Global Public Opinion

Dr. David Nabarro, Special Advisor to the Secretary-General on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Climate Change, recently wrote a letter of appreciation for public opinion metrics the GlobeScan Foundation provided in support of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and for our Survey of the Poor initiative.

You can read a copy of the letter here.

In a contributed article to The Economist's annual The World in 2016 special edition, GlobeScan Foundation President, Doug Miller has been recognised for his public opinion pointers to the future.

Upon the latest release of The World in 2017, Daniel Franklin, Editor of the Economist’s “Year in 2016”, took to a recent podcast to name Doug as the most noteworthy predictor of any of the contributors to their “World in 2016” magazine:

I would like to take my hat off to at least one person, who is Doug Miller of GlobeScan, who we had a little piece from him on what you could tell on the basis of opinion polling on the future, and one of the things he pointed to was the drastic decline in the level of trust in American politics and institutions. He likened this to environmental devastation and said as a result of this you’re almost bound to get a big political shock in the year ahead – and sure enough that’s what we got in Donald Trump.”

Read Doug’s full 2016 article on The Economist or on the GlobeScan Foundation website

Our poll of 19 countries for The Economist reveals a neglected global scourge: the number of would-be parents who have fewer children than they want—or none at all.

Read this article on The Economist

GlobeScan’s RADAR is an annual research and advisory program that has been tracking public opinion trends across 20 countries since 1997.

Each year, we conduct 20,000 in-person and telephone interviews with scientific samples of citizens on topics that are highly relevant to the strategic needs of civil society organizations and philanthropic foundations (please see page 2 for topics and countries covered).

For the first time in 2016, the GlobeScan Foundation is offering Civil Society RADAR – an interpretive strategic briefing package of RADAR insights and counsel tailored to the needs of global civil society organizations.

Download this brochure to learn more.


LONDON - For the first time in 15 years of tracking by GlobeScan, findings indicate that nearly one in two people (49%) surveyed across 14 tracking countries see themselves more as global citizens than citizens of their country. This sentiment is being driven by citizens of large emerging economies, according to a new poll for the BBC World Service.

The poll, conducted by GlobeScan among more than 20,000 people worldwide between December 2015 and April 2016, is being released as part of the BBC World Service Identity Season—a Spring season of broadcasts on the World Service’s 27 language services exploring stories about how people identify themselves around the world.

Among all 18 countries where this question was asked in 2016, the poll suggests more than half (51%) see themselves more as global citizens than citizens of their country, against 43 per cent who identify nationally. This is the first time since tracking began in 2001 that there is a global majority who leans this way, and the results in 2016 are driven by strong increases since 2015 in non-OECD countries including Nigeria (73%, up 13 points), China (71%, up 14 points), Peru (70%, up 27 points), and India (67%, up 13 points).

Looking at the 14 tracking countries that have been surveyed repeatedly since 2001, a growing divide appears on the topic of global citizenship between respondents from developing economies and those from industrialised countries. At the height of the financial crisis in 2009, views were fairly similar across the two country groupings, with 48 per cent in seven OECD countries seeing themselves more as global citizens than national, and 45 per cent in seven non-OECD countries. This sentiment has continued to grow at a strong pace since then among respondents in emerging economies to reach a high of 56 per cent in both 2015 and 2016. Conversely in seven OECD countries it has followed an opposite trajectory, dropping to a low of 39 per cent in 2011 and remaining at low levels since (now at 42%). This latter trend has been particularly pronounced in Germany where the poll suggests identification with global citizenship has dropped 13 points since 2009 to only 30 per cent today (the lowest since 2001).

The poll also asked about the level of approval for different demographic developments changing the population make-up of their country, and results indicate public opinion is generally quite supportive of a number of trends shaping global society. In the 19 countries surveyed for this series of questions, three quarters (75%) of respondents approve of intermarriage between different races or ethnic groups, and more than six in ten (63%) approve of immigration from other countries (with 31% disapproving). Similar degrees of openness are observed on accepting refugees, with 62 and 57 per cent respectively supporting their country admitting refugees fleeing conflict generally, and from Syria in particular. On all of these statements, German attitudes stand out due to the unusually high percentage of respondents choosing “neither agree nor disagree,” or that it “depends.” A majority of Germans (54%) nonetheless approves the acceptance of Syrian refugees.

GlobeScan Chairman Doug Miller commented: “The poll’s finding that growing majorities of people in emerging economies identify as global citizens will challenge many people’s (and organisations’) ideas of what the future might look like.”

Other Findings

An additional question on the poll gave respondents a broader range of options to reflect on how they consider their identity. Results reveal the complexity of the issue and show how people can identify in different ways.

When offered a choice between five distinct identities, more than one in two citizens (52%) across 19 countries define their most important identity as citizens of their country, outnumbering those who view themselves as being a world citizen (17%), a resident of their local community (11%), or who identify themselves primarily through their religion (9%), or their race or culture (8%). Out of 19 countries, majorities or strong pluralities in 16 countries describe being a national citizen as the most important feature of their identity. National citizenship is the strongest in Kenya (84%) and Ghana (81%), followed by Russia (70%), Nigeria (68%), and Chile (64%).

Three countries stand out in the way their populations think about self-identity. Spaniards are by far the most likely to identify with world citizenship (54%). For 56 per cent of Indonesians, belonging to their local community is the strongest defining identity. And for Pakistanis, a strong plurality (43%) identify first as a member of their religion.

The results are drawn from a telephone and in-person survey of 20,823 adult citizens across 21 participating countries in total. Not all questions were asked in all countries. The poll was conducted for the BBC World Service between December 2, 2015 and April 15, 2016 by the international opinion research and consultancy firm GlobeScan and its national research partners. Within-country results are considered accurate within +/- 2.8 to 3.7 per cent 19 times out of 20. Urban-only samples were used in Brazil, China, Indonesia, and Kenya.


Detailed Findings










Media Contacts

For media interviews, please contact:

  • Stacy Rowland, Director, Public Relations and Communications, GlobeScan
    • Direct: +1 416 992 2705
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  • Doug Miller, Chairman, GlobeScan
    • Direct: +1 519 370 0300
    • Mobile: +1 416 230 2231
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  • Lionel Bellier, Associate Director, GlobeScan
    • Mobile: +44 (0) 789 601 1645
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About BBC World Service

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

In The Regeneration Roadmap's first white paper, we reveal Pioneers’ perspectives on progress made since the 1992 Earth Summit, highlight the need for business to take a lead in sustainable development and raise questions about the future.

Download this report

New project seeks to accelerate pace and scale of change


LONDON - The Regeneration Roadmap, a joint initiative from GlobeScan and SustainAbility, launches today with the first of The Ray Anderson Memorial Interviews, a weekly series of videos featuring the most notable sustainable development pioneers from the past few decades. Building on these pioneer insights, the project will assess progress on sustainable development to date and help chart a course to a more sustainable future.

2012 marks the 20th anniversary of the Rio Earth Summit and the 25th anniversary of the Brundtland Report, Our Common Future, which together elevated the concept of sustainable development on the global policy agenda. The Regeneration Roadmap over the course of the year will bring together a wide range of leaders and influencers to determine how best to bring new energy and focus to the agenda.

Made possible by the generous support of presenting sponsor SC Johnson, sponsor DuPont and in partnership with Guardian Sustainable Business, this joint initiative by GlobeScan and SustainAbility – both celebrating their own 25th anniversaries this year – will particularly focus on the role that the private sector can take to fundamentally reshape – and make more sustainable – our society and economy.

“SC Johnson believes that the private sector has an important role to play in making the world a better place,” said Kelly M. Semrau, SC Johnson Chief Sustainability Officer. “The Regeneration Roadmap is an excellent opportunity to bring influencers and business together to create a roadmap for sustainability leadership that is essential to the future.”

Also launched today is the first in a series of The Regeneration Roadmap white papers – Unfinished Business: Perspectives from the Sustainable Development Frontier. Over the course of 2012, we will undertake a series of surveys – of experts, influencers and the general public – and will host a number of live events, to further inform the debate and catalyze new approaches to sustainable business.

“The Regeneration Roadmap is just the type of channel to spur dialogue and collaboration among industry, NGOs, academia, policymakers and other thought leaders to solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges,” said Linda Fisher, DuPont Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer. “DuPont is proud to be part of the conversation to find innovative solutions that can deliver sustainable growth now and in the future.”

To view all of the Ray Anderson Memorial Interviews, please visit 

In addition to presenting sponsor SC Johnson, sponsor DuPont and media sponsor GSB, The Regeneration Roadmap is delighted to have the support of Globe; the International Council on Mining and Metals; National Geographic; Net Impact; Report Comunicação: Starbucks; Sustain our Africa; Sustainable Life Media; UNEP; the World Bank; and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

Multinational Corporations Expected to Play Key Role at June Summit


LONDON – According to a major international poll of sustainable development experts, a majority of opinion leaders surveyed (57%) view the Rio+20 United Nations Summit scheduled for June 20-22, 2012 as a critical opportunity to make progress on sustainability leadership, but very few (13%) think it will succeed.

As part of The Regeneration Raodmap, the GlobeScan/SustainAbility Survey polled 642* experts in sustainability from business, NGOs, academia and government in 77 countries. It found that most do not see a clear agenda for the summit (20%), and are not confident that key influencers and decision-makers will attend (35%). Although experts agree that the green economy and the institutional framework for sustainable development are the right themes for the summit, few experts believe that the conference will succeed in making significant progress in the transition to sustainable development.

The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro was perceived by many stakeholders as a success due to notable achievements, including increased public awareness of the problems facing the global environment, landmark agreements including the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the creation of Agenda 21, and the establishment of international institutions such as the Sustainable Development Commission and the Business Council for Sustainable Development.

Whereas corporate entities were often thought to be at odds with the environmental and development goals of the 1992 Summit, corporate leadership is seen as key to ensuring a successful outcome at Rio+20 in June 2012. Experts say that global businesses need to work together to set priorities within an industry-specific context (70%) and that the private sector should both lobby national politicians on key issues ahead of Rio+20 (62%) and send CEOs to the Summit (61%).

“While the gap between the perceived importance of Rio+20 and experts’ expectations of it is discouraging, we see a strong opportunity for business to apply its ability to get things done,” says Eric Whan, GlobeScan’s Director of Sustainability. “Most companies need clarity to act on the sustainability agenda, and certainty on the future of both global governance and the green economy has been sorely lacking. That’s left only the precious few bold leaders to show the others the way forward.”

SustainAbility Executive Director Mark Lee said, “The global experts’ views captured in this survey make clear the urgency of the sustainability agenda heading into Rio+20. The question is whether leadership will emerge capable of generating any kind of breakthrough on commitments and progress in the near term.”

*A total of 642 experts were surveyed online between December 2 and December 19, 2011.


LONDON – A Green Economy would have a more positive impact on major economic, social and environmental problems than today's economy, according to two new global surveys of consumers and thought leaders released today.

The polls, conducted by The Regeneration Roadmap in partnership with UNEP, surveyed 17,000 consumers across 17 countries and 1,600 sustainable development experts from business, civil society, government and academia from 117 countries.

Consumers worldwide say a Green Economy will be more effective than the traditional economy in improving nearly every challenge tested. Ratings are especially high for protecting the environment (70%), creating a better future for our children (68%), improving quality of life (61%) and addressing climate change (61%). 

TRP2012 SCM2likt

By a smaller margin, consumers also believe that a Green Economy will be more effective than today’s economy in creating high paying jobs (32%) and increasing even short-term economic growth (31%). The only area where consumers are more doubtful of the effectiveness of a Green Economy is when it comes to generating low-paying jobs, on which opinions are split.

Strikingly, emerging market consumers are particularly likely to reject the notion that environmental and economic prosperity are mutually exclusive. Consumers in lower GDP per capita countries tend to be more optimistic about the impact of a Green Economy on all areas, especially when it comes to improving quality of life (70%), increasing long-term economic growth (58%), reducing poverty (44%), and creating high-paying jobs (43%).

Reinforcing the resonance of the concept of a Green Economy, when sustainability thought leaders are asked the same survey question as consumers, they are even more likely (by approximately 20 points) than consumers to think that a Green Economy will yield positive outcomes across almost all challenges examined. The sharpest exception relates to fostering short-term economic growth, where experts are less likely than consumers to anticipate immediate results.

The poll results speak directly to the terms of debate leading up to the Rio+20 Summit later this month, as UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner comments:  “The Green Economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication is one of the key, top themes for Rio+20. It is not an alternative pathway or a separate universe, but a way of realizing a sustainable century.”

“It is clear that a transformation towards a low carbon, resource efficient, job generating Green Economy is happening in many countries across the globe and this survey underlines public support for its aims and aspirations. The challenge for world leaders, cities, companies and civil society this June is to back the smart policies and creative investment flows that will fast-forward, scale-up and accelerate this positive change,” Steiner added.

Mark Lee, SustainAbility Executive Director, comments: “Sustainable consumption is a necessary element of a future sustainable economy and society. The strong alignment of consumer and expert stakeholder views on the value of a Green Economy provides hope that more consumers may be ready and willing to participate in the necessary transition.”

Chris Coulter, GlobeScan President, comments: “The degree to which people in developing countries believe that a Green Economy will lead to more and better jobs is remarkable. Old concerns about a tradeoff between environment and development do not seem to apply today.”

The findings come on the eve of the UN’s World Environment Day, celebrated annually on 5 June with Brazil acting as the ‘global’ host for 2012 under the theme Green Economy: Does it Include You?

Other survey highlights include:

  • Seventeen percent of consumers across 17 countries say they understand “exactly what the Green Economy means” and a further 53% are “fairly sure” they do, suggesting that the Green Economy appears to be an accessible construct for consumers.
  • Consumers in Brazil, Argentina and Mexico are most optimistic that a Green Economy will improve quality of life. Those in Japan are least likely to think so.
  • Chinese, Hungarian and Mexican consumers would expect to see long-term economic growth as an outcome of a Green Economy more than those in all other countries surveyed. Western Europeans are least likely to agree.

8 in 10 experts fear that governments will not take action short of catastrophe


LONDON – As world leaders prepare to gather at the G20 and Rio+20 conferences later this month, two major global surveys released today by GlobeScan and SustainAbility find that expert and public confidence in national governments when it comes to governments’ ability to tackle global economic, environmental and social challenges are at severe lows. The findings suggest national governments will not take action unprompted - and that business has a unique ability to play a greater role in addressing sustainable development. Nearly eight in ten (77%) sustainability experts think a major catastrophe will need to occur for national governments to take action, and 68% identify a lack of political will as the greatest obstacle to making further progress on sustainable development.

The surveys are part of a series of initiatives by The Regeneration Roadmap in the lead up to Rio+20, a cross-sectoral collaboration that aims to accelerate progress in the transition to sustainable development. The findings are derived from an expert survey of 1,603 sustainability experts across corporate, government, NGO, and academic sectors in 117 countries and a public opinion survey of over 24,000 people in 23 countries.

The role of business in spurring government action on sustainability will be crucial. “Working with governments to establish a regulatory environment that supports sustainable development” (33%) is the second most frequent response among experts asked how the private sector can best contribute to sustainable development, after contributing technology and innovation (41%). Government experts are even more likely to highlight the need for business to collaborate with government (42%).

“The surveys make it clear that society has greater expectations for business than it did [at Rio] in 1992,” said Dr. Rainer Feurer, Senior Vice President Corporate Strategy, Planning and Environment at BMW Group, a presenting sponsor of The Regeneration Project. “We think that those who see this as an opportunity rather than as a challenge will prevail in the long run. This is why the BMW Group strategically focuses on sustainable mobility solutions.”

“Based on The Regeneration Roadmap’s recent poll data, it’s clear that there is much to do as we look ahead in terms of sustainability leadership,” said Kelly M. Semrau, Chief Sustainability Officer at SC Johnson, also a presenting sponsor of The Regeneration Project. “SC Johnson believes that we all have a role to play, from public and private sector, and we’re going to need to work together to set clear goals, priorities and action plans.”

“We find ourselves in a very challenging dynamic,” said Chris Coulter, President of GlobeScan. “Both the global public and experts have low expectations for governments to provide the necessary leadership to move us toward a sustainable footing, yet we need governments engaged to make progress quickly. It likely falls on business to not only continue to transform the economy but also cajole governments into action.”

Mark Lee, Executive Director of SustainAbility, comments: “Our polls underscore the gravity of the sustainable development challenge and make it clear that business can contribute by supporting policy that accelerates sustainability progress, sharing technology and improving its own performance – actions which will close the trust gap faced by business regarding its own performance record.”

Additional findings from the surveys

A sense of system breakdown: Nearly eight in ten (78%) sustainability experts believe the current economic system must be substantially overhauled and a similar percentage (77%) say that major catastrophes will need to occur before governments will act on sustainability.

New and collaborative models of leadership are key, including social movements and cross-sector partnerships - but government must be involved: Asked to rate the contribution of major societal actors on sustainability since the 1992 Earth Summit, 33% of experts rated the contribution of multi-sector partnerships to sustainable development since the 1992 Earth Summit as “good” or “excellent” - far higher than either government or business alone.

Failing grades on society’s progress since the first Rio Earth Summit in 1992: A matter of weeks before the Rio+20 Earth Summit, fewer than half of the 24,000 citizens surveyed believe that society has become better at protecting the environment, improving economic wellbeing, and creating healthier and more equitable societies. Experts share this view for the most part, but were even more negative on health and equity.


About the Global Public Opinion Survey

Representative samples of approximately 1,000 adults per country in 23 countries (n=24,441) were interviewed face-to-face or by telephone between December 2011 and February 2012. Questions were rated by half samples in all countries. Polling was conducted by GlobeScan and its research partners in each country. In Brazil, China, Indonesia, Kenya, and Turkey, urban samples were used. The margin of error per country ranges from +/- 2.9 to 4.9 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

About the Survey of Sustainability Experts

The findings are drawn from a GlobeScan / SustainAbility survey of sustainability experts across corporate, government, NGO, academic, research, and service / media organizations in 117 countries. From mid-April to mid-May 2012, a total of 1,603 experts were surveyed online by GlobeScan, SustainAbility and The Regeneration Roadmap partners—ICMM, UNEP, Civicus, WBCSD, World Bank, CBSR, and GLOBE. Participants comprise a highly-experienced respondent pool: 58 percent have more than ten years of experience working on sustainability issues; 31 percent have five to ten years of experience; 12 percent have three to four years of experience.

Sustainability Expert Findings


Fundamental system rethink is required, according to experts


QUESTION WORDING: Below are pairs of statements that capture some current sustainable development debates. For each pair, please select the statement that is closer to your opinion. 

Experts are pessimistic on government’s ability to be proactive


QUESTION WORDING: Below are pairs of statements that capture some current sustainable development debates. For each pair, please select the statement that is closer to your opinion.

National governments receive the worst performance ratings from experts when it comes to contributing to SD


QUESTION WORDING: How would you rate the performance of each of the following types of organizations in terms of its contribution to progress on sustainable development since the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio?

Sustainability experts identify lack of political will as the most significant barrier to progress


QUESTION WORDING: The Rio Earth Summit in 1992, and specifically its Agenda 21 document, provided an agenda for action toward sustainability. Please indicate which three of the following you think are the most significant barriers to progress on Agenda 21.

While we have made progress economically and environmentally in the past 20 years, experts believe we have lost ground socially


QUESTION WORDING: How would you rate society’s progress globally in the past twenty years on the following challenges?


Global Public Opinion Survey Findings


The global public rates scientists and NGOs as making most progress on SD; governments viewed most negatively


QUESTION WORDING: How well would you say each of the following institutions are doing in helping make progress on these economic, social and environmental challenges? How about [ ], is it doing a very good job, a good job, a poor job or a very poor job?

Globally, people believe only moderate progress has been made since the first Earth Summit...


QUESTION WORDING: For each of the following challenges, please tell me whether you think it has got better, got worse, or stayed about the same over the last twenty years. Is that a lot or somewhat better/worse?

…but a large degree of optimism among the global public that further progress will be made in the next 20 years


QUESTION WORDING: And how optimistic or pessimistic are you that leaders will make progress in addressing each of these challenges over the next twenty years? How about…?

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