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Perceptions Are Not Reality In Mexico

Colorful boats in Xochimilco
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Robert Nelson Co-Founder of Expats In Mexico
Robert Nelson

As we look forward to 2017 and all of the uncertainties the New Year may bring, it may be a good time to review a new global study that says perceptions are not reality in Mexico or wherever you live.

In a new study by Ipsos MORI called the Perils of Perception, 40 countries and over 27,000 adults were asked a series of 12 questions on a variety of topics. The perceptions were compared with the actual reality, or factual answer, for each question. The countries were then ranked on what Ipsos MORI called the Index of Ignorance, a ranking of all 40 countries. Countries with the largest perception versus reality gaps ranked highest and those with the smallest gaps ranked lowest.

Leading the Index of Ignorance was India, followed closely by China, Taiwan, South Africa and the U.S. The country most in touch with reality was the Netherlands. Great Britain, South Korea, the Czech Republic and Malaysia also seem to be well grounded in reality.

I looked at three of the questions and compared Mexico, the United States and Canada with the most out of touch country for each question. The results are illuminating.

Since immigration is a world concern these days, the first question asked was: “Out of every 100 people, how many do you think are Muslim.” France had the largest gap between perception and reality, 24. That is, the perception of the number of Muslims by French respondents was 31 out of 100, but the reality was just over 7.

How did Mexico, the U.S. and Canada fare on this question? Mexico’s gap was just 8 points, Canada 14 and the U.S. 16. Mexico is the most grounded of the three countries on this question.

The rankings changed a lot on the next question: “What percent of people do you think said that, taking all things together, they are very happy or rather happy?” Of all 40 countries, Canada had the smallest difference between perception and reality, just 27 percentage points. The U.S. was well behind with a 41-point difference and Mexico last with a 51-point difference.

Finally, on a purely economic question – “What percent of total household wealth do you think the least wealthy own” – the biggest gap was registered in the Netherlands, 31. Mexico’s gap was 19, Canada 18 and the U.S. 15.

With all of the discussion today about “fake news” and uninformed citizenry, these numbers should be troubling, especially in the U.S., which ranked #5 on the Index of Ignorance out of 40 countries. In this measurement, Mexico was ranked #11 and Canada #12. Out of 40 countries, it’s really not something to cheer about.

Let’s hope 2017 brings more enlightenment to the people of all three countries.

Feliz Navidad y Prospero Año Nuevo!


  1. Here is an appropriate quote from journalist, editor and social critic H.L. Mencken, that he wrote in his column in the September 19, 1926 edition of the Chicago Daily Tribune:

    “No one in this world, so far as I know — and I have searched the records for years, and employed agents to help me — has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.”

    Looking around at the media and political landscape today, Mencken’s opinion can be deemed more prescient than ever.

  2. Maybe “plain people” are lacking intelligence as much as curiosity, motivation to learn, and being challenged to think critically.
    Could part of the problem be the educational system?

  3. Interesting, not that Wikipedia is a gospel to facts, but it states that the Muslim population was 23.4% in 2015, a far cry from 7%. Could the perception gap be due to the perception of that country singularly rather than cumulatively? The next 2 questions only list the gap in the answers, not the stats, so it could be fruitless to discuss.

  4. Cindy, thanks for the comment. Click on the link in the article to take you to the full report…it will answer your questions.


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