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Poverty most serious global problem: Global poll news
18 January 2010

Mumbai: 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 10 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.

The Chines ranked climate change as the second most serious issue, whereas Americans 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 respondents in 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 per cent - 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 per cent) and the state of the global economy third (28 per cent).

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. Brazilians, meanwhile, were the only country where the greatest number 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.

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 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.

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Poverty most serious global problem: Global poll