy Skills in Schools, published on 13 June 2018, found that only 2% of children and young people in the UK have the critical literacy skills they need to tell if a news story is real or fake. It also found that almost two-thirds of teachers believe fake news is harming children’s well-being by increasing levels of anxiety, damaging their self-esteem and skewing their world view.

If only 1 in 50 children can spot fake news, how can anyone possibly claim that none of the adults who voted Leave were fooled by the avalanche of lies fake news dished out before the EU referendum?

varian Sat 16-Jun-18 17:53:52

If you have never listened to James O'Brien on LBC, I recommend this short video where James exposes the lies spread by The Sun and persistently repeated by Jacob Rees Mogg even after The Sun had apologised for lying.

Such a gulf between the perception of Sun readers and JRM fans and the truth!

varian Wed 20-Jun-18 17:36:00

"Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”

varian Fri 22-Jun-18 16:15:13

Two weeks before the EU referendum, a survey of 1,000 people, weighted to represent the nation’s demographic profile in terms of age, gender, ethnicity and other factors, respondents claimed that, on average, 15 per cent of the UK population are EU immigrants. That would be 10.5m people. The correct figure is 3.5m., or 5 per cent. Those who intend to vote Leave in the referendum put the figure at 20 per cent. ‘Remainers’ put the figure at 10 per cent.

One in seven people (15 per cent) believe ‘at least one Euro-myth’, including bans on barmaids showing too much cleavage, and the forcible renaming of Bombay Mix to Mumbai mix. Neither are real. 24 per cent of people believe overly bendy bananas are banned from import to the UK under EU law. (‘Malformed bananas’ are banned from export under an EU regulation.)

84 per cent of people think the UK is in the top three contributors to the EU budget. 23 per cent think it is the single biggest. In fact the UK is in fourth place, behind Germany, which pays 21 per cent, France (16 per cent) and Italy (12 per cent). The UK pays 11 per cent.

The serious discrepancy between public perception and facts accounts for a lot. Very few of the electorate really had much true understanding (as opposed to prejudice). Yet the leavers still claim they all knew exactly what they were voting for. Many didn't know what they had, let alone what they were voting for, and two years later we still don't know what the outcome is likely to be.