Stakeholder Trends and Insights
2/3 of People Around the World Believe Their Country Is Heading in the Wrong Direction

Is your country on the right track? A new Ipsos MORI study entitled “What Worries the World” seeks to answer this question, asking thousands of adults under 65 in countries across the globe to identify issues that most worry them and whether they think things in their country are headed in the right direction.

18,014 interviews were conducted between August 26 and September 9,2016, among adults aged 18-64 in the US and Canada, and adults aged 16-64 in all other countries. The survey was conducted in 25 countries around the world (Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Britain, Germany, Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Peru, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United States) using the Ipsos Online Panel system. Data are weighted to match the profile of the population.

According to the report, pessimism is pervasive: Overall, people across all countries are more likely to think things in their country are off on the wrong track (63 percent) rather than headed in the right direction. The French took home the prize for most pessimistic, with 88 percent of those participating in the online survey indicating that things are going wrong at home (which should come as no surprise considering the current state of emergency), while countries such as China, Saudi Arabia and India — all of whom are experiencing sustained periods of economic growth — showed considerable optimism for their countries’ futures.

Brits responded relatively positively, with 44 percent saying they think things are going in the right direction — a significant improvement on a low point of 31 percent in July following the Brexit vote — despite high reported levels of worry about immigration and the rise of extremism. As the shape of the UK’s future relationship with the EU is still subject to widespread debate, the subject of immigration and control of borders remains high in public awareness — pushing worry about this issue higher than in other European countries, such as Germany and Sweden.

“Britain is most worried about immigration out of the 25 countries included in the study, showing that the concern very clearly flagged in the EU Referendum has not subsided,” said Bobby Duffy, managing director at the Ipsos MORI Social Research Institute. “But it’s also striking how quickly initial fears that we’re heading in the wrong direction following Brexit have abated: People have not seen much impact on the economy or felt it on their own standard of living. Whether this will continue is a matter of fierce debate, but given the importance of consumer confidence to the economy, this is at least a positive.”

Cause for Discontent

The Ipsos MORI survey also seeks to get to the root of these sentiments, exploring the issues at the heart of the growing discontent. Across the board, unemployment is a problem with which many countries are preoccupied; it was mentioned by 38 percent globally. While this is significant, concern about unemployment has actually been decreasing since 2010, when more than half of all countries said that this worried them. Today, Spain (70 percent) and Italy (65 percent) are the countries that worry most about unemployment.

Financial and political corruption, and poverty and social inequality snagged the number two and three spots on the top five global worries list. South Korea stands out as the most anxious in regards to the former, while Hungary, Russia, Germany, Belgium and Japan felt strongly about concerns relating to the former.

Countries with recent or ongoing exposure to incidents of terror are among the most worried about terrorism, including Turkey (76 percent), France (55 percent) and Belgium (38 percent).

Healthcare is the fifth most frequently mentioned issue globally: 59 percent of people in Hungary and 50 percent of people in Brazil identified healthcare as being a major cause for concern, and it was the second most cited issue for Brits (34 percent) and has seen an increase of 7 percent month on month, possibly fueled by an ongoing industrial dispute between junior doctors and the government.

Crime and violence is a growing concern in both Mexico (60 percent) and Argentina (56 percent). In Peru, crime and violence is the primary worry, with 74 percent saying this worries them — the highest level of concern about the issue among any country in the study.

Perhaps what is most interesting is that climate change did not appear in the top five global worries, despite having serious implications for each of the issues that did make it into the top five, and the efforts being made globally to meet the goals outlined in the Paris Agreement, as well as the UN’s SDGs. As it turns out, China identified itself as being the country the most worried about climate change (21 percent) and threats against the environment (38 percent) out of all countries.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks 2017 report, released last week, echoed many of the same concerns: It calls out economic inequality, societal polarization and intensifying environmental dangers as the top three trends that will shape global developments over the next 10 years. The report also asserts the urgent need for collaborative action by world leaders to avert further hardship and volatility in the coming decade.

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