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A Study Has Named New Zealand the Most Ignorant Developed Country in the World

The Perils of Perception survey ranks countries by how closely their perception of themselves reflects reality. This year, New Zealand showed they had a pretty fucked self image.

VICE Staff

VICE Staff

Image via Flickr user Michael Button

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Every year, the ominously named Perils of Perception survey forms a snapshot of how different countries view themselves. After conducting 25,556 interviews across 33 countries, they quantify how removed our self perceptions are from reality. The results are presented in an "index of Ignorance" table. This year, New Zealand proved they have a pretty low opinion of themselves. Although to be fair, most surveyed nations displayed an impressive lack of national insight.

Coming in at number five on the list, New Zealand was the highest ranked developed country. Only Mexico, India, Brazil, and Peru's populations had a more warped self image. Kiwis ranked behind Australia, the US, and China in their ability to estimate how the population was performing across a number of subjects like female employment and obesity rates.


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In general, New Zealanders thought they were older and less urban than they really are. Their answers also illustrated how media coverage can skew the way we see ourselves.

The most jarring disconnect between reality and wherever New Zealand is, was around the division of wealth. In NZ, the wealthiest one percent of the population control 18 percent of the country's money. But the results showed that the average Kiwi believed the super rich were actually in charge of 50 percent of the nation's cash.

Interestingly, New Zealand was one of the only countries surveyed that didn't really have a problem with the disproportionate division of wealth. Most countries believed the wealthy should control a smaller percent of the national capital than they presently do. But Kiwis bucked this trend. When asked what percent the wealthy should control, New Zealanders felt they should crank it up to 27 percent.

Alongside demonstrating surprising trust in the wealthy, the survey provided an insight into how mass self perception can be manipulated and influenced. Bobby Duffy, the Managing Director of the institute that performed the study, pointed out that the areas where citizens showed the least perception were usually those that are extensively covered in the media. Speaking to the New Zealand Herald he elaborated, "We know from previous studies that this is partly because we over-estimate what we worry about—as well as worrying about the issues we think are widespread."

Topics like immigration, which is extensively reported on, were often seen to be more pressing, and affecting more people, than they were. Survey results showed New Zealanders believe that 37 percent of the population were migrants—the third highest estimate of any country—but in reality it is 25 percent.

The only time New Zealanders demonstrated any glimmer of positivity was when estimating rates of obesity. In fact, when it comes to waistlines, Kiwis are feeling pretty good about themselves. Residents reported thinking that only 47 percent of the population was overweight or obese—unfortunately the real number is 66 percent.

At a glance the results could be viewed as evidence that the population is wildly out of touch, and overly influenced by the media. But the general trend across the data was that New Zealanders have a deeply pessimistic view of themselves. With the exception of the obesity stats—the participants continuously underestimated their own population. For example, they estimated that they had less women in the workplace and political office and fewer people with access to the internet than they actually did.

So while the "ignorant" title isn't likely to help anyone feel much better about themselves, it does act as a reminder that New Zealand is officially not as shit as it thinks.

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