35% say that Coronavirus is one of the biggest issues facing their country this month

The recent rise in concern about Covid-19 following the spread of Omicron continues in 2022. Meanwhile, inflation hits record levels of concern.

The author(s)

  • Teodros Gebrekal Public Affairs, UK
Get in touch

Key findings

  • Coronavirus is the world’s number one worry; 35% on average say it is one of the biggest issues facing their country today (+3 points vs. December 2021).
  • The countries most concerned about Covid-19 in January 2022 are South Korea (58%), Australia (51%), Malaysia (50%), and Canada (48%).
  • The remaining top 5 issues are as follows: Poverty & Social Inequality (31%), Unemployment (28%), Financial/Political Corruption (27%), and Crime & Violence (26%).
  • Inflation sees record levels of concern, with one in five (20%) singling it out as a worry for their country today.
  • A global country average of 63% say that things in their country are heading in the wrong direction. This rises to over 80% in Peru, Colombia, and Argentina.
  • New this month – the economic context: 38% globally say that the current economic situation in their country is ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ good, while the majority (62%) say that it is ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ bad. But this figure ranges greatly by country.

Our monthly What Worries the World survey explores what the public think are most important social and political issues across 28 countries today, drawing on 10 years of data to place the latest scores in context. This wave was conducted between 23rd December 2021 – 7th January 2022.

Coronavirus (35%)

After declining to a low point of 28% (and 3rd position in the list) in November, concern about Coronavirus has now risen for the second month running. Although it is now back in the top spot, today’s 35% is still much lower than this time last year (50% in January 2021).

The countries where Covid-19 is a particular concern in January 2022 are:

  1. South Korea (58%)
  2. Australia (51%)
  3. Malaysia (50%)
  4. Canada (48%)
  5. Fifth position is shared by four countries: Germany, Great Britain, Japan, and Saudi Arabia (all with 46%).

January’s results see Japan and France join the list of 11 countries where Covid-19 comes first on the public’s worry list. The others are Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and the US.

Poverty & Social Inequality (31%)

The countries most concerned about Poverty & Social Inequality in January 2022 are:

  1. Russia (53%)
  2. = Brazil (43%) = Colombia (43%)
  3. Turkey (40%)
  4. = Chile (38%) = Hungary (38%)

The largest increase vs. last month is seen in the Netherlands (+8, following an 11-point drop in December). Elsewhere, we see a 7-point increase in Israel, and 5-point increases in Chile and Germany. This is the number one worry for people in Russia and Brazil.

Unemployment/Jobs (28%)

The countries most concerned about Unemployment and jobs are:

  1. South Africa (66%)
  2. = Italy (53%) = Spain (53%)
  3. South Korea (48%)
  4. Colombia (42%)

Italy and Hungary have seen the largest increases in concern about jobs vs. last month.

Unemployment is currently the number one concern in four countries: South Africa, Italy, Spain, and India.

Financial/Political Corruption (27%)

We see highest levels of concern about corruption in:

  1. South Africa (56%)
  2. Peru (55%)
  3. Malaysia (53%)
  4. Hungary (48%)
  5. Colombia (47%)

This issue is currently the number one concern for people in Colombia, Malaysia and Peru.

Climate change

Across all 28 countries, 15% on average say that climate change is among the most important issues facing their country today. It ranks 9th in our list of 18 issues, joint with Education.

The countries where this is a bigger priority for the public are Australia (32%), Canada (30%), Germany (28%), Great Britain (28%) and the US (24%).

France sees a 7-point increase to 23% while scores are also up in Malaysia (+6), the US (+5), and Chile (+5).

In the past two years, climate change concern at a global level has ranged from a low of 10% in May 2020 to a high of 17% in February 2020, and has settled at 15% or 16% for the past six months.

Inflation

Our survey finds concern about inflation at record-high levels. Across all 28 countries, one in five (20%) on average consider it one of the most worrying issues today, ranking it 7th of 18 topics.

Argentina and Poland currently show highest levels of concern about inflation (53% in each). Turkey is third (45%).

These same countries were among the most worried about inflation this time last year too, but to a lesser extent – far less in some cases (44% in Argentina, 16% in Poland, 29% in Turkey).

North America has seen dramatic increases in concern about inflation in these 12 months: from 6% last January to 30% today in Canada and from 2% to 29% in the US.

Read more in our recent global survey on public perceptions of rising prices and a new US report on inflation.

Heading in the right direction?

Across the 28 nations surveyed, 63% on average say that things in their country are on the wrong track while 37% think they are heading in the right direction. This has moved 2 points in a more positive direction vs. last month.

Peru is, for the second consecutive month, the country with the largest proportion saying that their country is heading in the wrong direction (84%). This is also over 80% in Colombia and Argentina.

Many countries see an uptick in optimism compared to the previous month, possibly reflecting hopes for a new year. Among them are Chile (+15) and Netherlands (+12), while Mexico, Hungary and Turkey are all up 6 points.

Economic Focus

Across all countries, 38% on average say that the current economic situation in their country is ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ good, while a majority (62%) say that it is ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ bad.

Saudi Arabia (95%) is by far the country where people are happiest with the economy, followed by India (72%) and Sweden (69% - its highest level since December 2018). A majority also rate the economy positively in the Netherlands (60%) and Australia (59%).

Only 11% in Argentina consider the economy to be in good shape, placing it at the bottom of the 28-country ranking. This score hasn’t risen above 20% since December 2018 (when it reached 27%).

The economic situation in France has traditionally scored poorly, but this month sees 38% describing it as good – a height only seen previously in September 2021.

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.
19,486 online interviews were conducted between December 23rd 2021 – January 7th 2022 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.

The author(s)

  • Teodros Gebrekal Public Affairs, UK

Society