The brazen choices of the Republican governor shows the real ideology behind attacks on unions – in the US and beyond
You can tell a great deal about a nation’s anxieties and aspirations by the discrepancy between reality and popular perception. Polls last year showed that in the US 61% think the country spends too much on foreign aid. This makes sense once you understand that the average American is under the illusion that 25% of the federal budget goes on foreign aid (the real figure is 1%).
Similarly, a Mori poll in Britain in 2002 revealed that more than a third of the country thought there were too many immigrants. Little wonder. The mean estimate was that immigrants comprise 23% of the country; the actual number was about 4%.
Broadly speaking, these inconsistencies do not reflect malice or wilful ignorance but people’s attempts to make sense of the world they experience through the distorting filters of media representation, popular prejudice and national myths. “The way we see things is affected by what we know and what we believe,” wrote John Berger in Ways of Seeing. “The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled.”