Friday, October 31, 2014

What is the greatest threat to the world?

It’s Halloween, so it is time to be terrified. The Pew Global Attitudes Project at the Pew Research Center conducted a very large survey in 44 countries, using a sample of about 1,000 people in each one. It was done from March 17, 2014 to June 5, 2014 and reported on October 16th in an article titled Middle Easterners See Religious and Ethnic Hatred as Top Global Threat that has a link to their Complete Report.

They asked the following multiple-choice question:

“Now, turning to the world situation, here is a list of five dangers in the world today. In your opinion, which one of these poses the greatest threat to the world?

AIDS and other infectious diseases

Growing gap between the rich and poor

Pollution and other environmental problems

Religious and ethnic hatred

Spread of nuclear weapons

(Don’t Know/Refused)”

A large table lists those five answers (but omits the Don’t Know/Refused category, which mostly ranged from just zero to five percent). 

Another shorter article titled What is the greatest threat to the world? Depends on where you live provides a summary, with the following five takeaway headlines:

1. Infectious disease, AIDS, top concerns in Sub-Saharan Africa

2. Religious and ethnic hatred is the top danger for those in the Middle East

3. Europeans worry about inequality

4. In the U.S., Republicans and Democrats see different threats

5. Japanese worry about nuclear weapons

The first, longer article noted that:

“In Japan, which remains to this day the only population to experience a nuclear attack, 49% say the spread of nuclear weapons is the world’s greatest threat, the highest rating for this issue across the 44 countries surveyed. Three-in-ten in Pakistan, which borders nuclear rival India, say the spread of those weapons is of paramount danger, garnering the highest spot.”

A bar chart (click to enlarge it) shows the results for Japan, Pakistan, and India. Note that nuclear weapons were considered a threat by 49% in Japan, 30% in Pakistan, and 19% in India (where they only came in third, behind religious & ethnic hatred and inequality). But, also note that Don’t Know was abnormally high at 18% in Pakistan and 10% in India. Perhaps the results from Pakistan should be ignored. 

Another bar chart shows results for the United States and Mexico. Our southern neighbor has a rather different ranking of fears than the U.S.

The image of a modern Sword of Damocles was modified from this 1903 Puck cartoon.

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