New global poll finds Britons most worried about immigration

A new Ipsos survey of adults aged under 65 in 25 countries around the world asks what are the issues which most worry them and whether they think things in their country are headed in the right direction.

  • Global Ipsos study finds unemployment is the biggest worry of the world
  • Britain is the country most worried about immigration and extremism out of 25 countries around the world
  • French most likely to say things are going in wrong direction in their country

A new Ipsos study “What Worries the World” is an online survey of 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 which most worry them and whether they think things in their country are headed in the right direction.

In Britain, immigration is the number one worry, and we have the highest reported level of worry about immigration of any country included in the study (42%). As the shape of the UK’s future relationship with the EU is still subject to widespread debate, the subject of immigration and control of borders remains high in public awareness – pushing worry about this issue higher than in other European countries like Germany (41%) and Sweden (33%), which are more directly affected by the refugee crisis resulting from the civil conflict in Syria.

Out of the 25 countries, Britain is also the most concerned about the rise of extremism, with 28% of British people citing this as a worry.  Other countries that have high levels of concern include: Germany (27%), Belgium and Sweden (both 25%), and France (21%). 

Right track or wrong direction?

It finds overall, people across all countries are more likely to think things in their country are off on the wrong track (63%), than headed in the right direction (37%.)  Most pessimistic are the French, 88% of whom think things are going wrong, with only 12% feeling that things are going well. The most optimistic are countries which have seen sustained periods of economic growth; China, where 90% say things are headed in the right direction, Saudi Arabia (71%), and India (67%).

Britons are relatively positive about the direction the country is headed in, with 44% saying they think things are going in the right direction. This is slightly above the global average, and the most optimistic response out of the European countries in the study, the US, Australia and Japan.  This is also a significant improvement on a low point in July when only 31% said the country was going in the right direction, immediately after the EU Referendum.

Worries of the world

When it comes to what issues most worry people around the world, the single biggest issue across all countries is unemployment, which is mentioned by 38% globally. This is a modest (2%) increase compared to last month, but over the longer term, concern about unemployment has been decreasing since 2010 when more than half across all countries said this worried them.

Concern about terrorism is highest in Turkey (76%), and this is also the highest level of worry about any issue across all of the countries surveyed. Countries with recent or ongoing exposure to incidents of terror are among the most worried about terrorism; Israel (45%), France (55%) and Belgium (38%).

Healthcare, the fifth most frequently mentioned issue globally, is a significant concern in Hungary (where 59% mention it) and Brazil (50%). Healthcare is the second most frequently cited issue among Britons (34%) and has seen an increase of 7% month on month, possibly fuelled by an ongoing industrial dispute between junior doctors and the government.

Crime and violence is a big and growing concern in Mexico (60% say this is, a worry, up 19% month on month) and Argentina (now 56%, up 11%).  In Peru, crime and violence is the primary worry, with 74% saying this worries them - the highest level of concern about the issue among any country in the study.

China is most worried about climate change (21%) and threats against the environment (38%) out of all countries.

   Top five global worries Top five worries in Britain
 1   Unemployment (38%)   Immigration (42%)
 2   Financial/Political Corruption (34%)   Healthcare (34%)
 3   Poverty/Social Inequality (33%)    Terrorism (31%)
 4   Crime & Violence (31%)   Poverty and social inequality (29%)
 5   Healthcare (22%)      Rise of extremism (28%)

Commenting on the findings, Bobby Duffy, Managing Director, Ipsos Social Research Institute, said:

Britain is most worried about immigration out of the 25 countries included in the study, showing that the concern very clearly flagged in the EU Referendum has not subsided. But it’s also striking how quickly initial fears that we’re heading in the wrong direction following Brexit have abated: people have not seen much impact on the economy or felt it on their own standard of living.  Whether this will continue is a matter of fierce debate, but given the importance of consumer confidence to the economy, this is at least a positive. This relatively relaxed economic view is backed up by comparing our worries with other countries.  In particular, unemployment is the top global concern – but it doesn’t even feature in the top 5 in Britain.  Countries like Spain and Italy are in a completely different place, with around 7 in 10 people saying unemployment is a key worry. The survey helps put our worries in context: we are concerned about terrorism, but nothing like the degree of worry seen in countries like Turkey, where 76% say it is one of their top concerns. And we may think we have problems with healthcare and crime, but concern is at a completely different level in Peru, where 74% are worried about crime, and Hungary, where 59% say healthcare is a top worry.

Technical note

18,014 interviews were conducted between August 26th – September 9th 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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