Public opinion is one thing, facts are another

Poll shows views held by the public about Irish life have little grounding in reality


The public has some profoundly mistaken beliefs about the key economic and social facts of Irish life, according to a poll conducted by Ipsos MRBI for The Irish Times.

The poll shows most voters have little understanding of the where the bulk of taxpayers’ money is spent and about who in society pays most of the tax. In particular voters are ill informed about the cost of the political system by comparison with the cost of welfare or public service pay.

There are also mistaken beliefs about issues like trends in the crime rate or the health service and the number of foreign nationals in the country.

Asked how much a person must earn a year to be in the top 10 per cent of income earners the average response was €150,000 when the correct answer according to the Revenue Commissioners is €75,000.

Probably the most startling result was that when people were asked which group receives most from the public purse in terms of direct payments almost half said politicians with the other half equally divided between welfare recipients and public servants.

The fact is that welfare payments will account for over €20 billion of state spending this year while the cost of running the Oireachtas is €102 million.

On the question of who gets most from the welfare system there is also a serious level of misinformation with the vast majority saying the unemployed. In fact pensioners account for the biggest share of the welfare budget taking 32 per cent of it with the unemployed getting 27 per cent and children 11 per cent.

People overestimated the number of foreign nationals in the country at an average of 25 per cent when the actual figure is 12 per cent.