After a year of historic political events such as Brexit, the election of Donald Trump, and the Italian constitutional referendum, a major new Ipsos survey across 22 countries paints a picture of a global public feeling left behind by the traditional system of politics and government.
In several countries, this sentiment of discontent translates into high levels of support for a strong leader willing to break the rules.
The survey, among online adults aged under 65 in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Britain, Germany, Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Poland, South Africa, South Korea Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United States, also finds most people think their country is in decline, that experts do not understand their lives, and they show ambivalence towards globalisation.
Is Australia in decline?
In Australia, half of us (49 per cent) believe we are in decline, which makes us one of the less pessimistic countries. On average, 57 per cent across the 22 countries believe their country is in decline, and a majority in 14 of the 22 surveyed.
Perceptions of decline vary widely – highest in South Africa, South Korea, Italy and Brazil (at more than seven in 10), and lowest in India (22 per cent) and Canada (38 per cent). Despite these findings, people tend to feel their country can recover – on average, just 15 per cent of those who say their country is in decline think it is irreversible.
In Australia only one in 10 believe the decline is irreversible.
In Australia we are close to evenly split on the question of whether our generation has had a worse life than our parents, with 38 per cent saying worse and 35 per cent saying better. Globally, people are likely to feel their generation has had a worse life than their parents (on average 32 per cent better, 43 per cent worse).
But again this varies: economies in Europe (Hungary, France, Italy, Spain and Belgium) and Asia (South Korea and Japan) are unhappier than in Latin America and other emerging economies
Australia is close to the average in regards to being pessimistic about the future prospects for today’s youth, with 27 per cent suggesting their lives will be better and 44 per cent worse.
Globally, 27 per cent think their lives will be better than their parents’ and 48 per cent worse, with pessimism highest in European countries, such as France, Spain, Belgium, and South Korea.
Is the system broken?
Australia is also close to the global average in thinking traditional parties and politicians don’t care about people like them, with 61 per cent thinking this way. Globally two in three (64 per cent) feel this way across the 22 countries surveyed.
This sentiment rises to 75 per cent or above in Mexico, Peru, France and Spain, although it is under 50 per cent in Sweden and Japan. Similarly, six in 10 Australians (and on average globally) feel experts don’t understand their lives, with Spain, France, Mexico, Hungary and Peru having the highest agreement with this statement
A little over two thirds (68 per cent) of Australians believe that their country’s economy is rigged to advantage the rich and powerful. The global average is similar at 69 per cent. A similar proportion of Australians (71 per cent) believe their country needs a strong leader to take the country back from the rich and powerful, while just over six in 10 (63 per cent) feel this way globally.
Feelings run especially high in Mexico, Peru, Hungary, Spain and Israel – but again much less strongly in Sweden
There are notable splits in the desire for a strong leader who is willing to break the rules, both here and globally. Overall, on average globally 49 per cent agree and 25 per cent disagree, while in Australia 50 per cent agree and 21 per cent disagree.
Support for a strong leader who will break the rules is especially high in France (80 per cent), but also in Israel, Italy, South Korea, Turkey and India. In contrast, half of Germans and Swedes oppose the idea, while many other countries are divided, with significant minorities on both sides of the argument in Spain, South Africa, North America (US and Canada) and parts of Latin America (Argentina and Mexico)
Six in 10 (59 per cent) Australians agree politicians should be able to say what’s on their minds regardless of what anyone else thinks of their views. On average, two in three (64 per cent) say this globally, with agreement reaching eight in 10 in Argentina, Hungary and Israel.
Australians are below the global average in regards to positive views on globalisation.
Firstly, one third of Australians think opening up their country’s economy to foreign business and trade is an opportunity while a similar level (31 per cent) think it is a threat. The global average is 42 per cent opportunity and 26 per cent threat.
Most positive about globalisation’s potential are Peru, South Africa and also Great Britain, but in Italy and France more think it is a threat than an opportunity
Secondly, a little under four in 10 (37 per cent) Australians surveyed believe Australia should protect itself from the world and 25 per cent believe we should open up more to the world. Globally, views are split with 31 per cent saying protect and 36 per cent saying open up, on average.
Aside from our clear difference to the global average, we rank fourth of 22 in wanting to protect our country from today’s world (behind the US, Canada, and Israel) and equal fourth lowest in wanting to open up, ahead of only France, Japan, and Brazil
Commenting on the findings, David Elliott, director, Ipsos Social Research Institute, Sydney said, “The political shocks of Brexit and the US election have reignited interest not only in public opinion, but also what is driving that opinion.
“At Ipsos we have a large number of ongoing global monitors, which have been showing high levels of discontent with the traditional way of doing things for some time now.
“This can take many forms – economic insecurity, feeling ignored by the elites, anti-immigration sentiment and a general perception of decline – but our latest study suggests that many countries around the world share the view that the system no longer serves them.
“With more elections coming up – notably in France, but also in other countries, such as South Korea – this mood of discontent is likely to continue to play a role in 2017.
“The Australian results show we are less pessimistic about our country generally than most around the world, while on many measures we reflect the global average.
“Where we really show a distinct difference is in regard to our feelings about globalisation. Whether it is the on-going threat of terrorism, continuing debate on immigration and refugees, or even perhaps reflecting on how Australia was somewhat sheltered from the storm that was the Global Financial Crisis of the late 2000’s, it seems Australians, more than most, are looking to close the door on globalisation.”
The report can be viewed here.