Global 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 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.

The author(s)
  • Gideon Skinner Public Affairs, UK
  • Cameron Garrett Public Affairs, UK
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COVID-19 – hopes for a vaccine, but predict long-term effects

Globally, people seem optimistic that a successful vaccine will become widely available in their country in 2021; 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, 9 in 10 (89%) believe a successful vaccine will be widely available, followed by three-quarters in Malaysia, India and Saudi Arabia.

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 Malaysians and South Koreans (70% and 69% respectively).

Furthermore, only 4 in 10 (41%) say it is likely life in their country will have got back to normal after the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and only a third (32%) expect the economy to have fully recovered. 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%).

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, Turkey and Israel are most likely to say this will happen (85% and 84%) respectively.

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 2019 and 2018. Around the world women are less optimistic this will be achieved (35% say it’s likely, compared to 45% for men).

Most expect to spend more money buying things online than spending in store, 57% of respondents say 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.

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.

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, 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, 45% say it is unlikely. Half of those in Turkey deem this likely (50%) with 47% in Israel and Malaysia saying the same.

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.

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; 75% in both countries say 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, only 16% around the world believe we will discover that ghosts really exist in 2021. And even fewer believe that we will have proof of the extra-terrestrial, only 12% say it’s likely that aliens will visit the earth next year.

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% last year. 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 the US (up 45 points to 94%), Canada (up 39 points to 93%), the Netherlands (up 56 points to 93%), Singapore (up 42 points to 91%), Germany (up 37 points to 83%) and China (up 36 points to 79%).

However, in all countries, bar Japan, a majority say they are optimistic that 2021 will be better, a global average of 77% agree (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%).

23,007 interviews were conducted between October 23 and November 6, 2020. This Ipsos survey was among 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 the 22 other markets.
The author(s)
  • Gideon Skinner Public Affairs, UK
  • Cameron Garrett Public Affairs, UK