What Worries the World - October 2020

More than 6 in 10 globally say things in their country are on the wrong track as Coronavirus continues to be the world’s greatest worry.

The author(s)

  • Teodros Gebrekal Public Affairs
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Ipsos’ What Worries the World survey tracks public opinion on the most important social and political issues across 27 countries today, drawing on 10 years of data to place the latest scores in context.

October’s results show that people worldwide continue to say Coronavirus is one of the main problems facing their country today. A total of 44% select this issue, placing it in first spot once again. Meanwhile, unemployment is second with 38%.

#1 COVID-19 (44%)

Malaysia’s 19-point increase in concern about Coronavirus since last month makes this the nation currently most worried about COVID-19 (77% select this issue). We also see an increase in Great Britain (+5), now the second most concerned while Spain is in third with 60%.

#2 Unemployment (38%)

The relatively high level of worry about unemployment shown in our survey today reflects the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Consistent with previous months, South Africa is currently the most concerned about unemployment, mentioned by 62%. This is followed by Italy (60%), South Korea (59%) and Spain (also 59%). By contrast, only 13% in Germany are concerned about jobs.

#3 Poverty/Social Inequality (30%)

Russia is the country where we see the highest level of concern about Poverty and social inequality – it has a score of 55%. Chile and Hungary, both at 44%, complete the top three.

In fourth spot, Mexico has seen a 5-point increase in worry since last month.

#4 Financial/political corruption (27%)

South Africa registers the highest level of concern about financial/political corruption (62%). The study records increased worry on this topic compared with last month in Chile (+5), Malaysia (+4) and Peru (+4).

#5 Crime and violence (26%)

Ranked 5th globally, more than one in four place this in their top three biggest concerns.

With a 10-point increase on last month, South Africa is the country currently most concerned about this issue (62%), while Sweden has fallen back from 62% to 59%. There have also been notable increases since last month in India (+6), Italy (+6) and Peru (+4).

Direction of travel

Across the 27 nations, more than six in ten (63%) on average – and a majority in 24 countries – say that things in their country are on the wrong track.

The countries where this sentiment is highest in October 2020 include South Africa (82%), France (79%), Spain (76%) and Belgium (76%).

What Worries Great Britain?

The top 5 concerns in GB today are:

  1. Coronavirus (61% vs. 44% global)
  2. Unemployment (34% vs. 38% global)
  3. Healthcare (27% vs. 22% global)
  4. Poverty & social inequality (26% vs. 30% global)
  5. Immigration control (31% vs. 11% global)
  • Britain is the second country most worried about Coronavirus among the 27 nations in October, behind Malaysia (77%) and ahead of Spain (60%). This is up 5 points since the previous month.
  • The proportion of Britons concerned about unemployment has more than doubled over 6 months. In April 2020, only 16% said they were worried about unemployment – this has risen to 34%. GB slightly trails the global average of 38%.
  • Levels of concern about climate change have remained stable throughout the pandemic, and more Britons are now worried about this issue than crime & violence (19% vs. 18%).


Right direction/wrong track


  • More than seven in 10 (71%) Britons say that things in their country are on the “wrong track”, as opposed to 29% who say things are heading in the direction.
  • This 71% score is 8 points higher than the current global average (63%).
  • This marks a 6-percentage point increase since last month and is the highest score recorded for Britain since the (pre-election) December 2019, when 75% shared this gloomy outlook.
  • There is a dramatic shift looking back 6 months. In April 2020, when – with the onset of coronavirus restrictions – the proportion of people feeling positive about the national direction slightly outnumbered the pessimists (by 52% to 48%).

Technical Note

The survey is conducted monthly in 27 countries around the world via the Ipsos Online Panel system. The countries included are Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, France, Great Britain, Germany, Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the US.
For the results of the survey presented herein, an international sample of 20,085 adults aged 18-74 in the US, South Africa, Turkey, Israel and Canada, and age 16-74 in all other countries, were interviewed between September 25th and October 9th 2020. Approximately 1000+ individuals participated on a country by country basis via the Ipsos Online Panel.
The precision of Ipsos online polls are calculated using a credibility interval with a poll of 1,000 accurate to +/- 3.1 percentage points and of 500 accurate to +/- 4.5 percentage points. For more information on the Ipsos use of credibility intervals, please visit the Ipsos website.
Weighting has been employed to balance demographics and ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the adult population according to the most recent country census data.
A survey with an unweighted probability sample of this size would have an estimated margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points for a sample of 1,000 and an estimated margin of error of +/- 4.5 percentage points for a 500 sample 19 times out of 20.
In 17 of the 27 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, Netherlands, Poland, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Great Britain and United States.
Brazil, Chile, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Russia, Peru, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Turkey have lower levels of internet penetration and so these samples should not be considered nationally representative, and 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.

The author(s)

  • Teodros Gebrekal Public Affairs

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