Abstract. All social and economic aspects of human life can be described by statistical data that claims to be objective. Still, people hold a distinctive view of the world, differing widely from the official one. Statistics is the key means to make management decisions. It helps to adopt a balanced and responsible approach to determining priorities for the social development strategy. However, those steps taken by the government that do not correspond with subjective perception and expectations might be insufficient to improve the lives of the people. Individuals act and react according to their own views. Their behavior is key to understanding crucial social issues; it is also a reference point for social policies which might be more accurate than objective criteria. Discrepancies between academic and ordinary cognition are attributed to limited objective (statistical) data as well as the specific nature of individual perception of reality. In the first part of this paper, based on the findings of international research and public opinion polls (ESS, Ipsos MORI, Perils of Perception), the authors establish that perceptions dominant in the public mind are misaligned compared to conventional statistical evaluation. They also analyze the scale of misalignment variations in several countries. The second and third parts of the article examine the reasons behind these discrepancies. Having scrutinized the statistical “objectivity” of social and economic phenomena such as inflation, unemployment, migration and their reflection in the public mind, the authors conclude that objective indicators are not the ultimate truth. Their impartiality is based on data acquisition and calculations detailed in the general theory of statistics as well as generalized conventional definitions. Although subjective variables have been introduced into this field in recent times, the vast majority of statistical indices have not taken public opinion into account. The reality, however, is more complex and multifaceted, it does not fit into levelized indicators. Conversely, subjective public views do not appear out of thin air. They are largely affected by the trust in government institutions, influenced by ideologies and systems of value and cemented by the views of a reference group and media. These findings might help to fine-tune social policies and explain voting behavior.
Keywords: perception, public opinion, subjective evaluation, value judgment, objective indices, unemployment, migration, inflation, trust, reference group, media
1. A quantum experiment suggests there’s no such thing as objective reality. MIT technology Review, March 12, 2019. Available at: https://www.technologyreview.com/2019/03/12/136684/a-quantum-experiment-suggests-theres-no-such-thing-as-objective-reality/ (accessed 20.01.2021).
2. Lippman W. Public Opinion. Wading River, Long Island, 1921. 250 p. Available at: http://image.sciencenet.cn/olddata/kexue.com.cn/upload/blog/file/2010/11/20101113143833504463.pdf (accessed 20.01.2021).
3. Thomas W.I., Thomas D.S. Chapter 13. The Child in America: Behavior Problems and Programs. The Metodology of Behavior Study. New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1928, pp. 553-576. Available at: https://brocku.ca/MeadProject/Thomas/Thomas_1928_13.html (accessed 20.01.2021).
4. Diligenskii G. Socio-political psychology. Moscow, Nauka, 1994. 303 p. (In Russ.)
5. Danilova E.N. Institutional innovation in the social sphere: an approach to learning. Sociological Studies, 2019, no. 11, pp. 18-28. (In Russ.) DOI: 10.31857/S013216250007446-3
6. Avtonomov V.S. Human Model in Economic Theory and Other Social Sciences. Moscow, GU VShE, 1998. 71 p. (In Russ.) Available at: http://ecsocman.hse.ru/data/628/639/1219/003Avtonomov.pdf (accessed 02.02.2021).
7. Simon H.A. Models of Man: social and rational. New York, John Wiley & Sons, 1957. 287 p.
8. Kapelushnikov R.I. Who is homo oeconomicus? Preprint WP3/2019/07. Seriya WP3 Labor market problems. Moscow, 2019. 40 p. (In Russ.) Available at: https://wp.hse.ru/data/2019/07/30/1483814672/WP3_2019_07_______________.pdf (accessed 02.02.2021).
9. Arthur B.W. Complexity and the Economy. 1st edition. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2014. 240 p.
10. Europeans’ Knowledge of Economic Indicators. Special Eurobarometer 323. The European Commission, Brussels, Belgium. January 2010. 87 p. Available at: https://europa.eu/eurobarometer/surveys/detail/927 (accessed 10.12.2020).
11. Ipsos MORI. Available at: https://www.ipsos.com/ipsos-mori/en-uk (accessed 10.12.2020).
12. Goffe N.V., Monusova G.A. Perception of social realities and subjective well-being in developed countries. Moscow, IMEMO, 2020. 166 p. (In Russ.) DOI: 10.20542/978-5-9535-0580-2
13. Kahneman D. Thinking, Fast and Slow. New York, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011. 499 p.
14. Caplan B. The Myth of the Rational Voter. Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies. Policy Analyses, 2007, no. 594. Available at: https://www.cato.org/policy-analysis/myth-rational-voter-why-democracies-choose-bad-policies (accessed 25.06.2020).
15. The European Social Survey 2014. Available at: https://www.europeansocialsurvey.org/data/ (accessed 11.12.2020).
16. The European Social Survey 2016. Available at: https://www.europeansocialsurvey.org/data/ (accessed 11.12.2020).
17. Cardoso A., Loviglio A., Piemontese L. Misperceptions of unemployment and individual labor market outcomes. IZA Journal of Labor Policy, 2016, vol. 5, no. 13. DOI: 10.1186/s40173-016-0069-6
18. Alesina A., Miano A., Stantcheva S. Immigration and Redistribution. NBER Working Paper 24733, 2018. 81 p. DOI: 10.3386/w24733
19. Gimpelson V., Triesman D. Misperceiving Inequality. Economics & Politics, 2018, vol. 30, no. 1, pp. 27-54. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/ecpo.12103 (accessed 11.12.2020).
20. Dubrovskii D.I. The problem of the ideal. Subjective reality. Moscow, Kanon+, 2002. 368 p. (In Russ.)
21. OCDE Data. Inflation (CPI). Available at: https://data.oecd.org/price/inflation-cpi.htm (accessed 11.12.2020).
22. Federal State Statistics Service. (In Russ.) Available at: https://rosstat.gov.ru (accessed 11.12.2020).
23. Card D. Origins of the Unemployment Rate: The Lasting Legacy of Measurement without Theory. American Economic Review: Papers & Proceedings, 2011, vol. 101, no. 3, pp. 552-557. DOI: 10.1257/aer.101.3.552
24. Refugees and Migrants. Definitions. UN. Available at: https://refugeesmigrants.un.org/definitions (accessed 09.09.2020).
25. Trust and Public Policy: How Better Governance Can Help Rebuild Public Trust. OECD Public Governance Reviews. Paris, OECD Publishing, March 27, 2017. 162 p. DOI: 10.1787/9789264268920-en
26. OECD.Stat. Available at: https://stats.oecd.org/ (accessed 09.08.2020).
27. Duffy B. Why We’re Wrong About Nearly Everything: A Theory of Human Misunderstanding. New York, 2019. 304 p.
28. All you need is trust. Informing the role of government in the COVID‑19 context. The OECD Statistics Newsletter, iss. 73. 3 p. December 2020. Available at: http://www.oecd.org/gov/all-you-need-is-trust-statistics-newsletter-12-2020.pdf (accessed 01.03.2021).
29. Evans M.D.R., Kelley J., Kolosi T. Images of class: Public perceptions in Hungary and Australia. American Sociological Review, 1992, vol. 57, no. 4, pp. 461-482. DOI: 10.2307/2096095
30. Genest-Gregoire A., Guay J., Godbout L. Never too rich to be middle-class: an assessment of the reference-group theory and implications for redistributive taxation. What Drives Inequality? Decancq K., Van Kerm Ph., eds. Bingley (UK), vol. 27, 2019, pp. 123-137. DOI: 10.1108/S1049-258520190000027009
31. Gorvett Z. How the news changes the way we think and behave. BBC, 12.05.2020. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200512-how-the-news-changes-the-way-we-think-and-behave (accessed 24.02.2021).
32. Part 2. How people get news: The internet as a news supplement. Pew Research Center, October 27, 2004. Available at: https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2004/10/27/part-2-how-people-get-news-the-internet-as-a-news-supplement/ (accessed 24.02.2021).
33. Digital News Report. Interactive. Reuters Institute, University of Oxford, 2020. Available at: https://www.digitalnewsreport.org/interactive/ (accessed 24.02.2021).
34. Hester J.B., Gibson R. The Economy and Second-Level Agenda Setting: A Time-Series Analysis of Economic News and Public Opinion about the Economy. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 2003, vol. 80, no. 1, pp. 73-90. DOI: 10.1177/107769900308000106
35. Dalen A. van, Vreese C. de, Albæk E. Economic News Through the Magnifying Glass. How the media cover economic boom and bust. Journalism Studies, 2017, vol. 18, no. 7, pp. 890-909. DOI: 10.1080/1461670X.2015.1089183
Registered in System SCIENCE INDEX