What Worries the World? September 2021

Coronavirus remains the top global concern after 18 months of tracking during the pandemic.

The author(s)

  • Teodros Gebrekal Public Affairs, UK
  • Natalie Pearson Ipsos Knowledge Centre, UK
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The five most worrying topics for people around the world today, according to our 28-country issues survey, are: Coronavirus (36%), Unemployment/Jobs (31%), Poverty and social inequality (31%), Financial/Political corruption (27%) and Crime & violence (26%).

Levels of concern about Coronavirus are stable at global level but we continue to see some significant month-on-month changes in some countries.

65% on average think that things in their country are on the wrong track – rising to 89% in Colombia.

1. Covid-19

On average, 36% worldwide say Coronavirus is one of the biggest issues facing their country today. This score has been consistent for around four months, but the unstable situation is reflected in some marked increases and decreases in the country-level scores.

Malaysia is the most concerned about Covid-19, followed by Japan, Australia and South Korea. Malaysia’s 74% remains the highest score across all nations despite this being 9 points lower than last month. Japan sees a 9-point increase to 72%.

September’s results show some notable decreases in Coronavirus concern in Spain (-10 points), Argentina (-10), the Netherlands (-9) and Russia (-9). Aside from Japan, Turkey sees the largest increase (9 points).

=2. Unemployment

Across the 28 countries surveyed, three in 10 (31%) say that Unemployment is a key issue in their country today. This is level with Poverty & social inequality (also 31%).

The countries where people are most worried about jobs are South Africa (65%), Italy (52%), Spain (50%), Colombia (47%) and South Korea (also 47%).

Spain’s score drops by 6 percentage points from last month. Further decreases are seen in Chile (-9) and Malaysia (-7).

Unemployment is now the joint-top concern, along with Covid-19, in India with 42% of the public selecting each.

=2. Poverty & social inequality

Level with the global score recorded for Unemployment for the second month running, 31% around the world say that Poverty and social inequality is among the top issues in their country today.

Russia (55%), Hungary (49%) and Colombia (47%) are the three counties showing the greatest concern about poverty and social inequality. A 5-point increase in Colombia brings these scores closer in line than seen previously.

In Spain, public concern about this issue has increased by 10 points since the last reading (to 36%).

4. Financial/Political corruption

Financial/Political corruption is ranked fourth in our list of world worries as 27% on average consider it an important issue for their country today.

Colombians and South Africans show the highest levels of concern with 55% in both countries selecting this issue. It is the number one issue in Colombia while South Africa is comparatively more worried about Unemployment.

Next are Hungary (50%), Malaysia (49%), and Russia (46%).

The greatest change in concern about corruption since the last wave of the survey is a 7-percentage point increase in Chile, now at 33%. We also see declines of 6 points in Peru, Poland and Saudi Arabia.

5. Crime & violence

Crime & violence is the fifth greatest worry globally. On average, one-quarter (26%) of our global participants say this is one of the most important issues facing their country today.

Sweden extends its lead as the country most concerned about crime with 67% (+6 points vs. last month). Mexico and South Africa, in second and third place, have one in two people (50% and 49% respectively) selecting this as a top issue.

In the past month, we have seen a 6-point increase in concern about crime in Colombia (36%) alongside decreases in the US (-8), the Netherlands (-7), and Spain (-6).

Environmental concerns

With the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 26) taking place this November, we are taking a closer look at levels of concern about climate change and threats against the environment as recorded in our survey.

In September 2021, the proportion worldwide saying that climate change is a top-3 concern for their country is at 16%, which places it in 8th place out of the 18 issues measured. This brings scores back in line with levels seen before we began tracking Covid-19 as an issue.

Germany currently ranks number one for climate change concern, recording 36% for the second consecutive month (the highest seen in the country to date). Next is Canada (31%), followed by Great Britain and the Netherlands, both with 30%.

The largest increases for this month are seen in Poland (+7) and Spain (+5).

Our study also includes “threats against the environment” more broadly and this is highlighted by 10%. This figure rises to 20% in Germany.

Looking ahead

Our What Worries the World study also tracks whether people across the 28 countries surveyed think that things in their country are heading in the right direction or are off on the wrong track.

In September 2021, on average 65% globally say that things in their country are on the wrong track while 35% take the view that things are heading in the right direction.

But this varies considerably between countries. Colombia is most pessimistic with 89% saying that things in their country are on the wrong track. Also with high scores are South Africa (85%), Peru (81%), Argentina (80%) and Brazil (79%).

The largest month-on-month changes are seen in Chile, with an 11-point increase on its ‘wrong track’ score, taking it to 71%, and in Turkey where the proportion selecting ‘right direction’ is up 11 points to 24%. Germany slides towards a more pessimistic outlook ahead of its election (-8 to 63%).


Full breakdown of the 18 What Worries the World issues measured

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.
20,012 interviews were conducted between August 20th and September 3rd, 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.

The author(s)

  • Teodros Gebrekal Public Affairs, UK
  • Natalie Pearson Ipsos Knowledge Centre, UK