TORONTO – As the debate over top earners’ pay continues, public dissatisfaction with income inequality remains high, according to new GlobeScan data from a 23-nation study released today, with fewer than half in most countries polled believing most rich people in their country deserve their wealth.
GlobeScan polled more than 12,000 adults across 23 countries about their attitudes towards economic inequality as part of the annual GlobeScan Radar global public opinion study on business and its role in society. In 12 countries over 50% of people said they did not believe that the rich deserved their wealth.
Seventeen of the countries were also asked for their attitudes towards economic inequality in a comparable 2008 study. This year’s findings reveal that only 43 per cent of people across the 17 countries surveyed in both years feel that most rich people in their country deserve their wealth. Almost half of those polled in both years (48%) disagree that rich people merit their wealth—a figure that has remained stable since 2008 (49%).
The figures show that public concern with the way wealth is divided remains almost as high as it was in the year of the Lehman Brothers collapse, when corporate practices—in the banking sector particularly—started coming in for intense scrutiny. They come in a week when new French president François Hollande has unveiled a new 75% tax on incomes above €1m, and when a prominent high earner, Barclays’ Bob Diamond, whose remuneration has been strongly criticised in the past, has been forced to resign.
In only six countries surveyed in 2012 did more than half feel that rich people deserve their wealth. The most likely nations in 2012 to feel that rich people in their country deserved their wealth were Australia (61% up from 53% 2008), Canada (58%, down from 61% in 2008) and the USA (up one point from 2008 at 58%). They contrast with much of GlobeScan’s recent polling, where Anglo-Saxon nations were among the developed countries where trust in business more generally was lower than in the developing world.
Attitudes in Europe were mixed, with 45% of Britons feeling the rich deserve their wealth, 31% of French and 35% of Germans.
Greece emerged as the country least likely to feel that its rich people deserved their wealth (with only nine per cent agreeing), but Russia (16%, down from 17%) Turkey (20%, up from 14%) and Spain (20%, up from 18%) were also profoundly sceptical.
Sam Mountford, GlobeScan’s Director of Global Insights, comments: “These figures show that citizens around the world remain far from convinced that the way wealth is divided in their country is fair. This underlying sense of economic inequity may well present a challenge to governments planning to cut and deregulate their way back to prosperity.”
A total of 12,234 adults were surveyed across Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, the UK, and the USA between December 6 2011 and February 17 2012. Interviews were conducted by GlobeScan and its global partners face to face or by telephone. In six of the 23 countries, the sample was limited to major urban areas. The margin of error per country ranges from +/- 2.9 to 4.9 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
Published by The Financial Times on October 17th, 2012, this letter was written by GlobeScan Foundation President, Doug Miller, in response to an October 11th, 2012 article entitled "Companies are facing a new type of opponent”
Sir Michael Skapinker’s article “Companies are facing a new type of opponent” (October 11) builds very well on Simon Zadek’s keen observation that conflict today stems increasingly from the gulf between rich and poor within countries.
Mr. Skapinker goes on to argue quite effectively that this has created a new opposing force to free enterprise, as demonstrated by seemingly random and unexpected uprisings at mines in South Africa, at Foxconn in China and during last year’s riots in Britain (not to mention Occupy Wall Street).
This phenomenon is underscored by the poll we conducted for the BBC World Service earlier this year, which revealed that majorities in 18 of 24 countries see the economic system in their country as unfair in distributing economic benefits and costs. The fact that companies are increasingly being targeted by these “new opponents” is understandable given another finding from the same poll – that free enterprise as currently practised is progressively losing its appeal. While one in two citizens across the 24 countries believes flaws in the free market system can be fixed through reform and regulation, fully one in four now sees it as fatally flawed and that a new economic system is needed.
We would argue that the best defence to all this is a good offence. Big companies first need to manage their reputation proactively among their stakeholders to avoid being targeted; and second, they need to rediscover an authentic societal purpose at the heart of their enterprise from which to demonstrate the efficacy of free enterprise in meeting the real needs of the majority of people.
I used to joke in client presentations that those chief financial officers and other executives who continued to oppose corporate social responsibility initiatives by their companies would one day awake to discover that CSR had been replaced by something they would like even less. Well, this is it.
Read this letter on The Financial Times (Subscription Required)
LONDON - As governments prepare to meet in Mexico for the Cancun climate summit, a new global poll reveals that concern about climate change has fallen sharply across OECD countries in the past year, but that citizens in some major developing nations have become more concerned about the issue.
The 26-country poll, conducted by GlobeScan, asked a total of 13,389 people to rate the seriousness of a range of environmental problems including climate change.
Results from the 14 countries where GlobeScan has tracked opinion regularly since 1998 reveal that concern has fallen away particularly sharply on climate change. The proportion of people rating climate change as a “very serious” problem fell from 61 percent to 53 percent this year, after many years of increasing concern.
While concern about climate change fell in many industrialised nations including the UK (down from 59 percent to 43 percent “very serious”), the USA (down from 45 percent to 41 percent), and Germany (down from 61 percent to 47 percent), the findings also show that concern has risen in the last year in two major emerging economies: India (up from 45 percent to 53 percent) and Brazil (up from 86 percent to 92 percent).
GlobeScan Senior Vice-President Chris Coulter commented: “We are witnessing a North-South divide around climate change where concern is stable or growing in emerging economies while concern has declined in Europe and North America. The combined effects of economic recession, the confusing results from last year’s Copenhagen climate conference, and the controversy surrounding climate science seem to have shaken the belief of people in industrialized countries that climate change is an urgent problem that needs to be addressed, and makes it even less likely that governments will feel the pressure to reach a strong agreement in Cancun. We may, however, see stronger than expected leadership from key developing countries in response to the significant levels of concern expressed by their populations.”
American public support for the free market economy has dropped sharply in the past year, and is now lower than in China and Brazil, and equal to that in India. The GlobeScan Radar 2010 findings show that there has been a sharp fall in the number of Americans who think that the free market economy is the best economic system for the future. In 2002, four in five Americans (80%) saw the free market as the best economic system for the future—the highest level of support anywhere in the world. Support started to fall away in the following years and recovered slightly after the financial crisis in 2007/8, but has plummeted since 2009, falling 15 points in a year so that less than three in five (59%) now see free market capitalism as the best system for the future.
This finding was featured in The Economist.
Genetic modification of food crops is an issue on which public concern has increased significantly in a number of countries over the last few years. Most notably, despite the wide prevalence of GM foods available for sale in the US, this is the market where public concern about genetic modification has increased most sharply—the proportion rating GM crops as a very serious issue now stands at 41 per cent, up 16 points since 2003. Despite the high media profile in the UK and refusal by many major food retailers to stock GM foods, concern there is lower. It is highest in Mexico, where nearly two-thirds consider the issue to be serious.
Public concern about climate change has been on the up since the late 1990s. Fifteen years ago, those who saw it as a very serious environmental issue were significantly outnumbered by those who worried about more tangible and immediate environmental concerns—water pollution and air pollution among them—but by 2009 climate concern had substantially caught up with other environmental worries. Contrary to what many expected, climate concern continued to rise as recession hit, but the last year has seen a sharp fall in concern, according to the most recent GlobeScan tracking across 14 countries. The widely-perceived failure of the Copenhagen summit and the storm around the “Climategate” emails are likely to have been instrumental.
But the picture is more complex than it first appears. Concern has fallen sharply in the developed West, but is stable or rising in the BRICs. In some countries, like the USA, even if climate concern is down, worries about other environmental issues we tested are on the rise. Those who ascribe climate change to natural causes are up—but so are the numbers who blame it on human activity. All this suggests public opinion remains volatile—and may well swing again in response to the next Hurricane Katrina, tsunami or similar catastrophe, when fingers will again be pointed at the impact of the changing climate.
In a week when the stability of the global economy was once again called into question, with European political leaders meeting to seek a solution to the ongoing crisis in the Eurozone, GlobeScan’s tracking data shows that the public in many countries remains deeply pessimistic about the future of the planet.
For over ten years, GlobeScan has been monitoring the degree to which people around the globe feel that "the world is going in the right direction." On average, less than one-third of those polled have endorsed this view in recent years. This year’s findings show that there has been no rebound in optimism—and indeed that confidence in the way the world is heading has taken a further knock in many of the world’s major economies.
Less than a fifth (19%) of Americans now feel that the world is going in the right direction, compared to more than half back in 2001. Only 14 per cent of Japanese feel the same way. Just one in ten in Spain, one of the countries at the eye of the Eurozone storm, and fewer than a quarter of UK respondents are optimistic about the world’s direction—a figure that has fallen continually since 2006.
Optimism is markedly higher in emerging economies such as China, where 65% think the world is headed in the right direction, and Indonesia (43%)—but in both of these countries the trend is also downwards. Only in a few developing and middle-income countries—Peru, Russia, Turkey, and Nigeria—is optimism on the increase. With concern on many global issues very high, and trust in institutions low, it may be that the public perceives a sense of drift and absence of leadership in dealing, not only with the economic crisis, but also with such problems as climate change, the spread of disease, and terrorism.
GlobeScan’s tracking survey reveals that public concern about climate change has been volatile since the 2009 Copenhagen summit’s failure to agree to a global deal to reduce carbon emissions—but concern continues to be higher in developing than in developed countries.
This reflects our 2010 Greendex survey of 17 countries, where British, Swedish, German, and American respondents showed the lowest levels of agreement with the proposition “global warming will worsen my way of life within my own lifetime,” while Brazilian, Indian, and Chinese respondents showed high levels of agreement. This may reflect the greater potential for catastrophic events such as natural disasters to impact people’s lives in developing nations.
This decline in concern about climate change may result from increasing feelings of urgency about other social and economic issues overshadowing long-term concerns about the environment. In 2011, corruption, extreme poverty, the rising cost of food and energy, and terrorism emerge as greater preoccupations on a global level than climate change.
Particular factors that are likely to be behind the decline in the perceived seriousness of climate change in developed countries between 2000 and 2003—and again in 2010—are the impact of the September 11 attacks, the subsequent conflicts in the Middle East, and the global economic downturn. The widely publicized “Climategate” controversy is also likely to have been a factor.
France, Japan, and the USA have seen continuing decreases in the perceived seriousness of climate change over the past three years. Under the influence of the ongoing economic slowdown—and of the Fukushima disaster—climate change has lost attention in some major economies, and is slow to regain it.
Over the past year, however, climate change has recovered its position as an issue of serious concern in some developed and developing countries, particularly in Ecuador, Peru, Turkey, and Russia.
There has been a marked decline in people's sense of global citizenship in the last two years in three of the world's major economies—China, the UK, and the USA.
While GlobeScan's latest findings indicate that a sense of global citizenship is on the rise in many emerging economies across Asia, Africa, and Latin America, the ongoing economic malaise affecting the G7, the lack of progress on a new global free trade agreement, and the rekindling of doubts about the future viability of the global free market system may be among the factors that are depressing citizens' sense of belonging to the global community in these three countries. In the UK, this year's drop represents the continuation of a decline that started in 2007.
Nevertheless, the proportion of Chinese who see themselves as global citizens remains the highest of any country polled—62%. For a country that has spent much of its history seeking to isolate itself from the rest of the world, this is a striking turnaround.
As the Durban UN summit struggles to reach an agreement that will keep climate change within acceptable limits over the next decades, GlobeScan tracking reveals that the public in much of the world is losing faith that there will be a technological solution to the problems posed by a changing climate.
The optimism that developing nations, in particular, felt that the same technological innovation that was helping to drive strong economic growth in their countries would also solve climate change with minimal changes to human behavior, appears to have waned significantly, with major falls in confidence in countries such as the Philippines, Indonesia, Kenya, and Pakistan.
These falls are mirrored in developed economies such as the UK, USA, and Spain, which were already more pessimistic that painful lifestyle adjustments could be averted in tackling climate change. If well-founded, this pessimism only underlines how critical it is that governments achieve a strong emissions-reduction agreement in Durban.