17 January 2006 - Geneva, Switzerland
The findings of a World Economic Forum survey – the Voice of the People – carried out by Gallup International make grim reading for the world’s leaders, particularly its politicians. Around the world, survey respondents overwhelmingly found that political leaders are dishonest, have too much power and are too easily influenced. The survey is released just ahead of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos – where more than 2,200 leaders from business, politics and civil society will convene under the theme, “The Creative Imperative”.
"This survey is unmatched in its ability to gauge the views and the mood of the people of the whole world. Statistically, the 50,000 interviews carried out in more than 60 countries represent the opinions of one-fifth of the total population of the world. No other poll can match the Voice of the People survey to capture what the world is really thinking, and what it demands of its leaders," added Meril James, Secretary-General of Gallup International, which carried out the research.
Opinions about whether the next generation will live in a safer world are mixed – one-third (35%) think the world will either be a lot or a little safer but only a slightly lower proportion (30%) feel that it will be a lot or a little less safe.
Figure 1: Gallup International Voice of the People 2005
However, in the Middle East, an area of the world that has experienced many conflicts in recent times, the region is more upbeat about prospects for safety in the future. A quarter of those interviewed (24%), feel it will be safer, compared with one in three (30%) who feel the opposite.
Within the Middle East region, interviews were conducted in Afghanistan and Iraq. In both these countries, respondents were even more optimistic about future prospects. In Afghanistan, three-quarters (77%) think the next generation will live in a safer world, while in Iraq this view is held by six in every ten (61%) interviewed.
Asia and Africa are also more upbeat about the next generations’ safety with 45% and 48% respectively feeling the next generation will live in a world that is a lot or a little safer.
This question was first asked in the 2003 and then again in the 2004 Voice of the People surveys and overall this year’s results represent a considerable improvement, as Figure 2 shows.
Figure 2: Gallup International Voice of the People 2003-2005
Respondents were also asked whether they think the future generation will live in a world of greater or less economic prosperity and again, the results show that there is also growing optimism regarding this element.
More than four out of ten respondents globally (43%) indicated that the next generation will live in a lot or little more economically prosperous world than now, while one-third (30%) felt it would be a lot or a little less prosperous for the future generation.
Figure 3: Gallup International Voice of the People 2005
Once again, Western Europe is by far the most pessimistic region with less than one in five (18%) feeling the world will be more prosperous for the next generation. More than half (53%) think it will be a lot or a little less prosperous. Although American citizens are also not optimistic about economic prospects, far fewer (37%) feel that the next generation will be a lot or a little less prosperous economically than now.
Africa and Asia are the most optimistic regions regarding future prosperity. In Asia, more than half (54%) think the next generation will live in a lot or a little more economically prosperous world, compared with less than one in five (18%) who believe the opposite. For the first time, Beijing was included in the survey and here citizens are extremely optimistic about the economic prospects for the future – more than eight out of ten (85%) there think the next generation will live in a lot or little more economic prosperity. In Africa – always an upbeat region – the figures are 55% who think it will be a lot or a little more prosperous and 22% who believe the opposite.
Again, results here reflect a trend, with more people than in previous years believing that the next generation will live in a more prosperous world, as shown by Figure 4 below.
Figure 4: Gallup International Voice of the People 2003-2005
The Voice of the People also asked respondents to compare the characteristics of political leaders with those of business leaders.
As previously stated, business leaders were consistently rated more positively than political leaders, with criticisms of the latter group featuring heavily on their dishonesty – mentioned by more than six out of ten global citizens (61%) who indicated that politicians respond too much to pressure from people more powerful than themselves (53%), that they have too much power and responsibility (53%) and that they behave unethically (49%). Additionally, just under half (45%) mentioned that they were not competent and capable.
Africans were the most critical of their politicians. In this region, eight out of ten (79%) said political leaders are dishonest, three-quarters (75%) deemed them to have too much power and responsibility, while seven out of ten (70%) think politicians behave unethically. By marked contrast, Africans are far kinder about their business leaders, with no character trait for this group reaching more than 50%.
Perhaps surprisingly, Western Europeans and Americans are kinder about both their political and business leaders than many other regions.
Figure 5: Gallup International Voice of the People 2005
These figures do not show much change and certainly not much improvement since they were first asked in the Voice of the People survey in 2004, when 63% thought political leaders were dishonest (for business leaders the figure was 43%).
Finally, as in 2004, respondents were asked what they think the priorities should be for global leaders. Again, there is little change between the 2004 results and this year’s. Globally, citizens want leaders to focus on encouraging economic growth and improving the global economy (17%), closing the gap between rich and poor countries (16%), protecting the environment (14%), and eliminating extreme poverty and hunger (12%) and the war on terrorism (10%).
However, the top priority is different in almost every region. In Western Europe, 18% want leaders to focus on eliminating extreme poverty and hunger in the world, in Eastern and central Europe the priority is seen as the war on terrorism (20%), as it is also in the Middle East (22%). The Americas see the priority as eliminating extreme poverty and hunger (20%), although in the United States itself, the priority is given to the war on terrorism (16%). In Asia, leaders are asked to focus on encouraging economic growth and improving the world economy (21%), while in Africa equal proportions want leaders to concentrate on closing the gap between rich and poor countries (21%) and on encouraging economic growth and improving the global economy (22%).
So it seems the pressure is on global leaders to achieve some of these objectives for the citizens of the world who, in doing so, improve their ratings and the opinions that global citizens hold of them.
Notes for Editors:
The World Economic Forum is an independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world by engaging leaders in partnerships to shape global, regional and industry agendas.
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