What Worries the World? August 2021

New highs for Coronavirus concern in some countries underscore the unstable pandemic environment.

  • Coronavirus is still the top global concern today, according to our 28-country survey. On average, 37% say that Covid-19 is one of the most worrying issues in their country today.
  • Malaysia records its highest level of concern about Coronavirus since April 2020 (83%) and public concern in Australia climbs to the highest point in almost a year (58%).
  • Anxiety surrounding the virus has increased most since last month in the US (+15 points), Israel (+12) and Mexico (+10).
  • Unemployment and Poverty & social inequality are both considered a top concern today by an average of 31% of people across all countries.
  • Almost two in three (64%) on average across all countries say that things in their country are heading in the wrong direction.

1. Covid-19

On average, 37% worldwide say Coronavirus is one of the biggest issues facing their country today. This is down on the 50% recorded at the start of 2021 and 47% one year ago.

While the global average score has been stable since June 2021, we continue to see changes at country level. Concern has risen most in the US (+15), Israel (+12) and Mexico (+10) since last month.
With 83% placing Coronavirus in their top concerns, Malaysia records its highest score since April 2020. Australia is fourth most concerned with 58%, the highest point since September 2020. South Korea’s 59% is also the highest so far in 2021.
There have also been decreases in concern about Coronavirus since last month, most significantly South Africa (-11 points to 31%).
In August, Coronavirus becomes the single most worrying issue in France, Israel, the Netherlands and the US, taking the total to 13 of 28 countries with Covid-19 ranking first in their list of worries.

2. Unemployment

Unemployment is currently the second greatest worry worldwide: 31% say it is one of the most important issues facing their country today. This is down from the 37% seen in January 2021 and 9 points lower than the peak of 40% seen 12 months ago.
The public are most concerned about this issue in South Africa (64%), Spain (56%) and Italy (53%). 50% of Colombians also count this among their top worries.
The largest month-on-month increases in concern for Unemployment are seen in Spain (+7 points), and Argentina (+5).

3. Poverty & social inequality

One in three (31%) on average across all countries say that Poverty & social inequality is one of the top issues in their country today.
With 54% and 52% respectively, Russia and Hungary stand out as the nations where a larger proportion of the public are concerned about this issue.
Four in ten also select this in Colombia (42%), Brazil (41%) and South Africa (40%). These are the highest scores ever recorded in Brazil and South Africa for Poverty & social inequality.

4. Financial/Political Corruption

Financial/Political Corruption is the fourth greatest global concern according to our survey. On average across all countries, 29% say it is one of the top issues facing their country today.
South Africa is the country currently most concerned about corruption (59%). However, Unemployment is currently a larger worry there today.
Next in the list of nations most concerned about this issue are Hungary (54%, a 3-point increase vs. last month), Colombia (52%) and Russia (50%).
In 5th and 6th place, Peru and Malaysia both see a 6-point decrease in concern compared to July 2021.

5. Crime & violence

Crime & violence is the 5th greatest worry in August 2021 with one in four (25%) across all countries selecting it as one of the most important issues facing their country today.
Sweden has been the country most concerned about Crime and violence since 2016. This month, 61% select this issue. More than half (51%) of Mexicans also consider this a top concern in their country today.
The largest increases in concern about Crime & violence seen this month are seen in Spain (+6 points) and Saudi Arabia (+5).


Focus on Climate change

With the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 26) taking place this November, we take a further look at environmental issues in our survey.
Across the 28 countries we surveyed, 15% place climate change among their top three concerns. Overall, it is ranked 9th of our list of 18 issues.
Germany is currently the country most concerned about climate change, with 36% selecting this (+6 percentage points vs. last month, and the highest Germany has recorded to date). Australia and Canada are next, with 31% in each reporting climate change to be a top concern.
Other notable increases are seen in Belgium (+7 vs. July 2021) and Sweden (+6).


Looking ahead

Our What Worries the World study also tracks whether people across the 28 countries surveyed think that things in their country are heading in the right direction or are off on the wrong track.
In August 2021, on average 64% globally say that things in their country are on the wrong track while 36% take the view that things are heading in the right direction.
This is a slightly more pessimistic picture than we saw at the start of the year (62% vs. 38%) and one year ago (57% vs. 43%).
The countries where most people say that things are heading in the wrong direction are Colombia (88%) and Turkey (87%), followed by South Africa (83%) and Peru (80%).
Negative sentiment has increased by 10 points among the public in Great Britain, where we see 64% opting for wrong track and 36% for right direction, a significant shift from 51% vs. 49% in March of this year.
We also see optimism slipping by 6 points in Israel, and 5 points in Turkey, Poland, the US, Germany and Canada, many of which have also seen increases in Coronavirus concern this month.