Survey: Majority of People Around the World Feel Divided

 Alexa Lardieri
  30th-Apr-2018

SEVENTY-SIX PERCENT OF people globally believe their country is divided, and 59 percent believe it is more divided today than it was 10 years ago

A recent survey for the BBC by Ipsos MORI of more than 19,400 people in 27 countries found a majority of people in all but two countries feel their society is divided. Almost everyone in Serbia, at 93 percent, believes that country is divided. They are followed by Argentina, at 92 percent, Chile and Peru, both at 90 percent, and Italy at 89 percent. Eighty-four percent of Americans believe the United States is divided.

The countries that feel the least divided are Saudi Arabia at 34 percent and China at 48 percent.

Although the most Serbians see their country as divided, only 48 percent think their country is more divided than it was 10 years ago. At 77 percent, the country with the greatest portion of people who believe the population is more divided today than 10 years ago is Spain. America ranked fifth, with 67 percent who believe the U.S. is more divided today than it was 10 years ago.

Cliff Young, president of U.S. Ipsos public affairs, says he thinks this sense of division is a "symptom of these times."

"Overall, there has been a decline in trust in traditional institutions and a rise in the belief that the system is broken," Young tells U.S. News. "Citizens in general no longer believe that governments, politicians and other institutions can deliver on their promises."

During a time of global tension that has seen a rise in nationalism, majorities in less than half of the countries polled think people in their country are tolerant of others when it comes to people of different backgrounds, cultures or points of view. Canada takes the lead, with 74 percent believing they are tolerant. Coming in last, with only 16 percent, is Hungary. Just under half, 47 percent of Americans think people are tolerant in the U.S. Additionally, 44 percent think Americans are less tolerant today than 10 years ago compared to 28 percent who think they are more tolerant.

Majorities in only eight countries believe their society is more tolerant today than it was 10 years ago. The most people in China, 59 percent, and the least people in Hungary, 9 percent, believe there is more tolerance.

Most think the highest tensions exist between people with different political views, with that being the top tension in 14 countries. The second top tension is between rich and poor people, and the third top tension is between immigrants and citizens in individual countries.

Young points out the dramatic shift in tension and decrease in sense of tolerance could be because of countries' evolving demographics.

"In Europe and the U.S., together with this decline in trust is profound cultural change. Specifically, all these societies are going through dramatic demographic change – they are becoming less white as a result of high immigration rates. … This creates a crisis of identity and a tendency to blame 'the other.'" Young says.

Despite the grim responses about division and lack of tolerance, more than half of people globally, 65 percent, think people across the world have more things in common than things that make them different. The country where the most people, at 81 percent, agree with this sentiment is Russia, despite the same number of people responding that the country is divided. Serbia also tops the list with 81 percent. In the United States, 71 percent believe people have more in common.

Additionally, 40 percent of people globally think socializing with people from different backgrounds, cultures or points of view leads to mutual understanding and respect, compared to 34 percent who think it can sometimes lead to misunderstandings that usually be overcome. Just 14 percent believe it causes conflicts.

The most people in Hungary, 34 percent, believe it leads to conflict, while the least people in Malaysia, 4 percent, feel the same. The most people in that country, 68 percent, think it leads to mutual understanding and respect.

Young thinks "technology and its ability to unite us is the most probable solution" to the issues facing the world, and that younger generations are more tolerable.

So while the world may feel divided and tense, there is hope that people feel a connection to others around them and are willing to overlook their differences to overcome conflict.

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Domain: Afterhours
Category: Entertainment
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