What worries the world? March 2018

New global poll finds three concerns top the world’s worry list: financial/political corruption (35%), unemployment (34%) and poverty/social inequality (34%).

Our What Worries the World study finds most people across the participating 28 nations believe their country is on the wrong track (58%), with Mexico (89%), Brazil (88%), Spain (81%) and Italy (80%) recording the highest levels of concern.

In South Africa, we can see the effect of Cyril Ramaphosa becoming  the new ANC party leader. Optimism in South Africa has hit a seven-year high: this month 52% of its citizens believe things are headed in the right direction. This is a 20-percentage-point increase since February, and an increase of 42 percentage points since December 2017, when South Africa was at the foot of the optimism table. Although not much have changed in the country so far there seems to be high hopes the new president will bring about a positive change to the nation.

The second biggest shift this month was in Sweden, where optimism rose eight percentage points to 47%, the highest score in that country since October 2012.

What Worries the World is a monthly online survey of adults aged under 65 in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, 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 28 countries think that their country is on the wrong track (58% on average). But there are very wide-ranging differing scores across the world:

  • Once again, Chinese people remain the most confident about their nation’s direction with 94% believing their country is going in the right direction. Despite a seven-point fall, Saudi Arabia (67%) remains in second place. South Korea (66%) is now the third most positive nation, just ahead of India (65%).
  • At the other end of the spectrum — Mexican, Brazilian and Spanish citizens are the most concerned about the direction taken by their country. Just 11% of Mexicans think their country is going in the right direction, followed by 12% in Brazil and 19% in Spain.
  • The largest drop in optimism has been in Germany, where 30% now believe their country is headed in the right direction — a fall of eight points since February. The second-largest decrease was recorded in Saudi Arabia (down seven percentage points since last month)
  • Optimism among Britons has risen by six percentage points since February, with 35% now saying the country is headed in the right direction.

The three major worries for global citizens are:

  1. Financial / political corruption (35%): Peru (65%) is the most anxious nation about this followed by Malaysia on 59%. India (51%) has seen the largest increase in concern over the past month with an upturn of 12 percentage points. Sweden (8%) and Germany (9%) are the two least apprehensive countries – positions they have occupied since July 2017.   
  2. Unemployment (34%): The highest levels of concern are in Italy (66%), Serbia (64%) and Spain (63%). Serbia is also the country with the biggest increase from the previous month, with a rise of seven percentage points. For the seventh consecutive month, Germans are least worried about this issue — just 11% of Germans mentioned unemployment as a worry.
  3. Poverty / social inequality (34%): The highest levels of worry are in Serbia (58%), Russia (56%) and Germany (54%). Concern about this topic is lowest in the US (19%), as it was for the whole of 2017.

What worries Great Britain

For the fifth consecutive month, healthcare is the main worry for the British public, with 42% citing it as the main concern — despite a seven-point drop from the previous month’s peak (49%). Britain is now the joint 4th most concerned country about this issue globally behind Hungary (71%), Poland (57%) and Brazil (49%).

Poverty/social inequality (33%) is the second main concern for Britons —but Britain is ranked 16th for this worry in comparison to the other 27 nations surveyed.

Terrorism (28%) is the third-biggest main concern for the nation, although levels of worry has dropped substantially since the most recent peak driven by the London Bridge attacks in June 2017 (44%).  Globally, Britain is the sixth-most worried about this issue, behind Turkey (52%), Israel (39%), France (33%), India and the US (both on 29%).
Concerns about immigration control (27%) are at a similar level to last month. However, Britain has fallen to the 3rd most concerned nation about the rise of extremism.


Top five global issues Top five Great Britain issues
1) Financial/Political Corruption (35%) 1) Healthcare (42%)
2) Unemployment (34%) 2) Poverty/Social Inequality (33%)
3) Poverty/Social Inequality (34%) 3) Terrorism (28%)
4) Crime & Violence (31%) 4) Immigration control (27%)
5) Healthcare (24%) 5) Crime & Violence (22%)



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

Britons continue to worry about the direction the country is taking by a margin of around 2:1.
This is on par with close neighbours France and Germany and  more positive than Italy and Spain - but much more concerned than countries such as the US, Australia and Canada.
Meanwhile, as we see in our other work, the NHS continues to dominate concerns in Britain. Although there are signs this is slightly diminishing since the winter.
Over the long term, the more noticeable declines are about immigration and terrorism. Worries around the rest of the world are quite different in comparison with corruption, unemployment and poverty and inequality in the top three.   

Technical note:

  • The survey was conducted in 28 countries around the world via the Ipsos Online Panel system. The 28 countries included are Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, 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. Chile having joined this month.
  • 20,314 interviews were conducted between February 23rd 2017 – March 9th 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 28 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 11 countries surveyed: Brazil, Chile, 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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