British citizens "seriously overestimate" how many people belong to different minority groups in the UK, according to a new study.

According to the data, which centred around people's knowledge of the country's population, people who weren't religious and had high IQs, made more accurate estimates of national statistics.

Adrian Furnham from the Norwegian Business School in Norway led the study and his team asked 573 adults from the UK to make population estimates surrounding socioeconomic, religious, health, and behavioural traits.

The participants were also asked to complete an intelligence test and to rate their own religiousness, political beliefs, and optimism.

The adults were asked to complete a series of 25 estimations prompted by questions about diet, salaries, homeownership, and Muslim populations.

After gathering an average estimation from all the participants, the researchers saw that the respondents accurately guessed when it came to estimating what proportion of the population are vegetarian, who owned cars, and how many voters there are.

According to the data, which is published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE, the participants also accurately estimated that 61.45 percent of people voted in the last election.

This figure was just a stone's throw away from the 67.3 percent of voters who actually voted in the last election.

Similarly, the participants estimated that there was 14.3 percent of vegetarians in the UK, which was bang on the money, as the real data showed that 14 percent did not eat meat.

In a shocking discovery, the research team found that on average, the participants "seriously overestimated" the number of people who weren't born in the UK, along with those who belong to minority groups such as the gay community and Muslim populations.

For example, even though in 2018, Office for National Statistics (ONS) recorded that there 2.2 percent of the UK population are gay, the participants overestimated by over ten percent.

Similarly, the participants guessed that 14.11 percent of the population were Muslim when in actual fact, the ONS recorded that the UK was home to only 5.1 percent of people who said they were Muslim.

Interestingly, the respondents "significantly underestimated" the average number of people receiving state benefits in the UK.

Although they guessed a modest 29.12 percent, the actual figure recorded by Gov UK in 2019, was 53 percent - almost double what they had assumed.

In light of the findings, the researchers noticed a link between the participants' religiousness, political standing, and intelligence, and how accurate their guesses were.

When it came to measuring minority groups, the incorrect guesses were more likely to overestimate than underestimate their size, and their tendency to exaggerate was informed by their political and religious attitudes.

Mr Furnham and his team found that people were more likely to exaggerate estimates if they related to minorities, whereas estimates of affluence and education were less driven by ideology.

Although the study sample was not fully representative of the UK population, the results have suggested that the statistics people read and remember are biased by their existing beliefs.

The study report went on to explain that despite being bombarded with statistics in the media, "people appear to be ignorant of a range of statistics pertaining to important features in society."

It went on to highlight that "active religious and political engagement may stem from, or render people sensitive to, signals related to feelings of having their value systems threatened."

The study unearthed that the perceptions of issues relating to welfare benefits and minorities appear to be particularly prone to bias, which, the authors suggest may be related to feelings of social competition.

The authors added: "The study shows that people are generally quite inaccurate about social and demographic statistics of their own society.

"There is a clear tendency, for example, to overestimate minorities. The tendency to overestimate is related to IQ levels and a sense of being threatened."