Oh Chicken Licken, is the sky really falling? Of course it’s not, yet according to this year’s Perils of Perception survey by Ipsos, many more South Africans believe that the country is generally unhappy than it really it is. Not that we’re alone in that: every one of the 40 countries studied by Ipsos for this annual report believed people were much more miserable than they are – but South Africa does come in at number four in the “Index of Ignorance” for getting assumptions about the national mood wrong, behind India, China and Taiwan.

The survey was compiled from research carried out by the Pew Institute, and supplemented with 27 250 interviews conducted in September, October and November this year. Ipsos MORI’s Bobby Duffy said: “Across all 40 countries in the study, each population gets a lot wrong. We are often most incorrect on factors that are widely discussed in the media, such as the proportion of our population that are Muslims and wealth inequality. We know from previous studies that this is partly because we over-estimate what we worry about.”

The survey covers a variety of topics including how many people you think live in your country and what you think the national mood is towards issues like gay marriage and abortion. Disturbingly, South Africans came close to the bottom of the table when estimating the level of inequality in the country, guessing that the poorest 70% of citizens own 29% of the wealth here, when in reality they own just 8%.

When it comes to happiness, we believe that only 38% of our compatriots would describe themselves as happy, while in reality a massive 76% do.

We are, however, more prudish than we realise: respondents underestimated the number of people who believe sex before marriage, homosexual relationships and abortion are morally acceptable by 9%, 11% and 5% respectively.

Bizarrely, we second worst at guessing the size of the Muslim population too. We think 22% of people follow the Islamic faiths here, when in reality it’s just 1.7%.

The full list of South African data is below.

We also overestimate how much government is spending on healthcare. When asked how much of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) was spent on healthcare respondents estimated that figure at 25% when it’s closer to 9% according to the World Bank.

Perhaps we should watch this more often.

If you want to see the full list of data for all 40 countries in the survey, check out the embed below.

[Image – CC BY ND 2.0 photographerpandora]