Further decline in Britons thinking country going in right direction

"What Worries the World" is a monthly online survey of adults aged under 65 in 25 countries. It finds the percentage of people who think things are going in the right direction in their country has dropped 2% since last month to 37%.

New research finds there has been a drop among Britons saying things are going in the right direction (now 37%, down from 44% in September.)

“What Worries the World” is a monthly online survey of adults aged under 65 in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Britain, Germany, Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Peru, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United States. It finds that across all countries in the study, the percentage of people who think things are going in the right direction in their country has dropped 2% since last month to 37%.

Direction of travel

The study also shows countries in the BRIC and APAC regions tend to be the most optimistic.  China is the single most optimistic country, with 90% saying things are headed in the right direction.

People in the other regions covered by the survey are on balance more likely to say things are going badly, with LATAM and Europe the most pessimistic regions.  For example, the vast majority of Mexicans say things are off on the wrong track in their country, and only 4% of Mexicans think that things are going in the right direction, a decrease from 11% last month.

Fieldwork for the study was undertaken prior to the recent US presidential election, however the number of US citizens who think things are going in the right direction stands at 35%, down 2% month on month.  Canada is the only western country with a majority (54%) thinking things are headed in the right direction.

What worries the world

When looking at the issues which drive this sentiment in the 25 countries, the number one worry this month is again employment – (38% across all countries say this worries them) but this has been slowly declining since the study started in 2010, when it was 51%. Spain is the country most worried about unemployment (70%), with Italy close behind (65%.)

Poverty and Social Equality (34%) is the issue people most worry about next – Hungary (56%) and Russia (52%) are the countries most worried – it’s also the single issue which most worries Russians and Germans.

Financial and political corruption is the third most common worry of the world (30%). South Korea is the most worried about this, and indeed about any issue out of any country in the study – a huge 73% are worried about this. The number of people in South Korea saying they worry about corruption has been growing since June but has spiked dramatically, with a 19 percentage point rise month on month, as the corruption scandal surrounding president Park Geun-hye reached fever pitch.

In South and Central America, crime and violence is the dominant issue. Peru is the most worried (71%), followed by Mexico (67%) and Argentina (63%). Turkey is once again the country most worried about terrorism (66%) and Hungarians are by far the most concerned about healthcare (63%).

Gender optimism gap

Looking at the findings split by gender, the research finds men are more optimistic than women that things in their country are going well. The biggest confidence gaps between men and women are in the US, Israel and Russia. The only countries to buck the trend are Poland, Saudi Arabia and Canada. It also shows that men and women in each country tend to worry about the same things, but where concerns differ, it’s usually because women are more likely to worry about healthcare.

What worries Britain

Whilst relatively low down the list of worries, concern about inflation is on the rise in Britain.  There has been a six percentage point increase since last month in the proportion of Britons saying they worry about inflation (11%), possibly as a result of the falling value of the pound having started to hit shoppers in the pocket.

Immigration is once again the top concern for Britons (38%), with a slight increase on last month (up 2% points). Britain is the country most worried about immigration out of those included in the study (albeit with Germany only just behind on 37%) and the only country in the study to have this as their top concern.

In Germany, whilst immigration is still in the top three, there are higher levels of worry about crime and violence (42%) and poverty and inequality (48%).  The biggest increase in worry about immigration is in Italy (up 4% points on last month to 33%) – making Italians the third most worried country about the issue, with  fieldwork taking place in the lead up to their constitutional reform referendum in early December. The second and third biggest worries in the UK are healthcare (34%) and social inequality (30%).

Commenting on the findings, Bobby Duffy, Managing Director, Ipsos MORI Social Research Institute, said:

Optimism in Britain has been on the wane over the last couple of months – although it’s important to note that our pessimism isn’t at particularly high levels just yet, and we’re still a lot more positive than many other countries, including in mainland Europe.   Whether this proves to be a blip in Britain or the start of a trend is likely to be mainly driven by the economic impacts from Brexit – and in particular whether Britons start to feel the pinch from price rises, as inflation rises sharply up our list of national concerns.

Technical note

18,110 interviews were conducted between October 21st and November 4th 2016 among adults aged 18-64 in the US and Canada, and adults aged 16-64 in all other countries. The survey was conducted in 25 countries around the world via the Ipsos Online Panel system. Data are weighted to match the profile of the population.

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