People are systematically wrong about the world!



Now Gapminder has a brand new knowledge test about the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), where people score 82% wrong! 

“Time and time again, our tests show widespread and systematic misconceptions about the world around us. We are now testing the knowledge of the UN global goals, as it is crucial that we have accurate information if we are to succeed in solving our biggest challenges – otherwise we risk focusing on the wrong things,” said Anna Rosling Rönnlund, co-founder of the Gapminder Foundation 

Gapminder has been testing the public’s knowledge of global trends and proportions for many years, as reported by CNN, BBC and Factfulness. Now we have a brand new test with 18 fact questions relating to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Today we disclose the terribly bad results in a study called the Sustainable Development Misconceptions Study 2020. We tested the public in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden using Novus online panels. On average, 82% of answers were wrong!

Out of a possible 18, the average number of correct answers in each country was:

  • Sweden: 3.4
  • Denmark: 3.2
  • Norway: 3.2
  • Finland: 3.1


All four countries were almost equally wrong in the same way. The study reveals 18 systematic misconceptions about the world which needs to be corrected if people are to have a meaningful say in how we build a sustainable future. 


Misconceptions we found include:

  • Many wrongly believe that fossil fuels no longer provide most of the world’s energy.
  • In people’s heads there are 10 times more refugees than in reality.
  • Most have the impression that suicides are becoming more common in the world.
  • Many wrongly think that more than a third of all plastic waste ends up in oceans.

The study was done in collaboration with AFRY, as part of a long-term relationship to promote a fact-based worldview. Experts at AFRY and at universities across the world provided help with fact-checking and advice about the data for all questions.

AFRY’s CEO Jonas Gustavsson explained the company’s motivation in working together with Gapminder  “If we are to succeed in accelerating the sustainable transformation of society, wide-ranging cooperation is needed to raise knowledge levels. That’s why we are highlighting the importance of a fact-based worldview based on science. We believe that when you know better, you do better.”

The full report with more details about the questions and the results is here.


About Gapminder

Gapminder is an independent non-profit foundation founded by Ola Rosling, Anna Rosling Rönnlund and Hans Rosling. It aims to fight common misconceptions with a fact-based worldview that everyone can understand. Gapminder supports the UN’s global goals for sustainable development by working for increased knowledge about sustainable development at local and global levels.


About AFRY

AFRY is an international engineering, design and advisory company, supporting its clients to progress in sustainability and digitalisation. It is made up of 17,000 devoted experts within the fields of infrastructure, industry and energy, operating across the world to create sustainable solutions for future generations.


About the Global Goals for Sustainable Development

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals represent the most ambitious agenda for sustainable development adopted by member states. The aim is to eliminate extreme poverty, reduce inequality and injustice in the world, promote peace and justice and resolve the climate crisis by 2030.


About the study

The Gapminder Sustainable Development Misconceptions Study consists of 18 questions, all of which are connected to the UN global goals. A survey was carried out by Novus on behalf of Gapminder and AFRY between the 20th and the 27th October 2020. A total of 1,036 random and representative interviews were conducted with members of the public (18–79 years of age) in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland. In the UK, the survey was conducted by Google Surveys, with 150 respondents in February 2020.


Anna Rosling Rönnlund and Ola Rosling are available for interviews. If you would like to schedule an interview or have any further questions regarding the study, please contact: 


Klara Elzvik, Project Coordinator

[email protected]

+46 70 229 9983