What is worrying the world’s citizens mid-2021?

Concern about the coronavirus is fluctuating from country to country but declining overall. Ipsos regularly uses a list of eighteen issues and test it in 28 countries across the world to establish the answer to this question: What Worries the World?

Covid-19

Currently, concerns about Covid-19 are at the lowest level since we began tracking this issue in April 2020, and down 14 percentage points since the beginning of this year. However, it is still the world’s top worry and we continue to see some clear shifts at a country level. The coronavirus is followed by other worldwide concerns such as, unemployment, poverty and social inequality, financial and political corruption, and crime and violence.

Currently, concerns about Covid-19 are at the lowest level since we began tracking this issue in April 2020, and down 14 percentage points since the beginning of this year

  • Across all 28 countries, 36% say that Covid-19 is one of the top issues facing their country today, but as is mentioned, there are big fluctuations to be seen.
  • Malaysia (76%), Japan (59%) and South Korea (57%) are the nations most concerned about the pandemic.
  • Sweden now shows the lowest levels of concern (14%), followed by Hungary (15%), Turkey (22%) and Belgium (also 22%).
  • We see larger jumps in levels of Covid-19 concern in Israel, where only 7% placed Covid-19 among their nation’s top issues the previous month, but now there has been a 19 percentage point rise to 26%.
  • Other month-on-month increases include Russia (+17 percentage points to 30%), South Africa (+13 percentage points to 42%), and Australia (+10 percentage points to 52%).
  • Meanwhile, it has fallen most in India (-18 percentage points), Brazil (-13 percentage points) and Saudi Arabia (also -13 percentage points).
  • Covid-19 is the single top worry in 10 of the 28 nations surveyed – as well as joint-top in the Netherlands (alongside crime and violence) and Germany (alongside poverty and social inequality).

Unemployment

Concerns around unemployment is also tapering off, following the trendline of the concern about Covid-19. The other three main worldwide worries stayed at an even keel over the last year.

Concerns around unemployment is also tapering off, following the trendline of the concern about Covid-19

  • Unemployment is the world’s second greatest worry. On average, 32% say it is one of the most important issues in their country today. This is down from the 37% recorded at the beginning of the year.
  • South Africa is once again most concerned about jobs (62%), followed by Italy (55%) and South Korea (51%).
  • Spain’s concern has eased by 10 percentage points to 49% in July, putting it level with Colombia in joint 4th/5th place.
  • The largest monthly increase for this issue is in Malaysia (+5 percentage points).

South Africa is once again most concerned about jobs, followed by Italy and South Korea

Poverty and Social Inequality

  • On average, three in ten (31%) say that poverty and social inequality is one of the top issues in their country currently.
  • This is most prominent in Russia, where 58% of the public say they are concerned about poverty and social inequality, followed by Hungary (45%) and Colombia (44%).
  • A 9 percentage point increase in Turkey sees the nation return to the top five with 40%.
  • Israel and Malaysia also record increases of 8 percentage points while the issue has fallen by 11 percentage points in Mexico and 9 percentage points in Hungary.

On average, three in ten say that poverty and social inequality is one of the top issues in their country currently

Financial and Political Corruption

  • Financial and political corruption is ranked fourth in the list of world worries as 30% on average count it among the big issues facing their country currently.
  • South Africa, the country most concerned about this issue, currently has a level of concern at twice the global country average (60%).
  • Also showing high levels of concern about corruption are Colombia (55%), Peru (53%), Hungary (51%) and Malaysia (also 51%).
  • The largest month-on-month increase in concern about this issue is seen is Peru (+8 percentage points).

South Africa, the country most concerned about this issue, currently has a level of concern at twice the global country average

Crime and Violence

  • Crime and violence is the fifth greatest worry globally with one in four (26%) across all countries selecting it as one of the most important issues facing their country today.
  • Sweden is once again the country most concerned about crime and violence (63%). More than half (57%) of Mexicans also consider this a pressing issue in their country.
  • While June saw a 10 percentage point increase in concern about crime and violence in France, it has been reversed in July (-10 percentage points to 32%). The Netherlands saw a 11 percentage point increase on this issue.

Crime and violence is the fifth greatest worry globally with one in four across all countries selecting it as one of the most important issues facing their country today

And the rest?

These five issues are not the only worries that the world has, and it is interesting to have a look at the list of all eighteen issues:

These five issues are not the only worries that the world has, and it is interesting to have a look at the list of all eighteen issues

Heading in the right direction, or off on the wrong track?

Across the 28 nations surveyed, 63% on average say that things in their country are off on the wrong track, while 37% take the more positive view that things are heading in the right direction.

Across the 28 nations surveyed, 63% on average say that things in their country are off on the wrong track

These numbers are the same as the previous month, relatively unchanged since January 2021 (62% vs. 38%) and one year ago (61% vs. 39%) - but is on balance more pessimistic than in July 2019 (57% vs. 43%).

These numbers are the same as the previous month, relatively unchanged since January 2021

The countries where most people say that things are heading in the wrong direction are Colombia (88%) and Peru (86%), followed by South Africa (83%) and Turkey (82%). The largest month-on-month increases on our “wrong track” monitor are the Netherlands (+12 percentage points), Malaysia (+8 percentage points) and Saudi Arabia (+8 percentage points).

The countries where most people say that things are heading in the wrong direction are Colombia and Peru, followed by South Africa and Turkey

Focus on Climate change

With the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 26) taking place towards the end of the year, we take a special look at concerns about environmental issues. The global country average shows that 14% across the 28 nations surveyed consider climate change to be among the top issues facing their country today. Levels of concern are highest in Canada (32%), Germany (30%) and Australia (28%).

The global country average shows that 14% across the 28 nations surveyed consider climate change to be among the top issues facing their country today

July’s score marks a small 3 percentage point increase since June 2021. The recent pre-pandemic high was 16%, last recorded in March 2020. We may be seeing early signs of this issue increasing in prominence as concern about Covid-19 subside; this is something we will be monitoring over the coming months.

Some countries show increases in worry about climate change compared to the previous month, including Canada (+10 percentage points), France (+8 percentage points) and Japan (+7 percentage points).

Looking back one year ago to July 2020, Australia and the Netherlands shared the top spot for concern with 25%, followed by Germany (24%) and Canada (22%). In July 2019, Germany was at the top of the ranking with 34%.

The highest score recorded for climate change concern was 39% in Australia in February 2020, following the devastating bushfires of 2019/2020.

In South Africa, climate change is not one of the big concerns with only 3% noting this as one of their three main concerns. South Africa, Argentina, Brazil and Peru share the second last place, with Malaysia in the last place at 1%.

 

Technical Detail
  • Ipsos’ What Worries the World survey is conducted in 28 countries around the world via the Ipsos Online Panel system. The countries included are Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, 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 United States of America.
  • 20,502 interviews were conducted between June 25th and July 9th, 2021 among adults aged 18-74 in the US, South Africa, Turkey, Israel and Canada and age 16-74 in all other countries. Data are weighted to match the profile of the population.
  • In 16 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, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Great Britain and United States. The remaining 11 countries surveyed: Brazil, Chile, Colombia, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, 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.
  • The Global score reflects the “Global Country Average”: 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.

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