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Majorities Across the World Support Russian Withdrawal from Ukraine, and Greater Action on Climate Change

NEW YORK—A wide-ranging new citizen survey covering 22 countries around the world has revealed a high level of agreement regarding the most significant challenges facing the world today—and a common desire for effective global action in response.

But the findings also highlight a lack of confidence in the international community’s ability to work together to address global threats. Pessimism about the direction of the world is most pronounced in Western Europe and the United States.

The survey, carried out in July by Datapraxis, YouGov, and local providers in Moldova and Ukraine for the Open Society Foundations, covered more than 21,000 people around the world—with more than two-thirds of its respondents living in Africa, Latin and North America, the Middle East, and Asia—making it one of the most ambitious surveys of its kind since Russia launched its full-scale assault on Ukraine six months ago.

The participants were asked a series of questions that ranged from attitudes toward Russia’s war in Ukraine; the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic; the need for international climate action; and the current cost-of-living crisis. The survey also sought to gauge support across a range of ambitious policy options.

The findings, published in a new report, Fault Lines: Global Perspectives on a World in Crisis, included:

  • Respondents in the Global North and Global South have differing perspectives on the causes of the invasion of Ukraine. But there is strong and widespread support for the view that peace requires Russia to withdraw from Ukrainian territory it has occupied. Only in four of the 20 countries this question was asked in—Senegal, India, Indonesia, and Serbia—did less than 50 percent of the respondents take this view.
  • Out of all survey respondents, 62 percent agreed that Russia’s aggression against Ukraine could lead to nuclear war, and 65 percent agreed that Russia is a threat to world security. Yet climate change was the issue most often ranked as the most important challenge facing the world, with 86 percent agreeing that it was already affecting people’s lives through heatwaves, droughts, floods, and other extreme weather.
  • There are high levels of shared global anxiety over inflation and cost-of-living increases, and over potential food shortages. In the three Latin American countries surveyed, 80 percent of respondents agreed that they “often worry about whether my family will go hungry.”
  • There is a common interest in a range of ambitious global policy solutions—including debt cancellation, climate justice financing, and supporting vaccine research—even in richer countries that would be main sources of the needed financing and investment. In the three Western European countries included in the poll—Great Britain, Germany, and France—58 percent of respondents would support dedicating 2 percent of their national budget to a global solidarity fund to help those most in need—with the figure rising to 65 percent in France. In the United States more than half (53 percent) agreed with the idea.
  • Despite the apparent interest in global solutions, there was clear dissatisfaction with the work of the UN, particularly in richer countries. In only three countries—Kenya, Nigeria, and Ukraine—did at least 50 percent of the respondents believe that the UN had generally done a good job in relation to the Ukraine invasion—dropping to 25 percent or less in eight countries, including France, the United States, Great Britain, and Japan.  

Commenting on the findings of the survey, Mark Malloch-Brown, president of the Open Society Foundations, said:

In difficult times, we tend to focus on what divides us. But this poll shows a common sense of the nexus of crises engulfing the world; we are more united than we think. As world leaders prepare to gather once again at the opening of the UN General Assembly in New York, will they come together to respond in a concerted, ambitious way that meets this critical moment in human history? Citizens are way ahead of politicians in terms of accepting the scale of support needed, favoring longer-term solutions that address systemic inequality and injustice. Our leaders need to get with the program before it is too late.

Yamide Dagnet, Open Society’s director of Climate Justice, said:

We shouldn't be surprised that so many people around the world cite climate change as the most important challenge facing the world—the climate crisis is inextricably linked to the turmoil we are witnessing worldwide. Without meaningful action, it will compound further these crises. Yet again, the public are ahead of policymakers on climate action.

Participants to this survey, from 22 countries across seven global regions, were asked a range of questions across subjects including Russia’s war in Ukraine; the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic; the need for international climate action; and the current cost-of-living crisis. The survey tracked sentiment toward a number of policy options, which could help address these respective challenges in the short, medium, and long term.

Polling and Methodology

Datapraxis surveyed 21,413 respondents worldwide between July 22 and August 15, 2022, across 22 countries. Countries polled included Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Moldova, Nigeria, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Singapore, South Africa, Turkey, Great Britain, United States, and Ukraine.

Respondents in most countries received identical versions of the survey; respondents in Saudi Arabia and Egypt received versions with some politically sensitive questions removed due to operational constraints or in order to maintain trust between the interviewer and respondent. In Ukraine, survey participants answered some questions regarding the conflict that were reworded to match local realities. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from Datapraxis via local providers in Moldova and Ukraine and via YouGov elsewhere. YouGov is a member of the British Polling Council, and Datapraxis is an international research, analysis, and insights company.

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