Increases in perceived seriousness of poverty and homelessness: Global poll

Published: 8th January 2015

Germany and Spain have made the most dramatic increases in perceived seriousness of poverty and homelessness according to the latest GlobeScan poll of 24,000 citizens across 24 countries.  This global poll shows the abiding strength of people’s concerns about poverty and their perceptions of economic unfairness. 

Poverty and homelessness continue as top-tier concerns with majorities in 15 of the 24 countries polled seeing these as a very serious problem (an average of over 80 percent see it at least as somewhat serious). These concerns are at the same high level as crime and violence, unemployment and the rising cost of food and energy – all of which are seen as more serious than “economic problems and uncertainty” and nine other issues tested.

In 12 of the 24 countries polled, the perceived seriousness of poverty and homelessness has either increased or remained stable at a high level since the question was last fielded in 2012. The most significant increases in perceived seriousness over the last two years are found in Europe, notably Germany where it has increased dramatically by 20 percent (from 24 percent to 44 percent) and in Spain with an increase of 10 percent (from 76 percent to 86 percent). 

Relative to other challenges tested, poverty and homelessness is today one of the most serious issues globally, being seen most seriously in Spain, Nigeria, Chile, France and Peru. 

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director, Oxfam International said: “This poll is powerful evidence that, all over the world, the public clamour to tackle inequality and poverty is growing and hardening by the day. Our political and business leaders will ignore this at their peril.” 

Increasing inequality remains a big concern

At the same time, a significant 43 percent see “economic inequality” as a very serious problem (with an average of 80 percent rating it at least somewhat serious).

This is consistent with previous polling. In a 2012 survey of 22 countries conducted by GlobeScan for the BBC World Service, fully 61 percent of citizens worldwide felt that economic benefits and burdens have not been shared fairly in their country, with over a quarter (27 percent) concluding they had been shared “not at all fairly” and only 7 percent “very fairly”.

GlobeScan Foundation president Doug Miller commented, “The current media focus on the growing gap between rich and poor has been deeply felt by citizens the world over since we first asked about it in 2008. In a number of countries, the strong sense of unfairness threatens to undermine the basic social contract that has kept both rich and poor working towards common ends.”

Who should lead on addressing economic and social problems?

According to the latest poll, citizens look primarily to government to show leadership on addressing issues of economic and social justice, with 59 percent selecting government when asked who should lead on this, compared to only 13 percent for large companies, 6 percent for trade unions. Another 12 percent say “all of them” should be collectively responsible.

Developing countries place the strongest emphasis on government leadership, particularly in Nigeria (73 percent), Chile (70 percent) and Indonesia (70 percent). However in some countries citizens have stronger expectations of leadership on the part of large companies, most notably in the USA (28 percent), India (27 percent), South Korea (21 percent) and France (19 percent).

This poll is powerful evidence that, all over the world, the public clamor to tackle inequality and poverty is growing and hardening by the day.
Winnie Byanyima
Executive Director, Oxfam International

Notes to editors

Research methodology

A total of 24,000 citizens across 24 countries were interviewed face-to-face or by telephone (online Israel) between December 17, 2013 and April 28, 2014.  Polling was conducted by GlobeScan and its research partners in each country.  In five of the 24 countries, the sample was limited to major urban areas. The margin of error per country ranges from +/- 2.5 to 6.1 percent, 19 times out of 20.

The 24 countries are:

South Korea
UK (inc. NI)

Research Partners and Methodology

BlobeScan 2015 poll. Research Partners and Methodology

Contact information

For more information, images or a spokesperson please contact: 

Robin Miller, Manager, Communications and Digital Media, GlobeScan 
Mob: +1 416 647 528 2767

Matt Grainger, Head of Media, Oxfam International
Tel: +44 1865339128
Mob: +44 7730 680837

For updates, please follow @Oxfam.