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Unemployment Rises as “Most Talked-About” Problem: Global Poll


15 December 2011 - Unemployment has joined corruption and poverty among the world’s most talked-about global issues, according to a new poll for the BBC across 23 countries.

The 11,293 people surveyed for the annual World Speaks poll by GlobeScan between July and September were asked to say which of a range of global issues they had talked about with friends and family over the past month.

On average across the countries polled, nearly a quarter (24%) say they have discussed corruption over that period. Extreme poverty (20%), unemployment (18%), and the rising cost of food and energy (17%) are the next most frequently discussed problems.

Unemployment is talked about by six times as many people as in 2009, the first year the study was conducted. In the 19 countries tracked over this period, the number saying they have discussed unemployment in the past month has risen from just 3 per cent in 2009 to 15 per cent in 2010 and 18 per cent this year, suggesting joblessness is causing increased concern.

The results also illustrate how countries differ in the problems their citizens discuss. The state of the global economy is the most-discussed problem in the USA, Japan, and France, while corruption tops the list in Turkey, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Peru. The rising cost of food and energy is the most talked-about problem in five countries (China, Kenya, Panama, the Philippines, and Russia), while Latin American countries are more likely to be talking about crime and violence, which is the most discussed issue in Brazil, Ecuador, and Mexico. Unemployment tops the list in Spain. While climate change was the most-discussed issue in six countries in 2010, Britain is one of only two countries—Germany is the other—where it is the most talked-about issue this year.

The survey also indicates that citizens of high-income countries are more likely to have talked about climate change, the state of the global economy, and war and armed conflict, while those in low-income countries are more likely to have been discussing unemployment, poverty, corruption and terrorism, among other problems.

The results are drawn from a survey of 11,293 adult citizens across 23 countries. It was conducted for BBC World Service by the international polling firm GlobeScan. GlobeScan coordinated fieldwork between July 3 and September 16, 2011. Within-country results are considered accurate within +/- 2.8 to 6.2 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

GlobeScan Global Insights Director Sam Mountford commented: “In the midst of the banking crisis two years ago, the perilous state of the global economy had people talking. But now, the effects of the financial crisis on jobs, high food and energy prices, and ever-present irritations like corruption are all high on people’s agenda.

”Problems Rated as “Most Serious”

As well as being asked to say which issues they had discussed, respondents were asked to rate how serious they considered each of a list of fourteen issues to be. Here, too, corruption emerges as the global problem most commonly rated as “very serious” (by 69% of respondents), the same proportion as extreme poverty. Last year, extreme poverty was narrowly rated to be more serious.

Respondents were also asked to name spontaneously the issue they consider as the most important problem facing the world. Here, both corruption and extreme poverty are outpolled by the global economy as the issue at the forefront of people’s minds. The economy is named by 18% of those polled, with poverty and unemployment tied as runners-up (both at 10%).

Economic problems are the top mentioned “most important problem” in six countries (UK, US, China, Ecuador, Indonesia, and Japan), while a further five rate unemployment as the most important problem (Egypt, Ghana, India, Nigeria, and Spain). The environment (Chile, France, and Turkey) and terrorism (Germany, Pakistan, and Russia) are the top mention in three countries each.

Looking only at the 19 countries polled each year since 2009, the numbers mentioning the environment in general (8% this year, 11% in 2010) or climate change specifically (4% this year, 7% in 2010) have both fallen since last year, while concern about hunger / food problems (7% this year, 3% in 2010) has gone up.

In total 11,293 citizens across 23 countries were interviewed face-to-face, by telephone, or online between July 3, 2011 and September 16, 2011. Polling was conducted for BBC World Service by the international polling firm GlobeScan and its research partners in each country. In eight of the 23 countries, the sample was limited to major urban areas. The margin of error per country ranges from +/- 2.8 to 6.2 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

For more details, please visit www.GlobeScan.com 

Note: Sample changed from urban-only to nationally representative between 2010 and 2011 in Mexico


Participating Countries

country map

In Brazil, China, Ecuador, Egypt, Indonesia, Panama, the Philippines, and Turkey urban samples were used.

For detailed results, including country-by-country data for all key questions, please see the Key Findings page below.


Media Contacts

For media interviews with the participating pollsters, please contact:

Sam Mountford, Research Director
GlobeScan Incorporated, London
+44 20 7928 5368
(Mobile: +44 7854 132625)
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Oliver Martin, Director, Global Development
GlobeScan Incorporated, Toronto
+1 416 969 3073
(Mobile: +1 416 721 3544)
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About GlobeScan

GlobeScan Incorporated is an international opinion research consultancy. We provide global organisations with evidence-based insight to help them set strategy and shape their communications. Companies, multilateral institutions, governments, and NGOs trust GlobeScan for our unique expertise across reputation management, sustainability, and stakeholder relations. GlobeScan conducts research in over 90 countries, is ISO 9001-2008 quality certified and a signatory to the UN Global Compact.

Established in 1987, GlobeScan is an independent, management-owned company with offices in Toronto, London, and San Francisco. For more information, visit: www.globescan.com

About BBC World Service

The BBC World Service is an international multimedia broadcaster, delivering a wide range of language and regional services on radio, TV, online and via wireless handheld devices. It uses multiple platforms to reach its weekly audience of 166 million globally, including shortwave, AM, FM, digital satellite and cable channels. Its news sites include audio and video content and offer opportunities to join the global debate. BBC World Service offers its multilingual radio content to partner FM stations around the world and has numerous partnerships supplying content to news websites, mobile phones and other wireless handheld devices as well as TV channels. For more information, visit: www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice

Backgrounder: Region-by-Region Results

North America

Most talked-about global issue

As in 2010, the most talked-about global issue among Americans in 2011 is the state of the global economy. It is spontaneously mentioned by 43 per cent1 of respondents, far more than any other problem. Climate change remains an important topic, ranking third in the list of the most talked-about problems (down from second in 2010), with 22 per cent. Issues involving war and armed conflict, and terrorism, are the other major topics of discussion in the US (24% and 19%, respectively).

Most important problem facing the world—unprompted

The problems Americans report discussing most frequently are aligned with what they believe to be the most important problems facing the world. The economy is considered the most important world problem for almost four in ten respondents (38%)—this is an increase since 2010, when it was mentioned by 27 per cent. Economic problems also top the list of top-of-mind world problems. Americans report that terrorism/war is the second most important problem facing the world, spontaneously mentioned by 12 per cent of respondents—far behind the economy.

Most serious global problem—prompted

When prompted to rate the seriousness of a series of 14 global problems, Americans mention the state of the global economy as the most serious global problem. Three in four (75%) say it is a very serious problem. This is the second highest rating across all 23 countries surveyed, and is similar to last year’s proportion (72%), when this was already Americans’ top concern. Extreme poverty is the second most serious problem (68% consider it to be “very serious”), followed by war and armed conflict (65%). Concern about corruption has waned a bit since last year among Americans: the issue now ranks seventh out of 14 global problems (60%, down from 68%—ranked second—in 2010).

1The percentages reported reflect combined mentions, as respondents were allowed to give four answers to this question.

Latin America

Most talked-about global issue

In Latin America, crime/violence/security is a very hot topic of discussion across almost all the countries surveyed in the region. It tops the list of the most talked-about global issue in three of the six countries, being spontaneously mentioned by 45 per cent of Mexicans, 29 per cent of Ecuadorians—where it was already the most frequently discussed issue in 2010—and 27 per cent of Brazilians. Crime is also a frequent topic of discussion in Peru, where it was discussed by 39 per cent of respondents—the second most talked-about issue (after corruption), and in Panama, where 17 per cent of respondents cited it, ranking it third in the list, after the rising cost of food and energy (27%) and climate change (18%).

Corruption is another important topic of discussion in most Latin American countries. Besides Peru, where it tops the list (41%), it is a common theme that is ranked in the top four most frequently discussed issues in Brazil (21%, ranked second), Ecuador (13%, ranked third), Mexico (30%, ranked fourth), and Panama (15%, rank fourth).

Chile is the only country in the region where respondents do not talk much about these two issues. Chileans are more likely to talk about extreme poverty, discussed in the past month by 31 per cent of them. Issues related to the environment are frequently discussed in Chile: climate change and environmental problems are respectively the second and third most talked-about issues. Extreme poverty and climate change are also commonly discussed elsewhere in Latin America. Both issues are in the top four in most countries, except for climate change in Mexico (ranked sixth), and extreme poverty in Panama (ranked fifth).

Most important problem facing the world—unprompted

There is a relatively good match between the issues Latin American respondents say they talk about most frequently and the ones they consider to be most important. As in 2010, crime/violence/security is considered the most important world problem in Mexico and Brazil, spontaneously mentioned by 31 and 29 per cent, respectively. It is also the main top-of-mind problem in Panama (27%), and the second most important issue in Ecuador (14%). For Peruvians, the top-of-mind world problem continues to be poverty/homelessness in 2011, mentioned by 21 per cent of respondents. In Chile, three issues are considered to be equally pressing for the world: climate change, the environment, and poverty/homelessness, each mentioned by 14 per cent.

Most serious global problem—prompted

Ratings of the seriousness of 14 global problems give results that are quite similar to last year’s. In Brazil, as in 2010, the problem of extreme poverty is considered to be the most serious, with an overwhelming proportion of 95 per cent of Brazilians rating it as “very serious.” Extreme poverty is also the top concern in Panama, cited as “very serious” by 79 per cent of respondents. This has also become the most important problem in 2011 in Mexico, tied with environment/pollution (both with 74% reporting it to be “very serious”). In Peru, extreme poverty ties with environment/pollution and corruption (all at 85%). Corruption continues to be rated as the most serious global problem in Ecuador (86%), while environment/pollution has remained the top concern for Chileans (83%).

Europe

Most talked-about global issue

The most frequently discussed topics vary considerably across the European countries surveyed. As in 2010, the most talked-about global issue among French respondents in 2011 is the state of the global economy. It is spontaneously mentioned by 35 per cent of them. The involvement of France in the Libyan civil war seems to have had influenced peoples’ discussions, as seen in the proportion reporting that they talked about war and armed conflict: at 28 per cent, this is the second most talked-about global issue in France.

In the UK, which was also part of the NATO intervention in Libya, war / armed conflict tops the list of most frequently discussed issues, equal to climate change (both 20%). The state of the global economy (19%), and extreme poverty (18%) are also important topics discussed in the UK.

Extreme poverty is also an important issue in Germany. It is spontaneously mentioned by 22 per cent of respondents, equal with climate change. Environmental problems (21%) and terrorism (20%) are respectively the third and fourth most talked-about global issues among Germans. In Spain, unemployment is the most prominent topic of discussion, mentioned by 54 per cent of Spaniards. The second most talked-about issue is political problems—Spain is the only country surveyed in Europe where a significant proportion report discussing this topic (40%).

At the periphery of the EU, the rising cost of food/energy, as well as terrorism, are the most talked-about global issues among Russians, each mentioned by 28 per cent. Turks are more interested in discussing corruption (34%) and unemployment (33%).

Most important problem facing the world—unprompted

Europeans have differing views when it comes to describing the most important problems facing the world. In France and Turkey, the first top-of-mind world problem is the environment, mentioned by 20 and 16 per cent of respondents respectively. This was already the most important problem according to the French in 2010. Respondents in the UK are more sensitive to economic problems, which were already their top preoccupation last year (22%, down from 27% in 2010), while Spaniards’ concern matches their reported main topic of discussion: unemployment is spontaneously mentioned as the most important problem by 36 per cent of them (up 20 points since 2010). Russians and Germans have similar views, as the top-of-mind world problem in both countries is terrorism/war, mentioned by 41 and 22 per cent respectively. This has increased by a tremendous 29 per cent in Russia since 2010, and has remained stable in Germany when it was already reported as the most important problem, equally with the environment.

Most serious global problem-prompted

When it comes to rating the seriousness of a series of 14 global problems, views are more diverse, at least within the EU countries. Extreme poverty is considered as the most serious problem in France (with 76% considering it “very serious”), Spain (72%, down 9 points since 2010), and the UK (71%)—as was already the case in 2010. In Germany, poverty has become the top concern in 2011, following a 7-point increase since last year (67%, up from 60% in 2010). In Turkey, terrorism continues to be rated as the most serious global problem (73%), and it has become the top preoccupation in Russians’ minds as well (77%, up 11 points since 2010).

Africa

Most talked-about global issue

Corruption is a very prominent discussion among Africans in general, ranked among the top three most talked-about global issues in each of the four African countries surveyed. It tops the list in Nigeria and Egypt, mentioned spontaneously by 61 and 37 per cent respectively. It was also the most frequent topic of discussion in Nigeria in 2010. Corruption is the second most talked-about problem in Kenya (41%), and the third in Ghana (27%).

In Egypt, people's discussions have been strongly influenced by the events of the Arab Spring. The second most talked-about problem is crime/violence/security, mentioned by 30 per cent of respondents. Political problems and internal stability/conflicts, which combine to a total of 44 per cent, also reflect the impact of the popular upheavals that have been affecting the Middle East and Maghreb regions.

Other commonly discussed topics in Africa relate to the economy and to development issues. The rising cost of food/energy is the most talked-about global issue in Kenya, mentioned by 42 per cent of respondents. Kenyans also frequently discuss extreme poverty (37%) and unemployment (29%). Unemployment has been discussed by 35 per cent of Nigerians and Ghanaians—and is the second most talked-about problem in these countries. Extreme poverty is mentioned by 27 per cent of Nigerians (the third most talked-about problem), and 19 per cent of Ghanaians (the fourth most talked-about problem). Ghana is the only country where education tops the list of the most talked-about global issues (37%), but this issue is ranked in the top five most frequently discussed issues in the three other African countries surveyed as well.

Most important problem facing the world—unprompted

When asked to name the issue they consider the most important problem facing the world, unemployment tops the list in three out the four African countries surveyed. It is spontaneously mentioned by 14 per cent of Egyptians, 15 per cent of Nigerians, and 27 per cent of Ghanaians. In Nigeria and Ghana, joblessness was already seen as the most important world problem in 2010. For Kenyans, the top-of-mind world problem is hunger / food problems, mentioned by 35 per cent.

Most serious global problem—prompted

When prompted to rate the seriousness of a series of 14 global problems, corruption continues to stand out as the most serious issue in Egypt, Nigeria, and Ghana, as was the case in 2010. In Egypt, over eight in ten (82%) rate it as a very serious problem. Seventy-eight per cent of Nigerian respondents, and 64 per cent in Ghana, consider corruption to be “very serious.” Kenyans are more concerned about the rising cost of food/energy, rated as the most serious problem by 69 per cent, ahead of extreme poverty (64%) and corruption (60%).

Asia

Most talked-about global issue

In India and Indonesia, corruption has remained the most frequently discussed problem in 2011, as it was in 2010. In India, it is cited by 59 per cent of the population, and tops the list of the most talked-about global issues. In Indonesia, 54 per cent say they have discussed this problem. Indians and Indonesians are also keen on talking about education, which is the second most discussed issue in both countries (36% and 27%, respectively).

Corruption is also a frequently discussed problem in China (14%), and in the Philippines (37%), where it is the second most discussed issue in 2011. In these two countries, however, the most important topic of discussion is the rising cost of food/energy, mentioned by 24 and 39 per cent of respondents respectively. This issue ranks second in Pakistan (42%), where the most prominent topic of discussion is still terrorism (63%), as in 2010.

In Japan, respondents are more likely to talk about economic issues, as is shown by the 16 per cent who say they discussed the state of the global economy. It is noteworthy that the Japanese are the only respondents among the countries surveyed to volunteer that they talked about the Fukushima nuclear accident. It is mentioned by 12 per cent, and is the second most discussed issue in Japan.

Most important problem facing the world—unprompted

The primary top-of-mind world problems in almost all surveyed Asian countries are economic. In Japan, Indonesia, and China, the economy is rated to be the most important world problem, mentioned by 40 per cent of Japanese, 26 per cent of Indonesians, and 25 per cent of Chinese. This was already the top concern in Indonesia in 2010, but top concerns in Japan and in China were environmental, and those have dropped second in the list of the most important problems this year—although the environment holds a very close second in China, at 24 per cent. In India, the most important problem is unemployment (14%), while in the Philippines, the top problem remains poverty/homelessness, mentioned by 25 per cent. As in 2010, Pakistanis remain concerned about terrorism, mentioned as the most important world problem by almost one in three (28%).

Most serious global problem—prompted

When it comes to rating the seriousness of a series of 14 global problems, corruption is considered as the most serious problem in Indonesia and India (78% and 73% rate it to be “very serious”), an increase in perceived importance since 2010. Corruption remained at the top of the list in the Philippines, equal with extreme poverty and the rising cost of food/energy (89% each). In China, the top preoccupation is environment/pollution, a problem that is rated as “very serious” by 71 per cent. In Japan, concern about the state of the global economy has surged. It is now rated as a “very serious” problem by 63 per cent of Japanese—an overwhelming 25-point increase since 2010, with the issue moving up from fifth rank. In Pakistan, 58 per cent of respondents rate human rights abuses as the most serious issue, up from third rank in 2010.

Methodology

In total 11.293 citizens in Brazil, Chile, China, Ecuador, Egypt, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States were interviewed face-to-face, by telephone, or online between July 3, 2011 and September 16, 2011. Polling was conducted for BBC World Service by GlobeScan and its research partners in each country.

In Brazil, China, Ecuador, Egypt, Indonesia, Panama, the Philippines, and Turkey urban samples were used. The margin of error per country ranges from +/- 2.8 to 6.2 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

 

CountrySample Size (unweighted)Field datesSample frameSurvey methodologyType of sample
Brazil 403 July 26 – August 15, 2011 18–69 Telephone Urban1
Chile 600 August 18–29, 2011 18+ Face-to-face National
China 500 July 13–31, 2011 18+ Telephone Urban2
Ecuador 250 August 27 – September 16, 2011 18+ Face-to-face Urban3
Egypt 503 July 16–29, 2011 18+ Face-to-face Urban4
France 252 August 16–18, 2011 15+ Telephone National
Germany 510 July 8–27, 2011 16–70 Telephone National
Ghana 519 July 25 – August 20, 2011 18+ Face-to-face National
India 643 July 15–29, 2011 18+ Face-to-face National
Indonesia 500 July 3 – August 25, 2011 18+ Face-to-face Urban5
Japan 500 August 5–14, 2011 20+ Online National
Kenya 408 August 5 – September 1, 2011 18+ Face-to-face National
Mexico 500 July 23–28, 2011 18+ Face-to-face National
Nigeria 377 August 2–9, 2011 18–65 Face-to-face National
Pakistan 1200 July 18 – August 8, 2011 18+ Face-to-face National
Panama 375 August 9–22, 2011 18+ Telephone Urban6
Peru 601 July 15–20, 2011 18–70 Face-to-face National
Philippines 400 July 23 – August 8, 2011 18+ Face-to-face Urban7
Russia 501 July 22 – August 10, 2011 18+ Face-to-face National
Spain 250 September 1–10, 2011 18+ Telephone National
Turkey 500 July 5–18, 2011 15+ Face-to-face Urban8
United Kingdom 500 July 6 – August 23, 2011 18+ Telephone National
USA 501 July 8 – August 18, 2011 18+ Telephone National
  1. In Brazil the survey was conducted in Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Curitiba, Goiânia, Porto Alegre, Recife, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, and São Paulo, representing 18 per cent of the national population.
  2. In China the survey was conducted in Beijing, Beiliu, Chengdu, Dujiangyan, Fenyang, Fuyang, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Manzhouli, Quanzhou, Qujing, Shanghai, Shenyang, Shuangcheng, Wuhan, Xi'an, Xining, and Zhengzhou, representing 45 per cent of the national adult population.
  3. In Ecuador the survey was conducted in Cuenca, Guayaquil and Quito, representing 52 per cent of the urban population.
  4. In Egypt the survey was conducted in Alexandria, Cairo, Giza, and Shubra El-Kheima, representing 24 per cent of the national population.
  5. In Indonesia the survey was conducted in Bandung, Jakarta, Makassar, Medan, and Surabaya, representing 27 per cent of the national adult population.
  6. In Panama the survey was conducted in Panamá, Chiriquí, Colón, Coclé, Veraguas, Herrera, Bocas del Toro and Los Santos, representing 70 per cent of the adult population.
  7. In the Philippines the survey was conducted in the National Capital Region, representing 27 per cent of the urban adult population.
  8. In Turkey the survey was conducted in Adana, Ankara, Antalya, Bursa, Diyarbakir, Erzurum, Istanbul, Izmir, Konya, Samsun, and Zonguldak, representing 56 per cent of the national adult population.

Research Partners

CountryResearch InstituteLocationContact
Brazil Market Analysis Florianópolis Fabián Echegaray This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
+55 48 3364 0000
Chile Mori Chile Santiago Marta Lagos
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+56 2334 4544
China GlobeScan Toronto Oliver Martin
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+1 416 969 3073
Ecuador Propraxis / Sigma Dos Quito Carlos Moreno
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+593 7 2888519
Egypt Attitude Market Research Cairo Mohamed Al Gendy
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+202 22711262
France Efficience 3 Paris and Rheims Christian de Thieulloy
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+33 1 4316 5442
Germany Ri*QUESTA GmbH Teningen Bernhard Rieder
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+49 7641 93 43 36
Ghana Business Interactive Consulting Limited Accra Razaaque Animashaun
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+233 302 783140 / +233 302 782892
India Team C Voter Noida Yashwant Deshmukh
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+91 120 4175200 (ext. 223)
Indonesia DEKA Marketing Research Jakarta Irma Malibari
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+62 21 723 6901
Japan Gfk Custom Research Tokyo Seiji Iida
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+81 3 3989 9821
Kenya Research Path Associates Ltd. Nairobi Jeremy Mwololo
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+254 020 2734770
Mexico Parametria Mexico City Francisco Abundis
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+52 55 2614 0089
Nigeria Millward Brown Lagos Michael Umogun
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+234 802 311 7969
Pakistan Gallup Pakistan Islamabad Ijaz Shafi Gilani
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+92 51 2655630
Panama Dichter & Neira Panama City Gabriel Neira
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+ 507 236 4000
Peru Datum Lima Urpi Torrado
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+511 215 0600
Philippines M&S-Sigma Dos Philippines, Inc. Makati City Teodora Marasigan
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+63 2 8172780
Russia CESSI Institute for Comparative Social Research Moscow Vladimir Andreenkov
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+7 495 650 55 18
Spain Sigma Dos Int. Madrid Gines Garrido
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+34 91 360 0474
Turkey Yöntem Research Consultancy Ltd. Istanbul Bülent Gündoğmuş
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+90 212 278 1219
United Kingdom Populus Data Solutions London Patrick Diamond
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+44 207 553 4148
USA Populus Data Solutions London Patrick Diamond
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+44 207 553 4148

Question Wording

Question Wording

Q17Bt.

What do you think is the most important problem facing the world today?
DO NOT READ. CODE ONE RESPONSE ONLY.

Q18Bt.

For each of the following possible global problems, please tell me if you see it as a very serious, somewhat serious, not very serious, or not at all serious problem.
READ AND ROTATE STATEMENTS. CODE ONLY ONE EACH.

  • at) Human rights abuses in the world
    • 01 Very serious
    • 02 Somewhat serious
    • 03 Not very serious
    • 04 Not at all serious
    • VOLUNTEERED (DO NOT READ)
    • 05 Depends
    • 06 Not familiar with the issue
    • 98 Other (Do Not Specify)
    • 99 Don’t Know / Not applicable
  • bt) Pollution and environmental problems in the world
  • ct) The spread of human diseases
  • dt) Extreme poverty in the world
  • et) Terrorism
  • ft) The migration of people between countries
  • gt) War and armed conflicts
  • ht) The state of the global economy
  • it) Religious fundamentalism
  • jt) Violation of workers’ rights in the world
  • kt) Climate change or global warming
  • lt) The rising cost of food and energy
  • mt) The growing power of global companies
  • nt) Corruption
Q19B.

Which one, if any, of the global problems that we've been talking about do you most expect to improve in the next year?
DO NOT READ. CODE FIRST MENTION ONLY

Q20Bt.

Which, if any, of the global issues that we've been talking about have you discussed with your friends or family during the past month? IF RESPONDENT SAYS “ALL OF THEM” THEN SAY ‘Which have you been talking about most during the past month?’
DO NOT READ. CODE UP TO FOUR MENTIONS

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