This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Xenophobia Rules! Overestimates of the Muslim Population in Western Countries

Fear of an influx of Muslim immigrants seemed to fuel at least some voters in the U.S. to vote for Donald Trump, and polls in the U.K. suggested that people with the least contact with immigrants were the ones most likely to vote to leave the EU, as I noted at the time of that vote. Now a new set of poll data from western countries shows the depth and scope of the issue: People tend to vastly overestimate the number of Muslims in their own country. The Guardian covers the story, emphasizing that the reality gap is widest in France.
An Ipsos Mori survey that measured the gap between public perception and reality in 40 countries in 2016 found French respondents were by far the most likely to overstate their country’s current and projected Muslim population.
The average French estimate was that 31% of the population was Muslim – almost one in three residents. According to Pew Research, France’s Muslim population actually stood at 7.5% in 2010, or one in 13 people.
The French were not the only ones to hold such misconceptions: Italian, German and Belgian respondents all guessed that more than a fifth of the resident population was Muslim, while in reality the figure ranges from 3.7% in Italy to 7% in Belgium. All three countries also greatly overstated the expected proportion of Muslim residents in 2020.
The graph below shows the results for several countries, including the U.S. You can readily imagine that the discussions in the media about refugees--especially inspired by the crisis in Syria--have increased and distorted the public perception about the presence of Muslims in western countries. 

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