Members of the public in European states including France, Belgium, Germany and the UK greatly overestimate their country’s Muslim population and the rate at which it is growing.
An Ipsos Mori survey that measured the gap between public perception and reality in 40 countries in 2016 found French respondents were by far the most likely to overstate their country’s current and projected Muslim population.
The average French estimate was that 31% of the population was Muslim – almost one in three residents. According to Pew Research, France’s Muslim population actually stood at 7.5% in 2010, or one in 13 people.
French respondents were also widest of the mark when it came to the projected Muslim population in 2020. The average prediction was that Muslims would make up 40% of the French population in four years’ time, almost five times the 8.3% Pew Research projection.
The French were not the only ones to hold such misconceptions: Italian, German and Belgian respondents all guessed that more than a fifth of the resident population was Muslim, while in reality the figure ranges from 3.7% in Italy to 7% in Belgium. All three countries also greatly overstated the expected proportion of Muslim residents in 2020.