U.S. stands out among 28 countries in perceptions of social tension

Over half of Americans say the country is divided by “culture wars”

The author(s)

  • Mallory Newall Vice President, US, Public Affairs
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Washington, DC, June 28, 2021– A new Ipsos Global Advisor poll, carried out in partnership with the Policy Institute at King’s College London, shows over half of Americans (57%) think that their country is divided by “culture wars.” Just over a third of people from 28 countries across the world (a Global Country Average of 35%) agree, however, there is wide variation in this opinion when looking at individual countries. In the U.S., the biggest source of perceived tension is between political parties, followed by values, ethnicity, wealth, and immigration.

Detailed Findings

1. A majority of Americans think their country is divided by “culture wars,” which is higher than the global average.

  • People in South Africa (58%), the U.S. (57%) and India (57%) are most likely to feel that their country is divided by “culture wars,”
  • Those in Germany (19%), Russia (18%) and Japan (9%) are least likely to feel their country is divided.% who agree country is divided by culture wars

2. Levels of division in the U.S. surpass global averages across every type of perceived tension.

  • Americans perceive most tension to exist between political parties (90% say there is at least a fair amount of tension), followed by divisions by those with different values (85%), people with different ethnicities (83%), the rich and poor (81%), and immigration (78%).
  • The U.S. ranks at the top of all 28 countries for perceived tension between different ethnicities, and near the top on perceived tension between political parties and those with different values (between socially liberal/progressive values and more traditional values).
  • Globally, people perceive most tension to exist between the rich and poor (Global Country Average of 74% say there is at least a fair amount of tension), followed by divisions by politics (69%), social class (67%), immigration (66%), and between those with different values (65%).

3. Half of Americans think people are too easily offended, when asked to rate their feelings on political correctness, on a scale from 0 to 7. Generally, people in Western countries are most likely to think people are too easily offended.

  • About half of people in the U.S. are likely to think people are too easily offended (49% answer 0 to 3 on a 7-point political correctness scale, with 0 meaning many people are too easily offended), trailing only Great Britain (51%) and Australia (50%).
  • At the other end of the spectrum, people in Turkey (76%), India (76%) and China (72%) are most likely to feel that people need to change the way they talk to be more sensitive.
  • Overall, in most of the countries surveyed, a majority lean towards believing we need to change the way people talk.% who say people are too easily offended

About the Study

These are the results of a 28-market survey conducted by Ipsos on its Global Advisor online platform. Ipsos interviewed a total of 23,004 adults aged 18-74 in the United States, Canada, Malaysia, South Africa and Turkey, 21-74 in Singapore and 16-74 in 22 other markets between 23 December 2020 and 8 January 2021.

The sample consists of approximately 1,000 individuals in each of Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, mainland China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Spain and the U.S., and 500 individuals in each of Argentina, Chile, Hungary, India, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, and Turkey.

The samples in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, South Korea, Spain, Sweden and the U.S. can be taken as representative of their general adult population under the age of 75.

The samples in Brazil, Chile, mainland China, India, Israel, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, and Turkey are more urban, more educated, and/or more affluent than the general population. The survey results for these markets should be viewed as reflecting the views of the more “connected” segment of their population.

The data is weighted so that each country’s sample composition best reflects the demographic profile of the adult population according to the most recent census data. “The Global Country Average” reflects the average result for all the countries where the survey was conducted. It has not been adjusted to the population size of each country and is not intended to suggest a total result.

Where results do not sum to 100 or the ‘difference’ appears to be +/-1 more/less than the actual, this may be due to rounding, multiple responses, or the exclusion of “don’t know” or not stated responses.

For more information on this news release, please contact:

Nicolas Boyon
Senior Vice President, U.S., Public Affairs
+1 646 309-4879
[email protected]

Mallory Newall
Director, U.S., Public Affairs
+1 202 374-2613
[email protected]

Kate Silverstein
Media Relations Specialist, U.S., Public Affairs
+1 718 755-8829
[email protected]

About Ipsos

Ipsos is the world’s third largest market research company, present in 90 markets and employing more than 18,000 people.

Our passionately curious research professionals, analysts and scientists have built unique multi-specialist capabilities that provide true understanding and powerful insights into the actions, opinions and motivations of citizens, consumers, patients, customers or employees. We serve more than 5000 clients across the world with 75 business solutions.

Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos is listed on the Euronext Paris since July 1st, 1999. The company is part of the SBF 120 and the Mid-60 index and is eligible for the Deferred Settlement Service (SRD).

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The author(s)

  • Mallory Newall Vice President, US, Public Affairs