Nearly 15 per cent of people worldwide believe the world will end during their lifetime and 10 per cent think the Mayan calendar could signify it will happen in 2012, according to a new poll.Thomas Lumley at the Stats Chat blog comments,
Presumably Ipsos, who know how to poll, are accurately reporting what people said, and the 15% and 10% figures are actually reasonably representative of what people will answer if you ask them that question. That doesn’t mean the conclusions are true — they obviously aren’t true, since if 15% of people really believed that, they would be behaving differently.Which is part of the reason many economists don't fully trust survey data. Data on what people actually do, rather than what they say they would do, is preferable.
This is a big problem with surveys — even representative polls of people can give weird results, because polls measure how people answer questions, not what they actually believe.