Global – and South African – Predictions for 2021

After a 2020 that is rated as the worst year for some time, people around the world are looking forward to 2021

After a 2020 that is rated as the worst year for some time, people around the world are looking forward to 2021, hoping that this new year will be better for their country, their families and themselves, according to a new Ipsos Global Advisor poll in 31 countries. However, worries about the long-term impact of Covid-19 are prevalent, and concerns about global warming, the economy, and general tolerance of others have not gone away.

Globally, 23,007 online interviews were conducted between October 23 and November 6, 2020. In most of the developing world, including South Africa, online interviews represent a more “connected” and often more affluent population.

Outlook for 2021: 2020 seen as the worst year for some time, but more optimism that 2021 will be better

There has been a sharp increase in those looking on the past year negatively, as 9 in 10 (90%) now say 2020 was a bad year for their country, up from 65% from the previous year. The view of online South Africans stands at 95%, the same as that in Argentina and France, closely followed by the UK, Turkey, and the USA at 94%. Seven in ten (70%) say 2020 has been a bad year for themselves and their family, an increase of 20 percentage points from 2019. This is the worst figure since the series started in 2012.

A clear majority of people in every country view 2020 as bad for their country, although least likely to agree are those in Saudi Arabia (74%) and China (79%). Views have got worse in every country, especially in the USA (up 45 percentage points to 94%), Canada (up 39 percentage points to 93%), the Netherlands (up 56 percentage points to 93%), Singapore (up 42 percentage points to 91%), Germany (up 37 percentage points to 83%) and China (up 36 percentage points to 79%).

However, in all countries, bar Japan, a majority say they are optimistic that 2021 will be better, with a global average of 77% agreeing (similar to previous years), increasing to 94% in China and 92% in Peru. On the other hand, only 44% in Japan are feeling optimistic for the year ahead, as are only 53% in France.

People are less enthusiastic about the performance of the global economy next year: 54% believe it will be stronger than it has been in 2020 (similar to predictions in previous years). Countries in Europe are most likely to disagree including France (69%), Belgium (63%), Spain, Poland, and Germany (all 60%).

Three-quarters (75%) around the world say they will make personal resolutions for themselves or others in 2021, including almost all of those in China (97%) and Mexico (95%). Almost 9 in every ten (89%) of online South Africans concur.

Reflecting on the previous year, South Africans have been more negative than the global averages indicated since 2012.  Thus, although 2020 was a particularly bad and hard year for the country and individuals and their families, it is clear that various difficulties and worries have influenced the South African mood negatively, long before Covid-19.

It is even more interesting to look at the development of these views since 2012. Reflecting on the previous year, South Africans have been more negative than the global averages indicated since 2012. Thus, although 2020 was a particularly bad and hard year for the country and individuals and their families, it is clear that various difficulties and worries have influenced the South African mood negatively, long before Covid-19.

On the other hand – looking at the years ahead – online South Africans have always been more positive than the averages for the world as a whole, perhaps illustrating that we are a hopeful nation, striving to make the best of difficult circumstances – although reality does not live up to the high hopes.

On the other hand – looking at the years ahead – online South Africans have always been more positive than the averages for the world as a whole, perhaps illustrating that we are a hopeful nation, striving to make the best of difficult circumstances – although reality does not live up to the high hopes.

On the other hand – looking at the years ahead – online South Africans have always been more positive than the averages for the world as a whole, perhaps illustrating that we are a hopeful nation, striving to make the best of difficult circumstances – although reality does not live up to the high hopes.

COVID-19: Hopes for a vaccine, but predicting long-term effects

Globally, people seem optimistic that a successful vaccine will become widely available in their country in 2021 with 60% of people around the world say this is likely to happen. Those in Poland are least hopeful, where this figure falls to 44%, along with 45% in Spain. China is by far most optimistic with 9 in 10 (89%) people believing a successful vaccine will be widely available, followed by three-quarters in Malaysia, India and Saudi Arabia. With the first batch of vaccines arriving in South Africa only on 1 February 2021, South Africans are not as optimistic about the imminent widespread availability of vaccines.

However, almost half of people globally (47%) also believe there will be a new global pandemic caused by a new virus, increasing to 7 in 10 (70%) Malaysians and 69% South Koreans.

Furthermore, only 4 in 10 (41%) say it is likely life in their country will get back to normal after the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and only a third (32%) expect the economy to have fully recovered. Online South Africans are not as hopeful about these aspects and 60% say it is unlikely that life will have returned to normal and three-quarters (76%) say it is unlikely that the economy will have fully recovered from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Globally, only 3 in 10 (30%) believe the world will change for the better because of the pandemic: those in India (62%) and Saudi Arabia (58%) are most hopeful in this respect; meanwhile only 9% of those in France are as optimistic.

A majority (61%) believe they will still have to wear a mask in public places a year from now. There are only 5 countries in which a minority think this is likely, including Sweden (18%) and New Zealand (30%).

A majority (61%) believe they will still have to wear a mask in public places a year from now. There are only 5 countries in which a minority think this is likely, including Sweden (18%) and New Zealand (30%).

Economics: Predictions of rising income inequality and doubts about gender pay, but a belief shopping online will continue

Two-thirds (66%) expect income inequality in their country to increase over the next year, with Turkey (85%) and Israel (84%) most likely to say this will happen. While the majority (57%) of online South Africans feel that income inequality will increase, almost four in ten (37%) are hopeful that it might even out in future.

Four in ten (40%) say it’s likely the major stock markets around the world will crash, similar to predictions in 2016 and 2017. Three-quarters of those in Malaysia (73%) believe it is likely to happen. At the other end of the spectrum, only 2 in 10 (22%) of those in China and one-quarter of Hungarians (26%) agree.

Half of the global population (51%) say it is unlikely that women will be paid the same as men for the same work, roughly similar to predictions in 2018 and 2019. Around the world women are less optimistic this will be achieved (35% say it’s likely, compared to 45% for men). Since 2018, hope has dwindled in South Africa that women will be compensated equally for their contribution to the country’s economy with a notable percentage point decrease year on year. In 2018, 52% said it will happen, and in 2019 this figure shrunk to 48%, with another decrease at the end of 2020 with only 43% expressing hope for income equality.

Most expect to spend more money buying things online than spending in stores, with 57% of respondents saying they are likely to do so, increasing to 84% in Turkey and 79% in China and South Korea. Only in France do a majority think this is unlikely (56%).

Most expect to spend more money buying things online than spending in stores, with 57% of respondents saying they are likely to do so, increasing to 84% in Turkey and 79% in China and South Korea. Only in France do a majority think this is unlikely (56%).

Society and Culture: Most predict no improvement in tolerance and equal treatment of others, while loneliness is a concern for three in ten.

Only 3 in 10 (29%) expect people in their country to become more tolerant of each other, with 61% saying it’s unlikely to happen next year. Those in Europe are most likely to say this is improbable, and this figure rises to 77% in the Netherlands, 80% in Belgium and 81% in France.

Only a third globally (33%) believe police in their country will treat people equally regardless of their differences. Almost three-quarters (73%) of South Africans think it is unlikely that police will treat people equally – and only two in ten (19%) expressed the opposite view.

Nearly half (46%) say they will make a new friend in their local area, a figure which almost doubles in China (84%). Meanwhile, only 15% in Japan believe this is likely to happen. Although most (59%) do not expect to feel lonely most of the time, this is a concern for three in ten (31%). However, there is little sign that this has got worse in 2020 during the pandemic, compared with earlier years.

A third (34%) expect the number of people living in big cities in their country to shrink, but half (52%) think this is unlikely. Two thirds (67%) of South Africans concur with this opinion and think it likely that urbanisation in the country will continue.

A third (34%) expect the number of people living in big cities in their country to shrink, but half (52%) think this is unlikely. Two thirds (67%) of South Africans concur with this opinion and think it likely that urbanisation in the country will continue.

Technology: A minority predict major advances in robotics and cloning

36% globally say it is likely that robots will look like, think like and speak like humans next year, whilst 52% say this is unlikely to happen. Almost 6 in 10 (58%) believe it is unlikely that human cloning will be legalised in some countries. Almost half of those in Turkey (47%) say this is likely while, at the other end of the scale, only 9% in Canada and Israel believe it to be probable.

A third (34%) think it’s likely that one of their online accounts will be hacked in 2021, whilst 45% of people saying it is unlikely. Half of those in Turkey deem this likely (50%) with 47% in Israel and Malaysia saying the same. South Africans are also realising the danger of possible hacking and more than four in ten (43%) think that they might be the victims of a hacking effort.

South Africans are also realising the danger of possible hacking and more than four in ten (43%) think that they might be the victims of a hacking effort.

Global Threats: Concerns about global warming continue, but only very few expect aliens, asteroids or discovery of ghosts

A large majority around the world expect average global temperatures to increase next year (75%, similar to previous years). In every country surveyed, a majority say it’s likely this will be the case, ranging from 59% in Saudi Arabia to 89% in Turkey. Three quarters (74%) of online South Africans also think that the world will get hotter – in 2018 and 2019 larger proportions of 82% and 80% respectively, shared this opinion.

Six in ten think it is unlikely that an asteroid will hit the earth next year. Those in Sweden and Great Britain are most likely to dismiss this potential event with 75% in both countries saying it is improbable. And, overall, relatively few are worried about the human race as a whole, some 16% believe it likely that humans will become extinct in 2021.

Few expect ghosts to be discovered, with only 16% around the world believing we will discover that ghosts really exist in 2021. A slightly higher proportion of one in five (22%) of online South Africans believe that ghosts exist. And even fewer believe that we will have proof of the extra-terrestrial, only 11% say it’s likely that aliens will visit the earth next year.

Three quarters (74%) of online South Africans also think that the world will get hotter – in 2018 and 2019 larger proportions of 82% and 80% respectively, shared this opinion.

Technical Detail:
  • These are the results of a 31-market survey conducted by Ipsos on its Global Advisor online platform. Ipsos interviewed a total of 23,007 adults aged 21-74 in Singapore, 18-74 in the United States, Canada, Hong Kong, Israel, New Zealand, Malaysia, South Africa, and Turkey, and 16-74 in 22 other markets between October 23 and November 6, 2020.
  • The sample consists of approximately 1,000 individuals in each of Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, mainland China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Spain, New Zealand, and the U.S., and 500 individuals in each of Argentina, Chile, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Israel, 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, New Zealand, 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, Hong Kong, 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 covered adult population according to the most recent census data.
  • 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.
  • The precision of Ipsos online polls is calculated using a credibility interval with a poll of 1,000 accurate to +/-3.5 percentage points and of 500 accurate to +/-5.0 percentage points. For more information on Ipsos' use of credibility intervals, please visit the Ipsos website. The publication of these findings abides by local rules and regulations.

For more information on this news release, please contact:

Mari Harris
Director and Political Analyst
Mobile: +27 (0)82 557 5058
[email protected]

Ezethu Mandlelize
Service Line Manager: Public Affairs
Mobile: +27 (0)74 617 8023
[email protected]

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