Public overestimates number of Muslims living in UK, finds study

The general public overestimate how many Muslims live in the UK. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
The general public overestimate how many Muslims live in the UK. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
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Britons greatly overestimate the proportion of Muslims living in the country and think the number is growing at a rate far greater than it really is, a new study claims.

The Perils of Perception survey, released by Ipsos MORI on Wednesday, aims to highlight how wrong people are about key global and national issues and is carried out in 40 different countries.

For Great Britain, the results found respondents believed one in six civilians is Muslim when the real proportion is less than one in 20.

The poll also showed that members of the public think 22 per cent of the UK population will be Muslim by 2020, when researchers have put the figure at closer to 6 per cent.

However, survey subjects fared better when estimating the current total population and how much it is likely to grow by 2050.

In international observations, 61 per cent of respondents polled before the US presidential election result thought Hillary Clinton would win and only 16 per cent believed Donald Trump would claim victory.

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Ipsos MORI Social Research Institute London managing director Bobby Duffy said the survey’s findings suggested that the more an issue is discussed in the media, the less likely members of the public are to accurately perceive it.

He said: “We are often most incorrect on factors that are widely discussed in the media, such as the proportion of our population that are Muslims and wealth inequality.

“We know from previous studies that this is partly because we over-estimate what we worry about.”

He said countries in the West in particular appeared to have a view of their populations which was “unduly miserable and intolerant”.

He added: “But in this new study we also show that we’re often unduly pessimistic about how happy people are and our tolerance on controversial issues such as homosexuality, sex before marriage and abortion.”

The findings come from interviews conducted between September and November this year among about 1,000 individuals aged 16-64 or 18-64 in the UK as well as countries such as Australia, Brazil, Canada, China and France.