What worries the world?

Seven in ten Britons think the country is on the wrong track – the worst it has been since 2013.

What worries the world?

The author(s)

  • Bobby Duffy Managing Director, Social Research Institute
  • Gideon Skinner Head of Political Research
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New global poll finds unemployment remains the top issue around the world — but in Britain terrorism is the single biggest worry for the second consecutive month

What Worries the World study finds the majority of people across 26 countries think that their country is on the wrong track — Mexico, South Africa, Brazil, Italy and Hungary being the most concerned.

“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, Serbia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United States.

It finds that the majority of people across 26 countries think that their country is on the wrong track (60% on average) which has remained consistent over the past three months.  But there are a very wide range of different scores across the world:

  • Despite slight decreases in optimism compared to previous months, China, India and Saudi Arabia remain the most positive about the direction their nations are taking. 87% in China think their country is going in the right direction, 74% in India and 71% in Saudi Arabia.
  • At the other end of the spectrum — Mexico has now replaced South Africa as the nation which is most anxious about the direction their country is heading. Only 8% in Mexico think their country is going in the right direction, 9% in South Africa, 12% in Brazil, 14% in Italy and 21% Hungary.
  • South Korea has seen the greatest move in perception with 66% of South Koreans now saying that their nation is heading in the right direction— a 50 percentage point increase from May 2017 (when results were last reported).
  • Peru has seen the biggest deterioration with a fall of 15 percentage points in those who think the country is heading in the right direction.
  • In Britain, seven in ten (72%) think the country is on the wrong track, a rise of 7 percentage points since just before the 2017 general election and an increase of 16 points since April. This is the worst score since March 2013 in this series.

The three major worries for global citizens all remain consistent with the previous month:

  • unemployment is still the primary global worry, with the highest levels of concern in Spain (65%), Italy (63%) and South Korea (63%). Reflecting previous months, Germany is the least worried, with only 12% citing unemployment as a worry (and only 14% in Britain).
  • financial/political corruption follows, with South Africans most concerned (65%), and Swedes least worried (8%).
  • poverty/social inequality is the third most common worry, with the highest level of concern in Russia (57%) and Hungary (56%). The US has the lowest level of concern for this (19%).

What Worries the World? July 2017

What worries Britain?

Terrorism at 43% is now the single biggest issue that Britons worry about, a 11 percentage point increase from May 2017 when the results were last reported. Concern about terrorism in Britain, likely following the recent attacks, became the top issue of concern in June 2017. Britons are now the 4th most worried country in the study about this issue having previously occupied 8th place in May 2017.

Healthcare remains the second greatest concern at 41% — a 4 percentage point decrease from May 2017. However, we remain the 4th most concerned country about this issue more than most other countries.  

When the results were last reported in May, concern about a rise of extremism occupied fifth place, worry about this issue has now risen 11 percentage points moving it into the top three concerns for Britons at 34%.  

Top five global worries Top five Great Britain worries
1) Unemployment (36%) 1) Terrorism (43%)
2) Financial / Political Corruption (34%) 2) Healthcare (41%)
3) Poverty / Social inequality (33%) 3) Rise of Extremism (34%)
4) Crime & Violence (30%) 4) Poverty / Social Inequality (30%)
5) Healthcare (23%) 5) Immigration Control (27%)

What Worries the World: Great Britain

Commenting on the findings, Gideon Skinner, Research Director at Ipsos MORI Social Research Institute, said:

Following several acts of terror in the UK, concern about terrorism and the rise of extremism have both rapidly increased to become top worries for Britons. We’re now behind only Turkey, France and Israel in seeing terrorism as the primary national concern and are the most concerned about the rise of extremism across all countries. But our healthcare worries also continue to stand out compared with other countries, with only Hungary, Poland and Brazil showing higher levels of concern.
More generally, leading up to and following the snap election, optimism about the direction the country is going in has been in steady decline with only 28% who now think we are heading in the right direction. This reflects other Ipsos MORI data showing a fall in government satisfaction and economic confidence this month.

Technical note

The survey was conducted in 26 countries around the world via the Ipsos Online Panel system. The countries included are Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Great Britain, Germany, Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United States of America. 18,557 interviews were conducted between June 23rd – July 7th 2017 among adults aged 18-64 in the US, Israel and Canada, and adults aged 16-64 in all other countries. Data are weighted to match the profile of the population.

In 16 of the 26 countries surveyed internet penetration is sufficiently high to think of the samples as representative of the wider population within the age ranges covered: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Japan, Poland, Serbia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Great Britain and United States.  Brazil, China, India, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Turkey have lower levels of internet penetration and so these samples should instead be considered to represent a more affluent, connected population.  These are still a vital social group to understand in these countries, representing an important and emerging middle class.

The author(s)

  • Bobby Duffy Managing Director, Social Research Institute
  • Gideon Skinner Head of Political Research

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