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Most people in the richest countries are absolutely wrong about the state of the world. We have tested their knowledge. We asked 12 basic fact questions to the general public in fourteen rich countries, using online panels. Every question had three alternatives: A, B or C. When we went to the zoo and marked bananas with A, B & C, the chimpanzees picked the right answer every third time. On average a monkey picking answers randomly would score 4 out of 12 correct answers. But the average score for the humans was much lower: only 2.2! That’s why the logo for the study is a monkey.
This graph shows how many people got different number of correct answers. Only 10% scored better than random.
A stunning 15% of humans managed to pick the wrong answer on all twelve questions. That’s almost impossible for a monkey to achieve. It requires systematic misconceptions. The problem here is not the lack of correct knowledge. The problem is the presence of wrong “knowledge”. To score this bad requires a false perception of the world, that make you pick the wrong answer systematically.
There was actually one question, number 13, which we have excluded because almost everyone, 87% of respondents, picked the right answer. We have excluded that question, because there wasn’t any substantial ignorance about the climate experts forecasts, compared to the devastating ignorance we found about other global development.
Take the test
The test in the book Factfulness uses the same twelve questions. If you haven’t already done so, please take the Gapminder Test yourself, before laughing at others! We think it requires a large dose of humility and curiosity to solve this massive problem of global ignorance.
Method – Misconception Study 2017
The results in the Gapminder Misconception Study 2017 come from polls conducted by NOVUS and Ipsos MORI commissioned by Gapminder. The 13 fact-questions were written by Gapminder in English and then translated by the two polling companies. During 2017 they tested the knowledge of the general public in 14 countries: Norway, Finland, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Great Britain, Germany, Hungary, Japan, South Korea, Spain, Sweden and the United States of America.
Polls in Norway and Finland were conducted by NOVUS, and in the other 12 countries polls were conducted by Ipsos MORI. Both used online panels that were wighted for the demographic composition in each country. In all of the countries surveyed we believe the internet penetration is sufficiently high to think of the results from these online panels as quite representative of the wider population within the age ranges covered.
Novus conducted the polls in Norway and Finland
- The survey has been conducted by Novus on behalf of Gapminder. The aim of the survey is to test the Norwegian public’s knowledge about global development. The survey was conducted in collaboration with Respons Analyse.
- Target group/Implementation: The target group was the Norwegian public aged 18-79. The survey was conducted with a nationally representative sample in Respons Analyses web panel.
- Number of interviews: 1221
- Response rate: 43%
- Field period: 29 September – 13 October 2017
- The survey has been conducted by Novus on behalf of Gapminder. The aim of the survey is to test the Finnish public’s knowledge about global development. The survey was conducted in collaboration with Otanta.
- Target group/Implementation: The target group was the Finnish public aged 18-79. The survey was conducted with a nationally representative sample in Otantas web panel.
- Number of interviews: 1000
- Response rate: 36%
- Field periods: April 3-11 2017 and 28 September – 5 October 2017
Contact Novus: Mats Elzén & Anita Bergsveen.
Ipsos MORI conducted surveys in 12 countries. See their report here.
Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Great Britain, Germany, Hungary, Japan, South Korea, Spain, Sweden and USA.
- Gapminder commissioned Ipsos MORI to carry out a survey in 12 countries with quesiotns that Gapminder had defined.
- A international sample of 10,024 adults aged 18-64 in Canada and the US, and aged 16-64 in all other countries, were interviewed online between July 25th and August 6th 2017, via the Ipsos Online Panel system which conducts a survey monthly in 25 countries around the world.
- Approximately 1000+ individuals participated in each country with the exception of Belgium, Hungary, South Korea and Sweden, where approximately 500+ individuals participated in each country.
- Weighting has been employed to balance demographics and ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the adult population according to the most recent country census data.
- A survey with an unweighted probability sample of this size would have an estimated margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points for a sample of 1,000 and an estimated margin of error of +/- 4.5 percentage points for a 500 sample 19 times out of 20.