How Many Immigrants? Foreign Born Population Innumeracy in Europe

Document Type

Article - Merrimack Access Only

Publication Title

Public Opinion Quarterly


American Association for Public Opinion Research

Publication Date

Winter 2010

Abstract/ Summary

Individuals frequently perceive immigrant and minority population sizes to be much larger than they are in reality. To date, little is understood about the extent or causes of this phenomenon, known as innumeracy, which may have consequences for inter-group relations. However, before the literature can assess these consequences, a better understanding of the development of these misperceptions is needed. The extant literature focuses only on the United States and lacks a clear understanding of how innumeracy arises. Drawing from the 2002 European Social Survey (ESS), this study attempts to make sense of this phenomenon by proposing and testing a framework that views innumeracy among majority group members as developing in two ways: as cognitive mistakes and emotional responses. I establish the existence and extent of the phenomenon across 21 European nations, test new key predictors such as media exposure and socio-economic status, and find independent associations with cognitive and emotional factors using multi-level regression analyses.