How Americans Fare on the Ignorance Index

Courtesy of Mike Corones @ Reuters:

Guess how many U.S. girls aged 15-19 give birth each year. Go ahead, guess. If you calculated the number at 3 percent you’re correct; if you guessed 24 percent, you’re American.

The idea that nearly a quarter of high school teens are walking around pregnant at any given time is one of a number of topics about which Americans are woefully misinformed, according to Ipsos MORI polling results released Wednesday. In a comparison of 14 industrialized countries, the United States trailed only Italy in the pollsters’ index of ignorance about the realities of modern life.

As this Reuters graphic shows, people in the U.S. significantly miss the mark on the proportion of the population that is comprised of immigrants, guessing 32 percent against the true number of 13 percent. Americans also overestimate the number of Muslims in the population, 15 percent versus only 1 percent in reality, and underestimate the number of Christians, 56 percent to 78 percent.

Reuters’s Ben Hirschler quotes Bobby Duffy of the Ipsos Social Research Institute that succinctly describes the problem: “People are just not very good at math and they find it particularly hard to make estimates about very large numbers or very small numbers.”

Do you think you’re better informed than your fellow countrypeople? Take the perils of perception quiz and find out how you stack up across a range of issues.

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