Members of the public have an incorrect impression of the country based on political spin and media sensationalism, creating widely spread myths, according to the study commissioned by King’s College London and the Royal Statistical Society.

The study, titled ‘The Perils of Perception’, revealed that many of the public’s views of British society are incorrect.

According to the study:

Dole: 29% of people think the British government spend more on Job Seekers Allowance than pensions. In fact, 15 times more is spent on pensions (£4.9bn vs £74.2bn)

Benefit fraud: The public think that £24 out of every £100 spent on benefits is claimed fraudulently. But in fact, official estimates are closer to £0.70 per £100.

Immigration: the public are under the impression that 31% of the country’s population are immigrants – the official stats show it is 13%.

Ethnicity: People asked in the study estimated that black and Asian people make up 30% of the UK’s population when in fact it is 11%.

“Politicians need to be better at talking about the real state of affairs of the country, rather than spinning the numbers,” said the executive director of the Royal Statistical Society Hetan Shah.

“The media has to try and genuinely illuminate issues, rather than use statistics to sensationalise.”

“And finally we need better teaching of statistical literacy in schools, so that people get more comfortable in understanding evidence,” concluded Shah.

The study was conducted by Ipsos Mori who held 1015 interviews with adults between the ages of 16-75 in June 2013.

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