What worries the world? September 2018

New global poll finds four concerns top the world’s worry list: Unemployment, poverty/social inequality, crime/violence and financial/political corruption. Concern about Healthcare in Britain falls but it is still the top worry for Britons for the eleventh successive month

The author(s)

  • Gideon Skinner Head of Political Research
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The What Worries the World study finds the majority of people in the participating 28 nations feel their country is on the wrong track (60% on average), with Brazil (88%), Spain (81%), South Africa (81%) France (76%) and Peru (75%) citing the greatest levels of concern.

“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 (60% on average). But there are wide-ranging disparities in scores across the globe:

Right Direction

  • Once more, China (92%) inspires the most confidence about national direction. Saudi Arabia (78%) remains in second place with India (67%) in third position. Malaysia (65%) rising-8 percentage points to fourth place.   
  • In Sweden, (42%), we can see the effect of Stefan Löfven retaining his position as Prime Minister - with the nation showing the greatest increase in positivity this month with optimism in the country’s direction rising 11 percentage points from the prior month. 

Wrong Track

  • At the other end of the spectrum - Brazilian, Spanish, South African, French and Peruvian citizens have the greatest apprehension about the direction taken by their country. Just 12% of Brazilians think their country is going in the right direction, followed by 19% in both Spain and in South Africa. 24% of French citizens believe their nation is on the wrong track.
  • South Korea (50%) has seen the biggest fall in optimism— with a reduction of 8% from the previous month and a 24% fall from a recent positive spike experienced in May 2018 (74%).
  • Other falls are South Africa / Turkey (-7%) and Spain / Israel (-5%).

The four major worries for global citizens are:

  1. Financial/ Political corruption (34%). Peru (68%) is the most worried nation about this issue followed by both Malaysia and Russia on 53%. Argentina (44%) has seen the largest increase in concern with a rise of 10 percentage points from the previous month. As with the previous month – Sweden (6%) and Germany (7%) are the two least apprehensive countries about this issue.
  2. Unemployment (33%). The topmost levels of concern are in South Korea (69%), Italy (64%) and Spain (61%). As well as being most unsettled nation about this issue, South Korea is the country with the biggest increase in concern from the previous month, with a rise of 8 percentage points from August 2018. Germany (11%) is the least worried nation, followed by Israel (12%) and the US (13%).
  3. Poverty/Social Inequality (33%). The highest levels of concern are seen in Russia (60%), Serbia (55%), Hungary (45%) and Germany (44%). US (18%) remains the least anxious nation as they have done for the entirety of 2017 and most of 2018 – followed by Sweden (19%) and Saudi Arabia (22%).   
  4. Crime & Violence (31%). The peak levels of this concern are in South Africa (62%), Mexico (61%) and Peru (60%) then Chile (51%). Germany (43%) has seen the biggest rise in this worry with an upsurge of 10 percentage points from the previous month. Worry about corruption is now the lowest in Saudi Arabia and Poland (11%) who are closely followed by Russia and Hungary (13%).

What worries Great Britain

Optimism in Britain remains the same as last month with only 30% of Britons saying the country is heading in the right direction - 10 percentage points below the global average (40%). This score is an 8 percentage point decrease from May 2018 where 38% of Britons had believed their nation was on the right track.

The five major worries for British citizens are:

  1. Healthcare (38%) is the most mentioned concern for the British public for the eleventh consecutive month — despite an 11-point drop from the February peak (49%). Britain is now the 5th most concerned country about the issue globally behind Hungary (70%), Poland (55%), Brazil (41%) and China (40%).  
  2. Crime & violence (32%) is still the joint second greatest concern for Britons with no change from the previous month and only just shy from the highest figure recorded since 2012 — the nation is now ranked joint 12th for this issue globally.  
  3. Poverty/Social Inequality (32%) is the now joint second most mentioned concern for Britons but Britain is still only ranked joint 14th for this worry in comparison to the other 27 nations surveyed.  
  4. Fears about Terrorism (26%) are consistent with the previous month (25%) although levels of concern have dropped substantially since the most recent peak in September 2017 (41%) driven by the Manchester and London Bridge attacks in the Summer of 2017.  The UK is the fourth most worried about terrorism among the countries surveyed.
  5. Apprehensions about immigration is now at 25% amongst Britons.
Top 5 issues worrying the world and Great Britain
Top five global issues Top five Great Britain issues
1) Financial/ Political corruption (34%) 1) Healthcare (38%)
2) Unemployment (33%)    2) Crime & violence (32%)
3) Poverty/Social Inequality (33%) 3) Poverty/Social Inequality (32%)
4) Crime & Violence (31%) 4) Terrorism (26%)
5) Healthcare (24%) 5) Immigration control (25%)

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

Optimism in Britain remains below the global average, and has plateaued over the last year. We remain relatively more concerned about healthcare and terrorism than many other countries around the world, and relatively less so about corruption, unemployment and education. However, we have clearly become more concerned about crime over the last year, which is a worrying trend. 

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.
  • 20,787 interviews were conducted between August 24th, 2018 – September 7th, 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. 


The author(s)

  • Gideon Skinner Head of Political Research

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