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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

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Poverty most serious world problem, says global poll

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 the UK, USA, 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 suggests that the Japanese are 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. China ranked climate change as the second most serious issue, whereas the US ranked it ninth.

The poll also suggests that Indians and Pakistanis rate terrorism as the number one concern, and a number of countries which have experienced terrorism also rate 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 in the poll, although 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%.

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% – 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%) and the state of the global economy third (28%).

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. People from around the world expressed their concerns and every year we will track their changing sense of the challenges the world faces.

The full results and more information can be found at

Notes to Editors

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 for BBC Global News 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.

BBC World Service Publicity

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