What Worries the World - June 2019

79% of Britons think the nation is on the wrong track with concern about Climate Change highest in the series for GB

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  • Teodros Gebrekal Public Affairs
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The new Ipsos What Worries the World survey finds 79% of Britons believe the nation is heading on the wrong track.  Figures for April and May represent the highest levels of negativity for Great Britain since the series began in 2010.  Positive sentiment about the direction Britain is taking has fallen by 14-percentage points since January 2018 (35%), with just 21% of Britons now saying the country is heading in the right direction — exactly 1/2 of the global average (42%).

The Ipsos What Worries the World study is a monthly online survey of adults aged under 65 in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, France, Britain, Germany, Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Poland, Peru, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United States. 

The five biggest worries for British citizens are:

  1. Crime & violence (35%) is now the joint greatest concern for Britons despite a 6-point drop from the previous month. The overall score of 35% is 5 points higher than the global average. Overall, Britain is 8th of 28 countries in terms of levels of concern in this area.
  2. Healthcare (35%) is the joint leading worry this month, although it has fallen a marginal two points from the previous month. Britain is the 8th most concerned country about healthcare globally, behind Hungary (70%), Poland (56%), Brazil (46%), Canada (41%), US (40%) China (39%) and Serbia (36%). 
  3. Poverty/Social Inequality (30%) follows as the third most mentioned anxiety but in absolute terms Britain ranks in 14th place globally for worry in this area and just 2 points below the global average. 
  4. Climate change (25%) is now a top five concern for Britons with a 8-point increase from the previous month. Britain now ranks in 4th place of the 28 countries surveyed on this measure. A score of 25% is the highest score we have seen for Climate Change this series and June 2019 is the first month this issue has been in the top 4 worries for GB since April 2014.
  5. Terrorism (24%) is the fifth most cited concern by Britons with the score in line with recent trends.

Top five global issues

Top five Great Britain issues

Unemployment (33%) Crime and violence (35%)
Poverty/ social inequality (32%) Healthcare (35%)
Financial/ political corruption (31%) Poverty/ social inequality (30%)
Crime and violence (30%) Climate changes (25%)
Healthcare (25%) Terrorism (24%)


What Worries the rest of the world?

The study finds the majority of people across the participating 28 nations feel their country is on the wrong track (58% on average), with South Africa (82%), France (80%), Great Britain (79%), Sweden (74%) and Hungary (72%) showing the greatest levels of concern. 

The study finds that most people across the 28 countries surveyed say that their country is on the wrong track (58% on average - in line with previous months). But there are distinct variations in scores across the globe:

Right Direction 

  • Once more, Chinese citizens are the most assured about their national direction (91%). 
  • Saudi Arabia (82%) again follows in second place trailed by India (71%) and Malaysia (58%).
  • In Spain, we can see the effect of Pedro Sánchez from the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party becoming the nation’s acting Prime Minister. Optimism in Spain has hit a 17-month high: this month, 41% of its citizens believe things are headed in the right direction — a 19-percentage point increase from the previous month where Spain was in the bottom four globally on this measure. 
  • Notable increases in citizens considering their country as headed in the right direction are also seen in Peru (42%) and Israel (50%) — reporting a 13-point and 7-point increase respectively. 

Wrong Track 

  • At the other end of the spectrum, South African, French, British, Swedish and Hungarian nationals have recorded the highest levels of concern about the direction taken by their nation. Only 18% of South African citizens consider their nation to be heading in the right direction, followed by 20% in France, 21% in Great Britain, 26% in Sweden and 28% in Hungary. 
  • Sweden has also seen the biggest fall in optimism— with a reduction of 8 points from the previous month and a 21-point decline in the proportion saying that Sweden is heading in the right direction from a recent high of 47% reported in March 2018. 
  • There is also a 5-point fall in positive sentiment in Serbia (48%).

The four major worries globally are:

  1. Unemployment (33%). Spain (64%) is the nation which is most worried about unemployment, closely followed by on Italy 63% and South Africa on 61%. Israelis (15%) have the greatest month on month increase in this fear, with a rise of 6-percentage points from April. The US and Germany (10%) are the least apprehensive nations along with Great Britain (13%) on this issue.
  2. Poverty/Social Inequality (32%). The peak levels of anxiety are held in Russia (61%), Serbia (51%) and Germany (47%). The US and Saudi Arabia (18%) are the least nervous nations on this topic followed by Sweden (22%). Regarding trends, we see a strong 10-point drop in concern within this area by Peruvian citizens (29%) month on month.
  3. Financial/ Political Corruption (31%). The highest levels of worry are seen in South Africa (66%), Peru (58%) and Hungary (56%). Turkey (+10 points) is the country which reports the greatest month on month increase in this concern. German (8%) and Swedish (10%) citizens are the least anxious, followed by people in Great Britain (12%) France (15%) and Australia (17%). 
  4. Crime & Violence (30%), the strongest levels of concern for this issue are seen in Mexico (68%) – closely followed by South Africa (61%) with Peru (55%) placed in third. Turkey (32%) has the greatest upsurge in worry from the previous month with a rise of 10 percentage points. There are other notable increases in concern in Sweden (+9 points) and South Korea (+6 points). Fears around this issue are lowest in Hungary (7%), Russia (9%) and Poland (10%). The greatest reductions in levels of concern month on month come from both Hungary and Italy (-7 points).

Commenting on the findings, Keiran Pedley said:

Levels of pessimism about Britain’s national direction continue to be extremely high when compared to other countries. In fact, since the series started in May 2011, levels of pessimism have never been higher in Britain than they are now in mid-2019.
The current political turmoil and Brexit impasse are likely to be significant contributing factors to the negative mood but our data shows that other factors are at play too. Issues around crime, healthcare and poverty continue to worry Britons but it is also noticeable that concern about Climate Change is at record levels. This particular trend is supported by other Ipsos research and perhaps reflects the increased focus on environmental issues in the media in past months. If this trend continues, we should expect issues related to Climate Change to play a significant role in a future British General Election, whenever it comes.

Technical note:

  • The survey was conducted in 28 countries around the world via the Ipsos Online Panel system. The 28 countries included are Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, France, Great Britain, Germany, Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United States of America. 
  • 19,529 interviews were conducted between April 19th, 2019 – May 3rd, 2019 among adults aged 18-64 in Canada, Israel and the US, and adults aged 16-64 in all other countries. Data are weighted to match the profile of the population.
  • In 17 of the 28 countries surveyed internet penetration is sufficiently high to think of the samples as representative of the wider population within the age ranges covered: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Japan, Poland, Serbia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Great Britain and United States.  The remaining 11 countries surveyed: Brazil, Chile, China, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Russia, Peru, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Turkey have lower levels of internet penetration and so these samples should instead be considered to represent a more affluent, connected population.  These are still a vital social group to understand in these countries, representing an important and emerging middle class.  
  • Ipsos is an independent market research company controlled and managed by research professionals. Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos has grown into a worldwide research group with a strong presence in all key markets. Ipsos ranks third in the global research industry. With offices in 89 countries, Ipsos delivers insightful expertise across six research specializations: advertising, customer loyalty, marketing, media, public affairs research, and survey management.
The author(s)
  • Teodros Gebrekal Public Affairs

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