TL;DR – Don’t know if we are really ignorant, but seems like we are really happy!
Singaporeans appeared to be quite ignorant. That’s according to a survey done by Ipsos Mori. Hang on. Who’s this Ipsos Mori? It is “part of the Ipsos Group, is a leading full service UK research company with global reach”.
So, from 22 September 2016 to 6 November 2016, they had carried out the survey in 40 countries. The survey aimed to find out how wrong people in these 40 countries are about key issues and features of the population in their country.
According to that survey, out of the 40 countries, Singapore is eighth on the ‘ignorance table’. If we were to believe the table, USA, China and India are more ignorant than us, whereas Malaysia is way less ignorant than us. In fact, it would seem that Malaysia is very knowledgeable. They are 36th on the table. Only Czech Republic, South Korea, Great Britain, and Netherlands appear to be more knowledgeable than Malaysia.
Except that’s not correct. At least not entirely.
If we were to actually look at the survey, we would find that the survey isn’t really trying to find out about the level of general knowledge that the people in each country has. You won’t get questions like what you would expect in a general knowledge quiz. Instead, the survey has questions that try to find out the gap between how the people of each country perceives about different aspects of their country and the reality.
Examples of questions in the survey include:
- What percentage of Singapore’s total annual gross domestic product (that is, the total value of all economic activity in Singapore) do you think is spent on health expenditure each year? This includes public and private health expenditure.
- Out of every 100 households in Singapore, how many are owned by someone who lives there?
- And what percentage of Singapore’s total household wealth do you think the least wealthy 70% in Singapore own?
- When asked in a survey in Singapore, what percentage of people do you think said that, taking all things together, they were very happy or rather happy?
For the aspects that were asked in the survey, Singaporeans perceptions are really quite different from reality. That suggests that Singaporeans don’t know Singapore and other Singaporeans that well. But actually, it might not be that bad. Here’s why.
Take the question: “Out of every 100 households in Singapore, how many are owned by someone who lives there?” Here’s what Singapore guessed and the reality:
It may come as a surprise to many Singaporeans, but the reality is that almost every Singaporean household has at least one person who owns the place they live in. And that’s a good thing. It might be difficult for us to believe it, but Singapore’s home ownership is really amongst the highest in the world.
Then there is this question: “When asked in a survey in Singapore, what percentage of people do you think said that, taking all things together, they were very happy or rather happy?” Here’s what Singaporeans guessed and the reality:
I was personally quite pleasantly surprised by this. We keep hearing Singaporeans complain about this or that. Somehow we got it drilled into us that Singaporeans are an unhappy lot. But the reality (or at least according to some survey) is that an overwhelming 93% of Singaporeans ARE actually happy or rather happy.
How can that be? Maybe Singaporeans don’t know how other Singaporeans feel or think. Maybe it’s because we like to complain. But complaints aside, deep inside, we are actually quite happy. And rightfully so. After all, even though Singapore isn’t perfect (which country is?), all things considered, Singapore’s really quite a good place to be in. So complaints aside, I’m really happy that most Singaporeans are happy, even though we don’t think other Singaporeans are.
And this huge perception gap definitely contributed to the perception that Singaporeans are “ignorant”. But this is more a perception gap than true measure of ignorance. In other questions that are purely factual, Singaporeans did quite well. For example, Singaporeans were spot on about the number of residents in Singapore:
And we were right on the mark about our projected population:
If we looked beyond the headlines and actually studied what the survey was, we will see that we can’t quite conclude whether Singaporeans are ignorant. Because the survey isn’t quite well designed to test for that. So rather than wring our hands about how “ignorant” we are, let’s be heartened by the fact that Singaporeans are actually a happy people.
And here, in case you’re curious about how the 40 countries were ranked,
Or, you can check out the full deck of the survey.
Interested to take the test? Click here.