Coronavirus no longer the world’s top worry as it is overtaken by economic concerns

The long reign of Coronavirus as our survey’s top global concern comes to an end in October 2021. It falls to third place in our issues ranking – behind poverty & social inequality and unemployment.

The author(s)

  • Teodros Gebrekal Public Affairs
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Key findings:

  • Coronavirus falls from first to third place in our monthly ranking of 18 issues. The proportion saying it one of the biggest issues facing their country has fallen from 36% to 29% (global country average) since September.
  • All but three of the 28 countries surveyed register declines in levels of concern about Coronavirus – most significantly Japan (-22 points), Mexico (-16), Germany (-14), Peru (-12) and Brazil (also -12).
  • Today, COVID-19 is the number one issue in just four countries (Australia, Great Britain, Malaysia, and the US), down from 12 last month and 24 in April 2020.
  • Poverty & social inequality (33%) and Unemployment (30%) are now, on average, greater worries for the global public than the virus.
  • Despite this falling concern about the virus, the global public are no more optimistic about where things are going: 64% think that their country is heading in the wrong direction, little changed since last month.

What Worries the World | Top 5 issues | Ipsos

After 18 consecutive months of our What Worries the World survey showing Coronavirus to be the biggest concern for people across 28 countries, October 2021 marks the first significant change in our issues ranking. COVID-19 falls to (joint) third position, with the average proportion worldwide who count one of the biggest worries in their country today falling 7 points to 29% compared to the previous month’s results.

In its place, Poverty and social inequality becomes the number one issue globally. One-third (33%) on average select this – a slight increase of 2 percentage points since last month.

Unemployment is the second biggest worry (30%), just ahead of COVID-19 and Financial/political corruption (both at 29%).

Poverty and social inequality (33%)

Before our survey began tracking levels of concern about Coronavirus alongside our other regular issues, Poverty and social inequality was a dominant concern, coming either first or joint-first for the earlier months of 2020.

Hungary and Russia are the countries ranking highest in terms of concern about poverty and social inequality, with the issue highlighted by 55% in each; they are followed by Colombia (47%) and Brazil (46%).

Compared to last month, 19 countries show rising concern about this issue – most of all in Hungary, Brazil, Japan, and Peru, which all record 6-point increases.

It becomes the top concern (replacing COVID-19) in France, Germany, and Japan this month.

Unemployment (30%)

Unemployment is the second greatest worry worldwide, with three in 10 (30%) on average counting it as one of the most important issues facing their country today.

South Africa is once again the country most concerned about unemployment and jobs as two-thirds (67%) select this as a top worry. Next in the list, with around one in two concerned about jobs, are Spain (54%), Italy (51%) and Colombia (50%).

The largest increases in concern on this issue since last month are seen in Saudi Arabia (+8) and Turkey (+7). On the other hand, it falls by 7 points in Australia and 6 points in Canada.

Coronavirus (29%)

A 7-point decrease in the global country average score for Coronavirus this month sees what had been the world’s top concern for 18 months fall to joint-third position in our issues ranking. On average, 29% say this is one of the top issues facing their country today (level with corruption).

Despite a 10-point drop over the month, Malaysia remains the most concerned about COVID-19 today with 64% selecting the issue. Japan falls to third most concerned this month with a drop of 22 points 50%, putting it behind Australia (-6 to 52%).

We see other significant decreases in the proportion of the public saying Coronavirus is a top issue in Mexico (-16), Germany (-14), Peru (-12) and Brazil (also -12).

Only one country registers a significant increase in concern about Coronavirus this month – Russia (+5 to 22%).

Just four countries have Coronavirus as their top concern in October (Australia, Great Britain, Malaysia, and the US), down from a total of 12 in September and 24 in April 2020.

Financial/political corruption (29%)

With 29% on average across all countries saying that Financial/Political corruption is an important issue for their country today, this ranks as the third greatest concern – level with COVID-19.

South Africans show the highest levels of concern (55%), followed by Colombia (52%) and Malaysia (50%). One in two also select this as a key worry in Hungary and Peru (49% in both).

The biggest increase in the proportion selecting this issue is +12 points in South Korea. The percentages concerned in Peru and Saudi Arabia also grow by 8 points.

Corruption is the number one concern in Colombia and Peru today.

Crime and violence (27%)

Crime & violence is considered one of the most important issues today by an average of 27% of people across all countries surveyed, making this our fifth greatest worry.

The top three countries most concerned about crime and violence are Sweden (68%), Mexico (56%), and South Africa (54%). This is the top issue for these first two countries, while South Africa is relatively more concerned about unemployment and corruption.

Crime also ranks as the most worrying issue for people in Israel (which sees a 13-point increase since last month to 45%) and Chile (at 41%, level with last month). Sitting between these two countries, with 43%, is Colombia, where there has been a 7-point month-on-month increase in concern about crime and violence.

Climate change (16%)

With the landmark UN Climate Change Conference taking place in November, we take a look at the latest figures on global concern about climate change.

Across all countries, 15% on average consider climate change to be one of the most worrying topics in their country today.

Levels of concern rise to 34% in Canada and Germany. This represents the highest level of reported concern about climate change seen in Canada to date.

Close behind, with three in 10 considering putting climate change in their top worries, are Australia (31%) and the Netherlands (30%).

This month, climate change ranks 10th in the full list of 18 issues, just behind education, taxes, and inflation, all at 16%.

Heading in the right direction or on the wrong track?

Across the 28 nations surveyed, 64% on average say that things in their country are on the wrong track while 36% think they are heading in the right direction – little changed from previous months. This shows falling levels of concern about Coronavirus have not necessarily impacted the positivity of the public’s outlook.

Colombia is the country where most people say that things are heading in the wrong direction (90%), followed by Peru (83%), Argentina (82%), and Brazil (80%).

There has been a surge of optimism in Malaysia since last month (+16 saying things are heading in the right direction). Other shifts towards an optimistic view of the road ahead are seen in Japan (+8) and Hungary (+7).

Meanwhile, there has been a 7-point drop in both Sweden and Saudi Arabia – although Saudi Arabia still retains its too spot as the country most positive about its direction of travel.

What Worries the World survey is conducted in 28 countries around the world via the Ipsos Online Panel system. The countries included are Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, 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.
21,516 online interviews were conducted between September 24th to October 8th 2021 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.

The author(s)

  • Teodros Gebrekal Public Affairs

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