World Public Opinion–People Vs. Leaders

[First published February 14, 2006] Gallup has published a number of world poll results, and the most interesting is their poll of near 50,000 people in more than 60 countries , that statistically represent over 2 billion of the world’s population.

Of most interest, is that 35% vs. 30% believe the next generation will live in a safer world. Compared to similar polls in 2003 and 2004, those who feel the world will be safer has gone up from 25% to 40%.

The World Economic Forum also did a similar poll of 2,500 world leaders that participated in the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos. This enables us to do a fascinating comparison between leaders and the people. See below

Then as to whether the next generation will live in a more economically prosperous world, see below

And then there is a comparison of people versus leaders on the importance (priority) of specific issues.

The report also presents the results for people versus leaders on a number of issues. The greatest difference is on economic growth, where 31% of the leaders give it priority compared to only 17% of the people. Note that reducing wars and the war on terrorism are not that important for leaders and people, and human rights are even less so. Full equality for women, reducing organized crime, and overcoming AIDS are at the bottom of people and leader’s priorities. Stunning. And the polltakers did not even ask about genocide, democide, and famine, the major causes of unnatural non-disease deaths in the last century.

Doubtlessly related to the world being safer and more prosperous, Gallup asked whether people thought 2006 would be better or worse than 2005, and divided the results by region and country (here in pdf). The most pessimistic regions are Western Europe and Eastern/Central Europe, where 31% and 30% respectively think 2006 will be worse, while the most optimist regions about 2006 being better are the Pacific (54%), and Africa (57%). As to countries, Vietnam, China, UN Kosovo, and Afghanistan were most optimistic, while Bosnia, Greece, Philippines, and France were among the most pessimistic.

For comparison, we have the 20 nation poll taken by the World Public Opinion Organization Organization. They ask whether respondents agree or disagree with the statement that, “The Free enterprise system and free market economy is the best system on which to base the future of the world.” The highest agreement is by China (74%), Philippines (73%), and the U.S. (71%). Those at the bottom are France (36%), Argentina (42%), and Russia (36%). Compare this to the average for the 20 nations on their support for increased government regulation of large companies to protect workers being 74%, the rights of consumers being 73%, to protect the environment being 75%, and rights of investors being 54%.

As to whether large companies are seen as having too much influence, the average is 73%, with the U.S. being 85%, and China far below at 47%.

Such polls provide a treasure trove of raw data. We now have a world values survey, freedom house, and the index to economic freedom. A problem is that these data are formatted in different ways, but not impossible to reconfigure, reformat, and intercorrelate. One question that would be interesting to answer is: How do the people of the U.S., Canada, and Western Europe view human rights? I suspect it is with much less priority than other issues, since they already have them, and take them for granted. Also, because of their constant bombardment by a negative major media, I suspect that these people are far more pessimistic about the world being a safer and better place.

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