Ipsos Global Study Shows Majority Around the World Think Society is Broken

– Many around the world believe society is broken and lack confidence in institutions –

Sydney, January 31, 2017

New data from Ipsos Global @dvisor shows that many across 23 countries around the world think that their society is broken, while feeling a lack of confidence in establishment institutions – especially political parties, governments and the media.

The survey, among online adults aged under 65 in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Britain, Germany, Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Serbia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United States also finds a majority support prioritising hiring nationals over immigrants when jobs are scarce (although views are split on ending immigration), and that people say they are more likely to support a party or political leader who promises to radically change the status quo than one who has been in power before. This is supported by new analysis from Ipsos Public Affairs that suggests that in some countries, especially in continental Europe, political discontent is strongly associated with nativist sentiment, but this is not the case everywhere.

Is there a sense of alarmism?

  • Almost half of Australian respondents (47%) feel society is broken, whereas a majority in 17 of the 23 countries surveyed feel that ‘society is broken’ (and 58% on average). This sentiment was especially high in Poland, Spain, Brazil, and Mexico.
  • Many around the world are split on whether or not they feel like a stranger in their country. On average, 38% say that nowadays they feel a stranger in their own country, while 35% disagree. Australia is similar to the global average with 36% indicating they feel like a stranger in their own country. This feeling is stronger in Turkey, South Africa, Italy, Brazil and the US.
  • Four in ten Australians (41%) agree that terrorism should be stopped at all costs even if that means ignoring people’s civil rights, while globally the average was 45% (28% disagree). Countries with recent experience of terrorism such as Turkey, France, India, Israel and Belgium are particularly likely to support this approach, as is Serbia.

Confidence in institutions

  • Eight in ten Australians (79%) lack confidence in political parties while two thirds (66%) lack confidence in The Australian Government. Globally the average was 81% lacking confidence in political parties and 71% lacking confidence in their government. In both cases, confidence is particularly low in Spain and Mexico.
  • Seven in ten (71%) Australians surveyed lack confidence in the media. A similar proportion feel this way globally (68%), rising to at least three-quarters in Hungary, Serbia, Spain, Mexico, Great Britain and Israel.
  • There is also a lack of trust in big companies, with 61% on average globally and in Australia indicating a lack of confidence in big companies.
  • Interestingly, Australians have more faith in their banks than do most globally, with 53% lacking confidence in Australia versus a global average of 59%. Confidence in banks is especially low in Spain and Italy.
  • The judicial system does not fare any better, with half of the Australians surveyed (52%) and six in ten globally (59%) lacking confidence in the judicial system/the courts. There are big differences by country – over eight in ten in Argentina, Peru and Mexico lack confidence in their judicial system.
  • Half in Australia (54%) and globally (52%) say they lack confidence in international institutions – particularly so in Spain, Israel, France, Italy, Serbia and Belgium.

Nativism/anti-immigration views

  • In Australia, half (51%) think that employers should prioritise hiring nationals over immigrants when jobs are scarce. Globally, the average was (56%) and highest in Serbia, Hungary, Turkey and Israel. More than a third (36%) in Australia and over four in ten (44%) globally also believe that their country should prioritise hiring nationals over foreigners even if that means slower job growth, rising to seven in ten in Turkey.
  • Having said that, there are as many concerns over immigrants’ impact on social services as on jobs (by 39% to 37% in Australia and 39% to 35% globally). Those in turkey were most concerned about the impact of immigration on jobs and social services.
  • The majority in Australia (56%) and globally (58%) are against uncontrolled immigration while views are split on stopping immigration. Three in ten in Australia (30%) and one third (34%) globally think their country would be stronger if immigration was stopped (higher in Turkey, Israel and Hungary).

Are populist positions vote-winners?

  • A number of so-called “populist” positions are attractive to voters. In particular, 68% of Australians surveyed on average say they would be more likely to vote for a political party or leader who ‘stands up for the common people against the elite’ (63% agreed with this idea globally) Interestingly, globally people say they are more likely to vote for a political party or leader who wants to radically change the status quo than one who has been in power before, by 44% to 18%. On this measure Australians are one of the least likely to be seeking this radical change. At 36% only South Korea (34%), Poland (28%), and Germany (27%) were less likely to vote for radical change. We are however similar to most around the world in not being influenced by whether a party or leader has been in power before (17% more likely to vote for a party or leader who has been in power before).
  • However, several so-called ‘pluralist’ positions are just as popular. 67% in Australia and globally say they would be more likely to vote for a political party or leader who listens to alternative points of view, while more than half (57% in Australia and 56% globally) for one who is prepared to make compromises, and one who will stand up for the rights of minorities (57% in Australia and 56% globally).

What does discontent mean in different countries?

New analysis from Ipsos Public Affairs also helps show that while many countries feel discontent, it is mistaken to assume the same issues matter everywhere across the world. Previous Ipsos research has demonstrated that as well as a majority thinking their system is in decline, public opinion in many countries feels that traditional political actors don’t care about people like them, that experts don’t understand their lives, and that their economy is rigged to advantage the rich and powerful – a mood that can be summed up as “the system is broken”. However, the local conditions associated with this unhappiness are not always the same.

As the chart below shows, in several continental European countries such as France, Italy and Hungary, there is a strong sense of political dissatisfaction, which is also associated with high levels of ‘nativist’ sentiment – a belief, for example, that immigrants take jobs and important social services away from locally-born nationals. This pattern can also be observed in Turkey. However, some other countries with equally high levels of belief that “the system is broken” have much lower nativist sentiment – such as the LATAM countries of Mexico and Peru, and also in South Korea. Australia along with Great Britain, Canada and South Africa sits close to the middle in feeling somewhat nativist and system is broken, not particularly strongly on either.

Commenting on the findings, David Elliott, Director Ipsos Social Research Institute – NSW said: “These latest findings are further evidence of a worrying lack of confidence in the traditional political establishment around the world and here in Australia – although it was probably never that high – and not much more confidence in other key institutions such as the media, courts, or big business either. But our analysis suggests that we shouldn’t make lazy assumptions about the drivers of discontent being the same around the world, and nor should everything be lumped together under a ‘populism’ banner (for example, views on immigration vary, and there is no majority for stopping it altogether). The reality is more complex, so it is vital to understand the local context too.”


    • This data is part of a substantial study into the attitudes and drivers of the political mood around the world, being carried out by Ipsos. Ipsos’ polling experts from around the world are discussing the results at a major debate called Power to the people? Beyond populism to be held on Tuesday 31st January 2017. More details here
    • The data is available at http://ipsos.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Global-Advisor-Power-to-the-people-survey-slides_FINAL-RELEASE-1.pdf
    • (Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Serbia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United States of America). Data are weighted to match the profile of the population (6 of the countries surveyed – Brazil, India, Mexico, Peru, South Africa and Turkey – have lower levels of internet connectivity and so the results reflect online populations that tend to be more urban and have higher education/income than the general population).
    • Ipsos is an independent market research company controlled and managed by research professionals. Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos has grown into a worldwide research group with a strong presence in all key markets. Ipsos ranks third in the global research industry. With offices in 86 countries, Ipsos delivers insightful expertise across six research specializations: advertising, customer loyalty, marketing, media, public affairs research, and survey management.