00:01 GMT
Sunday 17 January 2010

Poverty Most Serious World Problem, Says Global Poll

notes to editors methodology research partners
questionnaire globescan website
printable version in pdf format (516 kB)

 email this link:

Extreme poverty is a more serious problem for the world than climate change, terrorism, or the state of the global economy, according to a new annual global poll across 23 countries conducted for BBC World Service.

When more than 25,000 people interviewed by GlobeScan were asked to say how serious they thought each of a range of global problems were, the following percentages of people rated these issues as “very serious”:

  • 71%—extreme poverty  
  • 64%—the environment or pollution
  • 63%—the rising cost of food and energy
  • 59%—the spread of human diseases  
  • 59%—terrorism  
  • 58%—climate change 
  • 59%—human rights abuses 
  • 58%—the state of the global economy 
  • 57%—war or armed conflict
  • 48%—violation of workers' rights 
In this year's poll, poverty was rated as the most serious global issue in ten of the countries polled, including in the UK, US, Kenya, Australia, Brazil, and Chile. However, in Russia, Turkey, Mexico, Indonesia, and Nigeria more felt that the rising cost of food and energy was very serious.  

The poll, which was conducted before the Copenhagen summit took place, also found that the Japanese were the only nation to regard climate change as the most serious global issue—although the Chinese and Costa Ricans identified environmental issues more generally, or pollution, as the most serious. China ranked climate change as the second most serious issue, whereas the US ranked it ninth.

The poll also found that Indians and Pakistanis rated terrorism as the number one concern, and a number of countries which have experienced terrorism also rated it among the top three most serious global problems—Indonesia, Spain, Turkey, and the UK.

Egypt was the only country to rate the spread of human disease as the top issue, although Chile, China, Kenya, and Nigeria rated it in the top three.

If poverty is seen as the world’s most serious problem, it is not the most top-of-mind. When respondents were asked to name spontaneously “the most important issue facing the world today,” economic problems were most commonly cited, with one in four mentioning them (26%). Terrorism and war followed with 10 per cent.

And while poverty was some distance ahead of other global issues in terms of how serious it was seen to be, it was only one of a number of issues that people had discussed with friends and family recently. The greatest number—30%—said they had talked about rising food and energy costs with their friends and family recently, with extreme poverty and the spread of human diseases the second most discussed issues (29%) and the state of the global economy third (28%).

With recent terrorist attacks in their own countries still fresh in people’s minds, Indians, Pakistanis, Turks, and Indonesians were most likely to say they had talked about terrorism recently with their friends and family. In the US, Canada, the UK, Germany, China, Spain, and Australia, the state of the global economy was the most discussed issue. Brazil, meanwhile, was the only country where a majority had discussed the environment with their friends and family over the previous month.

GlobeScan Research Director Sam Mountford said, “Even if the global recession has kept economic problems top of people’s minds this year, extreme poverty is clearly viewed as the world’s most serious global problem. But with many other global problems seen as very serious, this represents a daunting agenda for institutions like the UN and G20 to address.

“Over time, this poll will show us how public concern on global issues is shifting—and which issues are being discussed most often at dinner tables and workplaces around the world.”

The World Speaks is an annual poll from the BBC World Service focusing on what the world is worried about. People from around the world express their concerns, and every year we will track their changing sense of the challenges the world faces.   

The full results and more information can be found at: www.bbcworldservice.com/worldagenda

Notes To Editors

Face-to-face and telephone interviews were conducted between 19 June and 13 October 2009 with a total of 25,128 citizens  in 22 countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, the Philippines, Russia, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. The 23rd country is Japan where the fieldwork was conducted online. Polling was conducted for BBC Global News by GlobeScan and its research partners in each country. In Brazil, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Egypt, Mexico, Panama, the Philippines, and Turkey urban samples were used. Questions were asked of half samples in each country. 

Issued by BBC World Service Press Office
+44 (0) 207 557 2942 


GlobeScan Incorporated is a global survey research firm providing strategic advice to companies, multilateral institutions, governments, and NGOs, on reputation, sustainability, and corporate responsibility. The company is a world leader in conducting comprehensive survey research in all regions of the world amongst general publics and stakeholders.

For more details, please visit GlobeScan.com as well as the GlobeScan Insights blog at http://globescaninsights.blogspot.com

The BBC World Service is an international multimedia broadcaster delivering 32 language and regional services. It uses multiple platforms to reach its weekly audience of 188 million globally, including shortwave, AM, FM, digital satellite and cable channels. It has around 2,000 partner radio stations which take BBC content, and numerous partnerships supplying content to mobile phones and other wireless handheld devices. Its news sites include audio and video content and offer opportunities to join the global debate. For more information, visit bbcworldservice.com. To find out more about the BBC’s English language offer and subscribe to a free e-newsletter, visit bbcworldservice.com/schedules.