The publics of the world broadly embrace key tenets of economic globalization but fear the disruptions and downsides of participating in the global economy. In rich countries as well as poor ones, most people endorse free trade, multinational corporations and free markets. However, the latest Pew Global Attitudes survey of more than 45,000 people finds they are concerned about inequality, threats to their culture, threats to the environment and threats posed by immigration. Together, these results reveal an evolving world view on globalization that is nuanced, ambivalent, and sometimes inherently contradictory.
There are signs that enthusiasm for economic globalization is waning in the West — Americans and Western Europeans are less supportive of international trade and multinational companies than they were five years ago. In contrast, there is near universal approval of global trade among the publics of rising Asian economic powers China and India.
The survey also finds that globalization is only one of several wide-ranging social and economic forces that are rapidly reshaping the world. Strong majorities in developing countries endorse core democratic values, but people are less likely to say their countries are ensuring free speech, delivering honest elections or providing fair trials to all. Conflicting views on the relationship between religion and morality sharply divide the world. But on gender issues, the survey finds that a global consensus has emerged on the importance of education for both girls and boys, while most people outside the Muslim world also say that women and men make equally good political leaders.
Costs and Benefits of Globalization
Overwhelmingly, the surveyed publics see the benefits of increasing global commerce and free market economies. In all 47 nations included in the survey, large majorities believe that international trade is benefiting their countries. For the most part, the multinational corporations that dominate global commerce receive favorable ratings. Nonetheless, since 2002 enthusiasm for trade has declined significantly in the United States, Italy, France and Britain, and views of multinationals are less positive in Western countries where economic growth has been relatively modest in recent years.
In most countries, majorities believe that people are better off under capitalism, even if it means that some may be rich and others poor. Support for free markets has increased notably over the past five years in Latin American and Eastern European nations, where increased satisfaction with income and perceptions of personal progress are linked to higher per capita incomes.
But there are widely shared concerns about the free flow of people, ideas and resources that globalization entails. In nearly every country surveyed, people worry about losing their traditional culture and national identities, and they feel their way of life needs protection against foreign influences. Importantly, the poll finds widespread concerns about immigration. Moreover, there is a strong link between immigration fears and concerns about threats to a country’s culture and traditions. Those who worry the most about immigration also tend to see the greatest need for protecting traditional ways of life against foreign influences.
In both affluent countries in the West and in the developing world, people are concerned about immigration. Large majorities in nearly every country surveyed express the view that there should be greater restriction of immigration and tighter control of their country’s borders.
Although Western publics remain concerned about immigration, they generally are less likely to back tighter controls today than they were five years ago, despite heated controversies over this issue in both Europe and the United States over the last few years. In Italy, however, support for greater restrictions has increased — 87% now support more controls on immigration, up seven points from 2002.
Concerns about immigration have increased in other countries as well, perhaps most notably in Jordan, where an influx of Iraqi refugees has raised the salience of this issue — 70% of Jordanians back tighter immigration controls, up from 48% five years ago.
Updated May 27, 2014
The original version of this report included public opinion data on the connection between religion and morality in China that has since been found to have been in error. Specifically, the particular survey item that asked whether one needed to believe in a higher power or God to be a moral person was mistranslated on the China questionnaire, rendering the results incomparable to the remaining countries. For this reason, the data from China has been removed from the current version of the report, re-released in May 2014.
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Global publics are sharply divided over the relationship between religion and morality. In much of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, there is a strong consensus that belief in God is necessary for morality and good values. Throughout much of Europe, however, majorities think morality is achievable without faith. Meanwhile, opinions are more mixed in the Americas, including in the United States, where 57% say that one must believe in God to have good values and be moral, while 41% disagree.
The survey finds a strong relationship between a country’s religiosity and its economic status. In poorer nations, religion remains central to the lives of individuals, while secular perspectives are more common in richer nations.1 This relationship generally is consistent across regions and countries, although there are some exceptions, including most notably the United States, which is a much more religious country than its level of prosperity would indicate. Other nations deviate from the pattern as well, including the oil-rich, predominantly Muslim — and very religious — kingdom of Kuwait.
The survey also measured global opinion about contemporary social issues, finding a mix of traditional and progressive views. Throughout Western Europe and much of the Americas, there is widespread tolerance towards homosexuality. However, the United States, Japan, South Korea, and Israel stand apart from other wealthy nations on this issue; in each of these countries, fewer than half of those surveyed say homosexuality should be accepted by society. Meanwhile, in most of Africa, Asia and the Middle East, there is less tolerance toward homosexuality.
Regarding gender issues, there is a broad consensus that both boys and girls should receive an education. In all 47 countries surveyed, at least seven-in-ten respondents believe that education is equally important for boys and girls. Most publics also believe that men and women are equally qualified for political leadership, although there is less agreement on this issue. Notably, in several predominantly Muslim publics — including Mali, the Palestinian territories, Kuwait, Pakistan and Bangladesh — majorities say that men make better political leaders. The survey also asked about another often contentious gender issue: Muslim women wearing the veil. In 15 of 16 Muslim publics surveyed, majorities say women should have the right to decide whether they wear a veil. Women generally are more likely than men to express this opinion.
Views of Democracy
Most key democratic principles are broadly supported throughout the developing world. Large majorities in most of the 35 developing countries surveyed strongly value religious freedom and an impartial judicial system. Somewhat smaller majorities endorse honest multiparty elections, free speech and a media free from government censorship. But majorities in only six nations rate civilian control of the military as very important, the least valued of the six core democratic principles tested.
While basic democratic freedoms are prized throughout the developing world, experiencing such liberties is another matter. This “democracy gap” is generally widest in the Middle East. In Lebanon, for example, more than eight-in-ten people view free speech, honest multiparty elections and a fair judicial system as “very important.” But the number of Lebanese who believe these characteristics describe their country “very well” is much lower — only 36% for free speech, 23% for a fair judicial system, and 17% for multiparty elections.
As in past surveys, majorities in predominantly Muslim nations continue to believe Western-style democracy can work in their countries. But in the current poll, Turks are more skeptical of this than they have been over the past five years. This may reflect anti-Western sentiment more than a diminished appetite for democracy, which Turks broadly embrace. In contrast, however, the weakest endorsement of democracy comes not from the Muslim world, but from Russia, where by a greater than two-to-one margin people say a strong leader, rather than democracy, can best solve the country’s problems.
Other questions suggest that the struggle to meet basic human needs can supersede support for democracy. For example, most publics in both the developed and developing world say being free from hunger and poverty is more important to them than either free speech or religious freedom. The conflict between basic rights and basic needs is particularly apparent in the developing world, home to many of the newest and most fragile democracies. When asked to choose between a strong economy and a good democracy, majorities in 14 of 36 developing countries choose prosperity, while majorities in 15 select a good democracy.
Other findings from this wide-ranging survey include:
Attitudes toward government
- Concerns about excessive government control have increased in much of Western and Eastern Europe, with particularly large increases in Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic. Overall, worries about government intrusion into daily life are higher in Western Europe than in the former Eastern bloc.
- Majorities in every country surveyed say that the government should take care of the very poor who cannot take care of themselves. Support for a social safety net is widespread across all regions, although slightly weaker in Japan, Jordan and Egypt.
- Few publics favor economic growth at the expense of the environment. In 46 of 47 countries surveyed, majorities say the environment should be given priority, even if this means lower growth and fewer jobs.
- Americans tend to be more religious than the publics of other affluent nations. Americans also are more likely to say that individuals are in control of their lives, another indication of what some scholars describe as “American exceptionalism” in terms of core attitudes and beliefs.
- Americans are somewhat more likely than the publics of most NATO allies to support the use of force in the international arena. Overwhelmingly, Americans think military force is sometimes necessary in world affairs, while among European publics there is greater division on this issue. Egyptians, Jordanians and Germans are most likely to reject the view that military force is sometimes necessary.
- More than half of Americans say their culture is superior to others, a larger proportion than in most other Western publics. But in Italy, nearly seven-in-ten say their way of life is better.
Muslims and their beliefs
- In most Muslim countries, at least one-in-three Muslims — including more than half in Lebanon and Turkey — sees a struggle between Islamic fundamentalists and those who want to modernize their countries.
- While most publics agree that religion and politics do not mix, opinions are moving in opposite directions in two key Muslim allies of the United States. Support for strict separation between religion and government is growing in Pakistan, while in Turkey support for such separation has declined significantly in the past five years.
- Large majorities in every Latin American, Eastern European and African country surveyed say that women should be able to choose their own husbands. But sizable minorities in several predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle East and Asia — and a majority in Pakistan — say that a woman’s family should choose her husband.
- North Americans generally are more welcoming to immigrants than are Western Europeans. Among Western European publics, Swedes are the most likely to say immigration from North Africa and the Middle East, as well as from Eastern Europe, is a good thing for their country, while Italians and Germans express the most negative views.
- Sizable minorities in 11 of the 36 developing countries surveyed say they regularly receive money from relatives living in another country. In Lebanon and Bangladesh, nearly half of respondents say they receive help from family members living abroad.
Media and technology
- People around the world continue to turn to television for news about international and national issues. The only exceptions are several African nations where radio is still the primary source of information. Newspapers continue to lose readers and trail far behind television as a news source.
- Online news sources are steadily gaining in popularity in the West and parts of Asia but draw only a tiny audience in Africa or Latin America.
- Computer ownership has steadily risen in the past five years, particularly in Eastern Europe. At the same time, the gap in technology use between the world’s advanced countries and less developed nations has increased significantly.
- Cell phone ownership is increasing at a dramatic pace in both the developed and developing worlds. Since 2002, cell phone ownership has grown by 20 percentage points or more in 24 of the 35 countries where trend data is available.