What Worries the World - November 2019

77% of Britons believe their nation is on the wrong track – whilst concerns about crime and continue to be a prominent worry.

The author(s)

  • Teodros Gebrekal Public Affairs
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  • Great Britain is fourth from bottom in this sentiment of the 28 countries surveyed.   
  • Globally, just 39% think their country is heading in the right direction; 61% say things are off on the wrong track.
  • For the third successive month, fear of crime/violence and healthcare are the greatest worries amongst Britons. 
  • The top worries globally are Poverty/Social inequality, Unemployment, Crime and Violence and Financial/Political corruption.  

What Worries the World is a monthly online survey of adults aged under 74 in 28 countries including Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, France, Britain, Germany, Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, Peru, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United States.  

This latest What Worries the World study finds the majority of people across the participating nations feel their country is on the wrong track (61% on average), with Spain (83%), Chile (82%), Italy (79%) and Great Britain (77%) revealing the highest levels of apprehension. 

The study finds that most people across the 28 countries surveyed say that their country is on the wrong track (this month’s 61% is very slightly up on the 59% recorded last month). But there are widespread discrepancies in scores across the different markets.

Right Direction?

In line with previous trends, Chinese citizens remain the most confident about their nation’s direction with 95% believing their country is heading in the right direction. Saudi Arabia (81%) remains in second place with India (69%) in third place, ahead of Malaysia (47%).

  • Russia (46%) and South Africa (25%) have seen the greatest increase in national optimism this month, with both nations up 10 percentage points (to 46% and 25% respectively). There are no other notable increases in positivity this month. 
  • Spanish, Chilean, Italian, and British respondents have the greatest apprehension about the direction taken by their country this month. Just 17% of Spanish citizens think their country is going in the right direction, followed by 18% in Chile, 21% in Italy and 23% in Great Britain.
  • Chile and Turkey are the nations with greatest drop-offs in positivity— with a reduction of 13 and 12 points from the previous month respectively.
  • The survey also records a 7-point fall in Mexico (42%) and a 6-point fall in both Peru (43%) Sweden (26%),

The four major worries globally are:

  1. Poverty/Social Inequality (33%). Hungary (60%) is the nation which is most anxious about this issue, followed by Chile (55%) and Russia on 53%. Chile is also the country with the greatest month-on-month increase in this worry, with a 23 percentage point rise. There is also a notable rise in apprehension by Belgian citizens (39%) with a 9 percentage point increase. Russia (53%) and Argentina (39%) are the nations with the biggest decreases in this worry showing declines from the previous month of 10 percentage and 9 percentage points respectively. The US (18%) is the single least worried nation on this issue.
  2. Unemployment (32%). The highest levels of concern are seen in South Africa and Spain (both 62%) closely followed by Italy (61%). Turkey (48%) is the nation with the greatest increase in worry for this month with a 12 percentage point increase from the previous month. Worries around unemployment are lowest in the Netherlands (where it is mentioned by 10%), Israel and Germany (11%). 
  3. Crime and Violence (30%). The highest levels of concern are once again seen in Mexico (67%) and South Africa (62%) with Peru (60%) following in third. Israel (33%) is the country with the biggest increase from the previous month, with a rise of 9 percentage points. 
  4. Financial/Political Corruption (30%). Peru (with 63%) has the highest proportion worried about this issue, followed by South Africa (59%) and Hungary (51%). Chile (47%) records the largest increase in anxiety with an increase of 15 percentage points from the previous month. The greatest falls in this issue come from Hungary (-8) and Russia (-7).

What worries Great Britain?

The bulk of the fieldwork (25th Oct – 8th Nov) took place during the early stages of the General Election campaign, which was formally launched on 29th Oct with the passing of the Early Parliamentary General Election Act.

Some 23% say they are concerned about the direction Britain is taking, marking a fall of 4 percentage points from the previous month. This also represents a 10-point drop since July 2018 – a peak month for British positivity in recent times. 

Britain now stands 16 percentage points behind the global average (39%) this month and is ranked 25th of the 28 countries surveyed on this measure.

The five major worries for British citizens are:

  1. Crime and Violence (41%) is now the joint greatest worry with a small 2-point increase in score from the previous month. The score is 11 points higher than the global average this month. Overall, Britain is 6th of the 28 markets on this measure.
  2. Healthcare (41%). Healthcare now scores the same as Crime and Violence with a 4-point rise. Britain is now the 4th most concerned country about healthcare globally – behind Hungary (70%), Poland (57%) and Brazil (45%).
  3. Poverty/Social Inequality (34%) follows as the third most cited worry but in relative terms, Britain only ranks in 12th place globally for concern in this issue.
  4. Immigration Control (23%) is now a top five concern for British citizens with a 3 percentage point rise from the previous month. The score is 9 points higher than the global average this month. Britain is now positioned in 8th place of the 28 countries surveyed on this issue.
  5. Climate Change (22%) is also now firmly in the top five, with concerns running at three times the level of a couple of years ago. Britain is the 8th most worried country when it comes to this topic.

Top 5 Great Britain Issues

  1. Crime and Violence (41%)
  2. Healthcare (41%)
  3. Poverty/ Social Inequality (34%)
  4. Immigration Control (23%)
  5. Climate Change (22%)


Top 5 Global Issues

  1. Poverty/ Social Inequality (33%)
  2. Unemployment (32%)
  3. Crime and Violence (30%)
  4. Financial/ Political Corruption (30%)
  5. Healthcare (25%)

Commenting on the results, Simon Atkinson, Ipsos’ Chief Knowledge Officer, said:

These findings provide a stark reminder of the challenges facing Boris Johnson’s new government. When it comes to how we feel about the country’s direction of travel, Britons are among the gloomiest in the world, with our position slumping from 22nd to 25th place in our 28-country league table during 2019. What’s more, levels of concern about crime and healthcare are among the highest in the world. 

Technical note:

  • For media enquiries please contact ([email protected])
  • Full results available from www.ipsos-mori.com at 00.01 Monday 23rd December 2019.
  • 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, Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United States of America. 
  • 19,889 interviews were conducted between October 25th, 2019 – November 8th, 2019 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.
  • 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, Netherlands, 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.  
  • Ipsos is an independent market research company controlled and managed by research professionals. Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos has grown into a worldwide research group with a strong presence in all key markets. Ipsos ranks third in the global research industry. With offices in 89 countries, Ipsos delivers insightful expertise across six research specializations: advertising, customer loyalty, marketing, media, public affairs research, and survey management.

The author(s)

  • Teodros Gebrekal Public Affairs

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