Sentiment about globalization cooler than before the pandemic across the world

Global survey conducted with the World Economic Forum highlights mixed views on international trade.

The author(s)

  • Nicolas Boyon Public Affairs, US
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Most adults in each of 25 countries recently surveyed by Ipsos agree that expanding trade is a good thing. Yet in most countries, more agree than disagree that there should be more trade barriers to limit imports of foreign goods and services.

The survey findings uncover a mix of polarization and ambivalence among the public throughout the world about free trade, globalization, and protectionist policies. On average, only 48% of those surveyed in the 25 countries agree that globalization is a good thing for their country. This is 10 percentage points less than in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic. While favorability toward globalization is down in all countries, it continues to vary widely among them, ranging from 72% in Malaysia to 27% in France.

When asked whether globalization hinders the democratic process in their country or the implementation of effective economic policies by their national government, opinions also differ greatly across countries. However, many provide neutral responses, signaling uncertainty about the issue.

Although views on globalization are mixed, few disagree that investment by global companies in their country is essential for its growth and expansion.

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Detailed findings

Widespread support for expanding trade but plurality support for protectionist measures

Majorities in all 25 countries surveyed agree that expanding trade is a good thing, averaging at 75%; only 5% disagree.

  • Agreement is highest in Peru (87%), Malaysia, Russia, Argentina, and Chile (all 86%) while it is lowest in France (51%) and Germany (55%).

However, an average of 37% across the 25 countries agree there should be more trade barriers to limit imports of foreign goods and services in their country vs. 27% who disagree. About one-third (36%) are neutral or don’t have an opinion.

  • Majorities in three countries (Turkey, Colombia and South Africa) and pluralities in 10 countries agree.
  • Pluralities in four countries (South Korea, Sweden, Great Britain and Germany) disagree.
  • The prevailing opinion in the other eight countries is neutral.

Mixed and declining sentiment toward globalization

An average of 48% globally agree that globalization is a good thing for their country while just 13% disagree and the rest are neutral or unsure.

  • Majorities in nine countries have a positive assessment of globalization with the largest ones in Malaysia (72%), South Africa (64%), Peru (63%), Brazil (62%) and South Korea (61%).
  • Countries with the lowest levels of agreement that globalization is a good thing for them are France (27%), Russia (34%) and Belgium (35%).

In every one of the 23 countries where Ipsos had already asked the same question in a 2019 survey, fewer agree that globalization is a good thing for their country than did then.

  • The decline in positive views about globalization across the 23 countries averages 10 percentage points. It is steepest in Mexico, Colombia, Chile, and Peru.  

Public opinion across the world is divided on whether globalization prevents national governments from implementing effective economic policies or the proper functioning of democracy.

  • On average, 31% agree and 28% disagree that globalization prevents their country’s government from implementing effective economic policies while 42% are neutral or have no opinion. No country shows a majority agreeing or a majority disagreeing. Agreement is most prevalent in France (48%) and Italy (41%) and disagreement in South Korea (48%). 
  • An average of 28% across all 25 countries agree that globalization prevents democracy in their country from functioning well while a larger proportion disagree (32%) and an even larger group are neutral or have no opinion (40%). Agreement is highest in France (41%), Turkey (39%), Italy (38%) and Malaysia (38%) while South Korea is the only country with a majority disagreeing (56%).   

Majority support for foreign investment

An average of 63% globally agree that investment by global companies in their country is essential for their growth and expansion while just 9% disagree and the rest are neutral or not sure.  

  • Agreement is highest in Malaysia (87%) and South Africa (81%) and lowest in Germany (48%) and Japan (49%).
  • Disagreement does not exceed 15% in any country.
These are the results of a 25-country survey conducted by Ipsos on its Global Advisor online platform. Ipsos interviewed a total of 19,017 adults aged 18-74 in the United States, Canada, Malaysia, South Africa, and Turkey, and 16-74 in 20 other markets between March 26 and April 9, 2021.

The author(s)

  • Nicolas Boyon Public Affairs, US

Society