What Worries the World – March 2021

“What Worries the World?”: One year on, COVID-19 remains the greatest global concern.

COVID-19 has now been the greatest concern for twelve consecutive months, with a global average score of 45% saying it is one of the most worrying things facing their country.


% concerned by COVID19


When we look at the global country average, the top five issues around the world are currently (in the following order): COVID-19 (45%), Unemployment (37%), Poverty/Social inequality (31%), Financial/Political Corruption (29%) and Crime and violence (24%), the same sequence as last month.

top 5 concerns globally


  1. COVID-19 (45%): Included for the first time in April 2020, COVID-19 is still the issue with the highest global average score this month, despite a 5-percentage drop from last month. Malaysia (where it is selected by 61%), Great Britain (60%), and both the Netherlands and Japan (58%) are currently the nations most worried about Coronavirus. The pandemic is the single greatest concern for 14 of the 27 surveyed nations. In three countries, coronavirus has lost its “top spot” as issue of most concern in their country. South Koreans now mention unemployment alongside Covid-19 as their joint top concern whilst Mexico and Spain are the two other countries remaining nations who no longer cite the pandemic as their greatest concern. The twelve countries which do not have Coronavirus as their single top concern are: Argentina (Crime and violence), Chile (Poverty and social inequality), Hungary (Healthcare), India (Unemployment), Italy (Unemployment), Mexico (Crime and violence), Poland (Healthcare), Russia (Poverty and social inequality), Spain (Unemployment),South Africa (Financial/political corruption), Sweden (Crime and violence) and Turkey (Unemployment).
  2. Unemployment (37%): The figure recorded for this issue remains in line with previous months. The highest levels of worry are seen in Italy (60%) and South Africa (60%), followed by Spain (58%).
  3. Poverty/social inequality (31%): Once again, Russia shows the highest levels of concern about this issue (60%), followed by Hungary (45%) and Chile (43%).
  4. Financial/political corruption (29%): The proportion selecting this issue also remains the same as the previous month. South Africa (64%) is the most worried nation, ahead of both Peru and Russia (50%)
  5. Crime and violence (24%): As with last month, this issue is now in 5th place, just ahead of Healthcare. Sweden (59%) is the nation most concerned, ahead of both Chile and Mexico (51%). The study finds that most people across the 27 countries surveyed say that their country is on the wrong track. Looking at how many say their nation is on the wrong track (62%, global country average), Peru (85%), South Africa (80%), Poland (80%) are most worried about their country’s direction of travel.

Globally, 38% on average say things in their country are heading in the right direction while 62% say they are on the wrong track.  

wrong track right rack

This month, the largest increases in those saying things are heading in the right direction are seen in Great Britain (+11 percentage points), the Netherlands (+8 percentage points), and the USA (+5 percentage points).

  • Great Britain’s score of 49% saying things are heading in the right direction is now only 3pts down from a positive peak score of 52% seen in April 2020, during the first period of the pandemic. That figure then slumped to a low of 29% in October 2020 before starting its recent recovery.
  • Similarly, in the US (43%), national positivity is at its highest since March 2020 (49%). It is currently the 9th most positive nation on this measure. This month’s score is also 18pts higher than January 2021, when the US was ranked 23rd among the 27 surveyed nations.

See more in our global summary report for March 2021. Also see last month’s results, which includes more of a look back over the previous year.


What Worries the World is a monthly online survey of adults aged 16-74 in 27 countries: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, France, Britain, Germany, Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, Peru, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United States.