Perils of Perception 2018

This global study highlights our misperceptions about the economy, population, the environment and other key issues. Ipsos' latest Perils of Perception study shows which key facts the online public in Malaysia and 36 other countries get right about their society - and which they get wrong. Now in its fifth year, the survey aims to highlight how we're wired to think in certain ways and how our environment influences our (mis)perceptions. Malaysian didn't quite get it right, and tend to be over apprehensive.

Perils of Perception 2018

Key findings:

  • Malaysians estimate that half of Malaysia (49%) are unemployed and seeking work while the actual figure is as low as 3%
  • Malaysians rank the country's economy at as the 120th largest in the world while the actual ranking is 37th
  • Malaysians perceive that the 39% of the country's energy is from renewable source while the actual figure is only 5%
  • Malaysian perceive that 57% of the population will be above 65 years old by 2050, while the actual projection is only 16%

This global study highlights our misperceptions about the economy, population, the environment and other key issues.

Ipsos' latest Perils of Perception study shows which key facts the online public1 in Malaysia and 36 other countries get right about their society - and which they get wrong. Now in its fifth year, the survey aims to highlight how we're wired to think in certain ways and how our environment influences our (mis)perceptions.

Malaysian didn't quite get it right, and tend to be over apprehensive.

1Interviews carried out online with adults aged under 65. In countries with a low level of internet penetration, the sample will reflect a more urban, educated, and higher income profile than the general population.

Economy

Malaysians are among the least accurate in terms of overestimating the proportion of the fellow countrymen who are unemployed and seeking work. On average, Malaysians estimate that half of Malaysia (49%) are unemployed and seeking work, with the actual figure being as low as 3% (46% gap). Malaysians are not alone though; across the globe unemployment figures are heavily overestimated, with an average perception gap of 34%.

The concern about unemployment is largely in line with the findings in Ipsos', "What Worries Malaysia" monthly survey, which shows that 34% of Malaysians see unemployment as one of the top three problems the country is facing (only corruption, crime & violence are seen as bigger problems).

People tend to underestimate the size of their country's economy relative to others, and Malaysia is no exception, with an estimation that the country's economy is ranked 120 out of the 200 countries in the world, while the actual ranking is 37. We are in good company though, with Americans estimating their economy to be only the 5th largest, and the Chinese estimating their economy to be the 12th largest. the US and China have the world's first and second largest economies, respectively.

Climate Change

Malaysians strongly overestimate the share of the country's energy that comes from renewable sources. The average guess puts renewable share at 39%, while the reality is only 5%. That's a perception gap of 34%, much higher than the global average of 8%, and higher than any other country surveyed.

 17 of the past 18 years have been the hottest ever recorded. Every country, however, has underestimated the global temperature rise over the past 18 years with average estimate across being 9 years. Malaysians are marginally better, estimating 10 of the past 18 years have been the hottest.

Population

Malaysians greatly overestimates the levels of growth of its elderly population. The average guess is that 57% of the population will be above 65 years old by 2050, while the actual projection is only 16%. All other countries overestimate their future elderly population, although none to the same degree as Malaysians.

It is also common for all people in all parts of the world to overestimate both the immigrant and the Muslim share of the population. In Malaysia's case, the perception gap for immigration is 27% (36% perception vs 9% actual), while when it comes to guessing the Muslim share of population, Malaysians are fairly accurate compared to the rest of the world.

Arun Menon, Managing Director, Ipsos in Malaysia:

- "Ipsos' global Perils of Perception study shows that, around the world, people overestimate the real extent of social issues. This applies just as much to Malaysia - as we tend to be apprehensive about the social and economic issue.

- Malaysians believing that half the population is currently unemployed and that the majority are going to be to 65+ when we reach 2050, shows the extent of our overestimation, irrespective of the facts.

- There are many different reasons why we are far from social and economic facts. These can include external influences on us, such as what we hear in the media or emphasised in online platforms, but our own internal biases are just as important. These biases include the tendency to focus more on negative stories.

- (Mis)perceptions can be a very useful pointer to people's real concerns. It also means that trying to correct by only repeating the facts is unlikely to work - instead policy makers and media need to engage the public on the real emotional reasons that are driving these (mis)perceptions".

Society