People around the world generally agree that climate change poses a severe risk to their countries, but terrorism, specifically from the Islamic extremist group known as ISIS, and cyber-attacks are also seen by many as major security threats, according to a new Pew Research Centre report.
In 13 of the 26 nations examined in the Centre’s new report, people name climate change as the top international threat. But in eight, including Russia, France, Indonesia and Nigeria, ISIS is seen as the top threat. In four nations, including Japan and the US, people see cyber-attacks from other countries as their top international concern. One country, Poland, names Russia’s power and influence as its top threat, but few elsewhere say Russia is a major concern.
Many people also express fears about North Korea’s nuclear program, but in none of the 26 countries do people rate it as one of their top two concerns (even in neighboring South Korea).
Fewer still rate the condition of the global economy as their top international concern, although it remains a pertinent issue in many countries, especially in places where ratings for the national economy are overwhelmingly negative, such as Greece and Brazil.
And while a median of less than half across the nations in the survey say the influence of the US is a major threat to their countries, more people now say it is a threat than in 2013 and 2017. At the bottom of the threats list is China’s power and influence, although roughly half or more in South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Australia and the US name China as a major threat.
These are among the findings of a Pew Research Center survey conducted among 27 612 respondents in 26 countries from 14 May 14 to 12 Auguse 2018.
Additional key findings in the report include:
* US increasingly seen as a major threat: The largest change in sentiment among the global threats tracked is in those who see the power and influence of the US as a major threat to their countries. In 2013, a median of only a quarter across 22 nations saw American power as a major threat to their country, but that jumped substantially to 38% in 2017, the year after Donald Trump was elected president, and to 45% in 2018. In fact, in 18 of the 22 countries surveyed in both 2013, when Barack Obama was the US president, and 2018, there has been a statistically significant increase in those who name the US as a major threat. This includes increases of 30 percentage points in Germany, 29 points in France and 26 points in Brazil and Mexico.
* Increased concerns on cyber-attacks: There has also been a substantial jump in those who see cyber-attacks from other countries as a top threat. In 2018, a median of 61% across the countries surveyed see cyber-threats as a serious concern, up from 54% who said this in 2017. Since 2017, there have been double-digit rises in those saying cyber-attacks from other countries are a major threat to their country in Tunisia (up 25 percentage points), the Netherlands (up 15 points), Greece (12), Sweden (11) and Canada (10 points).
* Partisan and ideological divides on climate and terrorism threats: There are strong ideological divides on perceptions of climate change and ISIS across Europe and North America. In nine of the 12 European and North American countries surveyed, those on the ideological left are more concerned about the threat of global climate change than those on the right. This is especially the case in the US, where nearly nine-in-ten (87%) among those on the left say climate change is a top concern, versus only 31% on the right who say this. Conversely, those on the political right in Europe and North America are often more concerned about ISIS than those on the left. This includes ideological differences of more than 20 percentage points in the Netherlands, Canada, the US and Sweden on the ISIS threat.