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"Voice of the People" worldwide survey shows optimism about security and prosperity despite lack of faith in leaders
Respondents upbeat in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, and especially in China, on global economic prospects – Europe and US less optimistic

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”.

The results come from a new Voice of the People survey by Gallup International carried out exclusively for the World Economic Forum. Almost 50,000 people in over 60 countries across the world were interviewed in November and December 2005. The findings represent the views of more than 2 billion citizens.

Respondents were also asked about prospects for a safer and more economically prosperous world for the next generation. The results show there is increasing optimism about these two important global aspects, except notably in Western Europe.

The survey also finds that business leaders are widely held in better esteem than their political counterparts whose credibility appears to be declining. While business leaders around the world consistently have a better image than political leaders, significant proportions still criticize both sets of leaders on different criteria, with dishonesty being heavily associated with political leaders.

Criticism of business leaders is mainly concentrated on two aspects: they respond to pressure from people more powerful than they are, and they have too much power and responsibility. Commenting on the survey findings, Klaus Schwab, Executive Chairman and Founder of the World Economic Forum, said: “As the World Economic Forum prepares for its Annual Meeting in Davos, leaders can hardly ignore the findings of such a comprehensive worldwide survey. Under the theme ‘The Creative Imperative,’ leaders at the Annual Meeting will be discussing innovative ways of addressing global challenges such as restoring confidence in global leadership.”

"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.

Regionally, Western Europe is the most pessimistic region in the world about future prospects for safety – two-thirds (67%) in this region feel the next generation will live in a less safe world (either a lot less safe or a little less safe) while only just over one in ten (11%) feel the world will be a lot or a little safer for the next generation.

The Americas are the next most pessimistic region with over half (54%) also supporting the view that the world will be a less safe place for future generations, while less than one in five (19%) felt that the world would be a safer place. It is also worth noting that half of the Americans interviewed (51%) also held the view that the world would be a less safe place for future generations with one in five (20%) maintaining the opposite view that the world would be either a lot or a little safer.


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:
  • Please note that Thursday 19 January we will release details of our Voice of the Leaders Survey. This survey will take exactly the same questions asked in this report (Voice of the People) and pose them to leaders attending the World Economic Forum Annual meeting at Davos.
  • For more information on the Voice of the People survey, please visit the Gallup International website: www.gallup-international.com, Meril James, Secretary-General, Gallup International.
  • Everything about the Annual Meeting 2006 can be found here: www.weforum.org/annualmeeting
  • In depth Interviews with key business participants are here: www.weforum.org/annualmeeting/indepth
  • Leave your comments in our Weblog at: www.forumblog.org
  • Subscribe to or download Press Releases here: www.weforum.org/pressreleases
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