New Zealanders overestimate our number of immigrants and how many Muslims we have, new research has found.

And we underestimate global warming and the rate of child vaccination.

Global research firm Ipsos Mori investigated the relationship between perception and reality on a range of social issues. In September and October it surveyed more than 28,000 people through online panels in 37 countries and territories, including 500 aged 16-64 in New Zealand.

The Kiwis' numerical guesses on 10 questions made New Zealand the second-most accurate of the 37, behind only Hong Kong.


Thailand was the place most in need of a reality check. It scored worst, putting it in first place on the "misperceptions index". South Africa came in at number 15, the US at 23, Australia at 29 and Britain at 33, three sports worse than New Zealand on 36.

Ipsos says its global survey shows that some crimes grab attention more than they should, and that people are perhaps too complacent about climate change and use of renewable energy sources.

Ipsos New Zealand public affairs director Amanda Dudding said the gap between perception and reality could be attributed to media, or internal biases.

"These biases include our tendencies to focus more on negative stories over positive ones, to believe that things were always better in the past, to put too much emphasis on our own individual experience, and simply not being very good with numbers."

"Fake news" in the last two years had made it even hard to tell true from false.

But Dudding said misperceptions could reveal people's real concerns - and trying to correct misperceptions solely by repeating facts was unlikely to work.

"Instead we need to engage with the more emotional reasons that might be driving why people are worried about a topic."