South African people have the most misperceptions about their country, says Ipsos

10 January 2018 4 min. read
More news on

A new perception index released by consultancy firm Ipsos has revealed that South Africa is the highest ranked country in terms of misperception. Not only do South Africans have major misperceptions about key scenarios in their country, but most of these misperceptions also lean toward the negative side, demonstrating a rather pessimistic national outlook.

Perceptions matter, and, in many cases, appear to fall considerably far from the truth, as has been demonstrated by French consulting firm Ipsos in its new ‘Perils of Perception’ study. In order to determine the accuracy of national perceptions, Ipsos conducted more than 29,000 interviews across 38 countries, obtaining opinions on key social metrics such as teenage pregnancy and suicide rates.

Based on the responses, South Africa emerged as the country with the highest level of misperception when it comes to the local social scenario. The country ranked first on the misperceptions index, followed by Brazil and Philippines. Peru and India rounded off the top five in fourth and fifth places.

Misperception Index Rankings

However, another striking aspect of the report was that the perceptions were mostly, if not completely, on the negative side of the truth. South Africa has been going through a turbulent time recently, spanning the political, social, and economic environments of the country.

A change in leadership at the helm of South Africa’s leading political party, combined with the seemingly imminent ousting of the incumbent president, have pushed the country under a cloud of political uncertainty. In addition, scandal has hit the business sector of the country, and more firms are being implicated on a daily basis, resulting in a loss of business for several major industrial players.

Surveys have shown that South African executives are among the most pessimistic in the world, behind only those from Japan. The Ipsos survey, however, demonstrates that this pessimism might be seeping through all sections of society, as the people have a much worse perception of their country’s performance on key social indicators than the actual figures.

Murder rate perceptions

Murder rates, for example, are one of the metrics in which South Africa had the largest misperceptions. The country has developed a reputation for its crime rates, but nowhere more so than within its borders.

When asked whether the murder rate in the country had increased or not since the year 2000, a staggering 85% said that it had increased. 11% believed that the crime rate was the same, and only 4% believed that the rate was lower. In truth, the country’s murder rate has fallen by 29% since 2000, leaving 4% with an accurate perception.

Teen pregnancy perception

Another social indicator in which the country has major misperceptions is with regard to teenage pregnancy, placing second on the index for this indicator behind only Brazil. When asked what percentage of teenage girls in the country give birth each year, South Africans responded with 44%, which is 40% higher than the actual number of 4.4%. Brazil came first in this category, with a perceived teenage pregnancy rate 41% higher than what it actually is.

Nevertheless, South Africa was back on top when it came to perceived suicide rates. When asked what the percentage the contribution of suicide was to the death of females between the ages of 15 and 24, South Africans responded with 26%. The actual figure is 0.6%. When asked the same for men, the average response across the country was 27%, where the actual figure stands at 1.1%.

Suicide rate perception

Other, slightly less telling, areas where the country was fairly high on the misperception index included the number of people with Facebook accounts in the country, and the number of people with registered vehicles in the country. In both cases, the perceived number was substantially higher than the actual one, perhaps demonstrating a glimmer of optimism.