Public Understanding of Economics and Economic Statistics (ESCoE OP-03)


Public Understanding of Economics and Economic Statistics (ESCoE OP-03)

By Nathan Hudson-Sharp

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This study explores the public understanding of economics and economics statistics, through mixed-methods research with the UK public, including 12 focus groups with 130 participants and a nationally representative survey with 1,665 respondents. It shows that people generally understand economic issues through the lens of their familiar personal economy rather than the abstract national economy. The research shows that large parts of the UK public have misperceptions about how economic figures, such as the unemployment and inflation rate, are collected and measured, and who they are produced and published by. This sometimes affected participants’ subsequent views of the perceived accuracy and reliability of economic statistics. Broadly, the focus groups suggested that people are often sceptical and cynical about any data they see, and that official economic data are subject to the same public scrutiny as any other data. In line with other research, the survey found consistent and substantial differences in economic knowledge and interest across different groups of the UK population. This report will be followed up with an engagement exercise to discuss findings with stakeholders, in order to draw out recommendations on how to improve the communication of economics and economic statistics to the public.

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