The public underestimates the number of Christians in England and Wales but overestimates the number of Muslims, according to new research.
Polling conducted by Ipsos MORI for the Royal Statistical Society reveals that the public thinks 34 per cent of the population are Christians.
But the actual figure, according to the last census for England and Wales, is 59 per cent.
Muslims make up only five per cent of the population, but people think they account for 24 per cent.
The polling for the Royal Statistical Society (RSS) also looked at public perception of other issues including crime, immigration, and welfare.
Bobby Duffy, Managing Director of Ipsos MORI Social Research Institute, said that “misperceptions have always been with us and they may reflect concerns – that is, people may over-estimate issues because they are worried about them, not the other way round.”
And Hetan Shah, executive director of the RSS, said: “Our data poses real challenges for policymakers. How can you develop good policy when public perceptions can be so out of kilter with the evidence?
“We need to see three things happen. Firstly, politicians need to be better at talking about the real state of affairs of the country, rather than spinning the numbers.
“Secondly, the media has to try and genuinely illuminate issues, rather than use statistics to sensationalise.
“And finally, we need better teaching of statistical literacy in schools, so that people get more comfortable in understanding evidence.”