Majority across 25 countries say their country is on the wrong track

A majority of people in 25 countries around the world think things in their country are off on the wrong track, according to a new global poll from Ipsos.

A majority of people in 25 countries around the world think things in their country are off on the wrong track, according to a new global poll from Ipsos. The findings come from “What Worries the World”, an Ipsos survey of online adults aged under 65 in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Britain, Germany, Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Peru, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United States.  It asks what are the issues that most worry them and whether they think things in their country are headed in the right direction.

Off on the wrong track? Overall, across the 25 countries as a whole, people are more likely to think things in their country are off on the wrong track (61%), than headed in the right direction (39%).  Most pessimistic are Mexico and France, 89% of whom think things are going wrong, and Brazil (84%). In Britain, a clear majority (60%) think that things are on the wrong track, and 40% say they think things are going in the right direction.  This is down from last month, when 44% said things were headed in the right direction, suggesting any post-referendum bounce has been short-lived. However, this is the most optimistic response out of the European countries included in the study, as well as being more positive than the US.  Overall, the most optimistic are fast-growing economies, such as China, where 90% say things are headed in the right direction, Saudi Arabia (75%), and India (74%).  What do we worry about? In Britain, immigration is the number one worry, but there has been a drop of 6% points compared with last month when Britain was the country most worried about it out of all 25 included in the study. Now, whilst Britain is still among the countries with the highest level of worry about the issue, Germany is the country most worried about immigration (mentioned by 38%.) The joint second biggest concerns in Britain now are poverty and inequality alongside healthcare: 33% say each is the most worrying issues in Britain, with poverty 4 percentage points up on last month.  Looking at what issues worry the world, the single biggest worry across all countries is unemployment, which is mentioned by 39% globally. This is a modest (1%) increase compared with last month. Peru has the highest level of worry about their top issue – 75% are worried about crime and violence, which is also the biggest worry in Mexico (70%), Argentina (64%) and Sweden (49%).

  In Turkey the most commonly mentioned worry (74%) is terrorism, which is also the biggest worry in Israel (49%), India (46%) and the US (41%).

Do worries reflect reality?   It’s clear from the findings that the level of worry about key issues in different countries often bears little relationship to reality.  In South Korea, for example, actual unemployment is relatively low at just 4%, but 57% of Koreans say it is a worry – around the same level as South Africa where the actual rate of employment is much higher (25%.)   That said, Spain is the country most worried about unemployment (71%), and also has one of the highest actual unemployment rates of the countries included in the study (19%). In the case of immigration, Germany is the country which is most worried, but the actual proportion of immigrants which make up the German population is lower than in many other countries, according to 2015 UN estimates. In Canada, for example, the actual level of immigration is 21% but just 17% of the population say they are concerned about it as an issue.  In Germany 38% say they are concerned, but official immigration estimates are significantly lower at 15%: the large-scale influx of refugees to Germany will have shifted this upwards in the last year, but not to the levels seen in Canada. Similarly, Britain has an immigrant population level less than half that seen in Australia (28% of Australians are immigrants), but Britons are much more likely to be worried about immigration (36% compared to the Australians’ 25%). Commenting on the findings, Bobby Duffy, Managing Director, Ipsos Social Research Institute, said:
“The majority of the world thinks their country is going in the wrong direction.  This includes some desperately low levels of optimism in countries like Mexico and France, where nearly everyone thinks things are going wrong.  Britain is firmly mid-table in this fairly miserable world-view, although we have slipped back in the last month: how this shifts over the coming months as Brexit becomes a firmer reality will be a key indicator. In the US a similar proportion have a pessimistic outlook, although fieldwork pre-dates the election of Donald Trump, so it will be fascinating to see how that changes in future months. And our biggest concern is still immigration: we are the joint second most worried country out of the 25 included, even though our actual level of immigration is around the average level seen across these countries.  But as some of the patterns in other countries show – particularly Germany rising to the top of the table of concern on immigration – it’s not just the absolute level of immigration that impacts on concerns, it will be a wide range of factors including the pace of change in immigrant numbers, the nature of immigration and the countries’ perceived ability to cope.”

Technical note

18,014 interviews were conducted between September 23rd and October 7th 2016 among adults aged 18-64 in the US and Canada, and adults aged 16-64 in all other countries. The survey was conducted in 25 countries around the world via the Ipsos Online Panel system. Data are weighted to match the profile of the population.

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