What worries the world? January 2018

New global poll finds unemployment remains the main concern around the world — but in Britain, healthcare leads as the biggest worry. Two-thirds of Britons (65%) think the direction of the country is on the wrong track.

What worries the world? January 2018

New global poll finds unemployment remains the main concern around the world — but in Britain, healthcare leads as the biggest worry

Our latest What Worries the World study finds most people across the participating 27 nations believe their country is on the wrong track — Brazil (83%), Mexico (82%), Italy (82%) and Hungary (76%) being the most anxious of nations. South Africa 27% (up 17 points) and Canada 57% (up 7 percentage points) have seen the biggest increases in optimism. In Britain, slightly more than average think the country is on the wrong track (65%) but this is a reduction of five points since December.

“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, Malaysia, Mexico, Poland, Peru, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United States.

It finds that most people across the 27 countries think that their country is on the wrong track (57% on average). But there are very wide-ranging differing scores across the world:

  • Once again, China and India remain as the countries most positive about their nation’s direction — 92% of Chinese people surveyed believe their country is going in the right direction as do 72% in India. South Korea (67%) is now the third most positive nation replacing Saudi Arabia (65%) who step out of the top three most optimistic nations — having occupied that position for the entirety of 2017. 
  • At the other end of the spectrum Brazilians, Mexicans and Italians are the most concerned about the direction taken by their country. Only 17% of Brazilians think their country is going in the right direction, followed by only 18% in both Mexico and Italy. 
  • Russia (42%) has seen the biggest falloff in positivity this month — with a reduction of 12 percentage points trailed by Saudi Arabia by a fall of eight percentage points.
  • In Britain, there has been a five percent increase upturn amongst Britons (35%) who think the country is on the right track from the previous month.

The three major worries for global citizens are:

  • Unemployment (35%) with the highest levels of concern in South Korea (65%) and Italy (64%). Unemployment concern in Russia (55%) has seen the biggest increase with a rise of 24 points from the previous month (31%). Once again, Germans are least worried about the issue for the sixth consecutive month — with only 11% of Germans citing unemployment as a worry this month, a 2% fall from the previous month (13%).
  • Financial / political corruption (34%) has become the second joint main global concern with South Africans once again most concerned (68%) followed by Malaysia — a new entry for What Worries the World — on (64%). Germany and Sweden (10%) are the countries least concerned.
  • Poverty / social inequality (34%), joins as the second most common worry with the highest level of concern in Russia (58%) and Hungary (56%). The US (17%) once again has the lowest level of concern as it did for the whole of 2017. 
Top five global issuesTop five Great Britain issues
1) Unemployment (35%)1) Healthcare (42%)
2) Financial/Political Corruption (34%)2) Poverty & Social Inequality (34%)
3) Poverty/Social Inequality (34%)3) Terrorism (33%)
4) Crime & Violence (29%)4) Immigration Control (25%)
5) Healthcare (24%)5) Rise of Extremism (21%)


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

Britons start 2018 slightly more optimistic about the direction of the country than they were last month – and in fact, despite all the ups and downs of 2017, in almost the same mood in which they started last year.  They are though, slightly more pessimistic than most of the other nations in this 27-country study – roughly on a par with France and Germany, a long way behind the optimism seen in China and India, but not as worried as people in Brazil, Mexico and India.
Meanwhile, over the winter healthcare has consolidated its position as the issue most Britons are concerned about, as worries about terrorism and extremism have receded since the tragic events earlier last year.  Over the longer-term, we have also seen a steady decline in concern about immigration – in 2016 Britain was the most worried country of all about immigration, but since then concern has halved.

Technical note:

  • The survey was conducted in 27 countries around the world via the Ipsos Online Panel system. The 27 countries included are Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Great Britain, Germany, Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United States of America. Malaysia having joined this month. 20,202 interviews were conducted between December 22nd 2017 – January 5th 2018 among adults aged 18-64 in Canada, Israel and the US, and adults aged 16-64 in all other countries. Data are weighted to match the profile of the population.
  • In 17 of the 27 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.  The remaining 10 countries surveyed: Brazil, China, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Russia, Peru, 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.

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