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World Service/Gallup International Poll reveals Who Runs Your World

Category: World Service

Date: 15.09.2005
Printable version

Nearly half say elections not free or fair

Many pessimistic about ability to change their lives

Family very important

National identity still strong

Low trust rating for politicians


One of the biggest surveys of world-wide public opinion ever undertaken has revealed that most of those questioned (65 per cent) do not think their country is governed by the will of the people - with the figure rising to three out of four in the former Soviet bloc.


BBC World Service commissioned the Gallup International Voice of the People 2005 poll of more than 50,000 people in 68 countries - representing the views of 1.3 billion people worldwide - about who has power, who wants it and how it is used.


The findings will launch Who Runs Your World? a major new season of programmes from 16 September to 3 October across all 43 language services of BBC World Service, plus BBC World Television and BBC News Online.


Who Runs Your World? explores where power lies in the 21st century. The results provide a fascinating insight into who people think has power over them, who they trust and whether they believe they can change and improve their lives.


The survey's key findings include:


Globally, 65% don't believe their country is run by the will of the people - in the former Soviet bloc the figure rises to 75%. In the USA and Canada the figure is 60%. Only in Scandinavia and South Africa do the majority believe they are ruled according to their wishes.


Despite this lack of confidence in their representatives, 47% of people globally feel elections in their country are free and fair. The figure is 55% for the US and Canada and 76% in South Africa but just 24% in West Africa. Most people in EU countries (up to 82%) believe their elections are free and fair.


More power to thinkers - intellectuals (writers and academics) are the groups most people (35%) would like to be given more power. Next in line are religious leaders (25%) - followed by the military, business leaders and journalists (all 20%).


Religious leaders are the most trusted group (33%) with politicians the least trusted (13%).


Family exerts the greatest single influence on people worldwide - with 61% overall saying a partner or family has helped them make decisions about their life in the past year. In Mexico, the figure is over 88%. The lowest rating for family influence (35%) comes from North America where people report a wider range of influences, especially religious leaders. 12% of people in North America considered a religious leader to have had the greatest recent influence on their life.


The degree to which people feel they can control their lives shows strong disparities between the developed and developing world - the highest scores are in Latin America (65%), followed by Canada and the US (62%) and Europe (53%). Least control is felt in Africa, Asia-Pacific and the former Soviet bloc.


National identity is still strong - nationality was used by a third of those surveyed to 'define' themselves - followed by religion (21%). Sense of nationality is strongest in Latin America (54%) with religion gaining the highest scores in Africa (56%), followed by the US and Canada (32%).


Employers are identified as influencing life decisions by 11% of those interviewed in Germany - compared to just 4% across Europe and 2% globally.


Background Information


Globally, 65% of people don't think their country is governed by the will of its people


In the former Soviet bloc, only about 20% think they are governed according to their wishes.


In Europe it is 36%.


Scandinavia and South Africa stand out as the only countries where the majority believe they are ruled according to their wishes.


Nearly half say elections not free or fair


The poll also found that 48% of people do not believe elections in their country are free or fair, ranging from a low of 9% in Nigeria to a high of 82% in Scandinavia.


In West Africa, just 24% believe they have free, fair elections while in South Africa the figure leaps to 76%.


More power to free thinkers


Intellectuals, defined as writers and academics, are the group people globally would most like to give more power. Thirty five per cent are keen to give them more influence than they currently enjoy.


31% of Latin Americans would give more power to intellectuals.


People in Europe are less likely to want to give more power to anyone who already has some. Of those who do, 34%, want to give more to intellectuals.


Military, religious and police leaders


Twenty-five per cent would allocate more power to religious leaders. Then come military and police leaders, business leaders and journalists. Twenty per cent would give them more power.


Japanese people have very little trust in authority figures - only 1% trust military/police leaders, 3% trust religious leaders and 13% trust business leaders.


Fifty per cent of US citizens trust religious leaders and 40% would give them more power.


Only 4% of Ukrainians and 8% of Russians trust military or police leaders.


Religious leaders are the most trusted group in Africa, trusted by 74% against 33% globally.


Eighty-six per cent of Nigerians would give more power to religious leaders.


There is a low level of trust in all types of leaders throughout Europe. Almost a third of people did not trust any of military, religious, business or political leaders or journalists.


Journalists and the media are particularly less well regarded in Europe, with only 21% of people trusting them against 26% globally.


Family still important


The majority of people world-wide are most influenced by their family. Sixty-one per cent felt their partner or family had the most influence on decisions made about their life in the past year. However, other influences gain weight in different regions.


In North America, the influence of family at 35% is seen as much less important than anywhere else.


In Latin America family is extremely important - over 80% say it's the most influential factor in their lives. In Mexico the figure is 88%.


Work seems to play an important role in the life of Germans. Eleven per cent said that their employer had had the most influence over their life decisions in the past 12 months compared to just 4% across Europe and 2% globally.


Ability to change one's life


Half those polled (52%) were optimistic about their ability to change their life: 34% don't believe they can.


People's attitudes did not vary much depending on age and gender, although not surprisingly those under 65 were more likely to feel they could change their lives. Education and money clearly talk - the better educated and those on higher incomes felt more able to influence their destiny.


In Russia, 68% of young people under 30 believe they can change their lives. Only 13% of over 65s do.


Eighty-four per cent of Canadians feel they can change their lives. In the US it's 62%.


Sixty-four per cent of those living in East Africa are positive about their ability to change their lives.


On average 37% of West Africans - people living in Cameroon, Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana and Togo - think they can make changes. The exception in West Africa is Ghana, where 65% feel they can change things.


Patriotism still strong


National patriotism is still going strong. Overall, people are more likely to define themselves by their nationality than by their local area, religion or region, although there are significant variations.


Globally, 32% say that nationality is more important to them than their local area, region, ethnic group or religion.


Nationality is important to people in Latin America, South East Asia and East Africa, while in West Africa and North America people are more likely to define themselves by their religion.


Opinions across Europe differed greatly on what was most important: nationality, local area, religion, region (ie Europe) or ethnic group. In the UK, nationality is most important to 47%, against 16% who picked their local area.


In Germany, 28% said they most identified with Europe, compared to an average of 13%.


In Spain and Portugal, people were most likely to define themselves by their local region (39% and 54% respectively).


Citizens of Austria, Luxembourg and Iceland are most proud of their nationality, with over half saying that this was most important to them.


Trust rating for politicians


Politicians are generally the least trusted group; globally, only 11% trust politicians - less than military, religious and business leaders.


Only 7% of Russians trust politicians. In Ukraine the figure is 20% and in the USA it is 25%.


Politicians are trusted by almost a third of people in Pakistan.


Only 4% of Latin Americans trust politicians.



Category: World Service

Date: 15.09.2005
Printable version


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