Released: June 3, 2003
Views of a Changing World 2003
Chapter 4. Globalization with Few Discontents?
For more than a decade, globalization has been a deeply divisive topic among social activists, intellectuals, business leaders, policy makers and politicians. But the global public is less divided on the subject. To varying degrees, people almost everywhere like globalization.
The 38,000 people surveyed in 44 countries by the Pew Global Attitudes Project report that globalization is now a routine fact of their everyday lives. They experience it in many ways – through trade, finance, travel, communication and culture. Majorities in every nation surveyed say growing business and trade ties are at least somewhat good for their country and themselves. Notably, large majorities in every country say children need to learn English “to succeed in the world today”.
At the same time, people in every region are deeply concerned about a range of worsening financial and social problems in their lives – a lack of good paying jobs, deteriorating working conditions, and the growing gap between rich and poor. People everywhere also strongly believe that their traditional way of life is getting lost.
Yet for the most part they are not inclined to blame such troubles on growing inter-connectedness. Moreover, in the areas in which people say things have generally improved – such as greater availability of food and medicine – they attribute such improvements to the fact that the world has become “more connected.” In a similar vein, people generally take a favorable view of the institutions associated with globalization – multinational corporations and institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization. They have more negative attitudes toward anti-globalization protesters.
Interconnectedness is now a fact of life all over the world. In most of the 44 nations surveyed, strong majorities of the public say they think that global interconnectedness – in trade and finance, culture and travel – has increased at least somewhat over the last half decade. Majorities in 35 countries take a favorable view of four separate aspects of globalization – growing trade and business ties, faster communication and travel, the growing availability of foreign culture, and the wide variety of products available from different parts of the world. Only in six countries do majorities rate at least one of these trends as bad for their country.
Economic globalization is particularly popular. In 41 of 44 nations surveyed by Pew, majorities think growing trade and business ties are both good for their country and good for their families. This is especially true in Vietnam (96%), parts of Africa – Ivory Coast (93%), Senegal (92%) and Nigeria (90%) – and in Western Europe – Germany (83%), France (82%) and Great Britain (81%). Only in Kenya, do most people (58%) think globalization has been good for the country, but not for them personally.
Globalization of Culture
Majorities in every nation surveyed report that over the past five years, there has been increased availability of foreign movies, television programs and music. And in more than half of those countries, the globalization of culture has been intensive, with people saying there is a lot more foreign culture available to them.
This trend is particularly evident in Central America, Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia. Roughly nine-in-ten people see greater availability of foreign pop culture in several countries: Ukraine (94%), Lebanon (92%), Vietnam (92%), Indonesia (90%), Nigeria (89%) and Senegal (88%). In Ukraine, nearly three-quarters of respondents (74%) say there has been a large increase in the availability of foreign movies, television programs and music.
In countries that are prominent cultural exporters – such as the United States and France – people are somewhat less likely to see increased availability of cultural exports from other parts of the world. Overall, about six-in-ten Americans (62%) say foreign movies, television and music have become more available compared with five years ago, but just four-in-ten say they are a lot more available. Roughly the same number in France (64%) see greater availability of foreign popular culture – the lowest percentage in Western Europe.
Communications: Perception vs. Reality
Similarly, most people around the world believe international communication and travel are on the rise. But with a handful of exceptions – notably the British – they believe there is somewhat more travel and communication compared with five years ago, rather than a lot more.
Nearly two-thirds of British respondents say people in Great Britain are traveling and communicating much more with people from other countries compared with five years ago. But elsewhere in Europe, far fewer people see a large increase in travel and communication. And in the U.S. and Canada, only about four-in-ten say there is a lot more foreign travel and contact with other countries than five years ago (42%, 37%).
In many countries, the perception of increased contact with people from other countries does not reflect personal experience. Nearly half of all Poles (49%) think more travel and communication are taking place, but just three-in-ten (29%) have traveled to another country in the past five years, and fewer than four-in-ten (38%) are regularly in touch with foreigners. That is also the case with Americans, Russians, and people in many other countries.
As might be expected, a country‘s wealth and its proximity to other countries are important factors in levels of foreign travel. More than three-quarters of Germans (77%) say they have traveled to another country in the past five years, as have 73% of the British, 72% of Czechs, 66% of Canadians, 65% of Slovaks, and 60% of the French. Far fewer people outside of those countries report traveling to another country in the past five years.
However, significant percentages of people in many countries say they stay in regular contact with friends or relatives in other countries, with phone calls, letters or visits. Three-quarters of respondents in Senegal (74%) say they stay in regular touch with people outside the country, as do about two-thirds in Lebanon (67%) and Guatemala (65%).
Three Views of a Connected World
While there is a widespread sense that the world is becoming increasingly connected, these perceptions vary significantly from country to country. By almost any standard, the Vietnamese appear to be experiencing globalization more intensely than any other people surveyed.
Fully two-thirds of Vietnamese say there is a lot more trade and business ties with other countries – more than any other nation surveyed. Relatively high percentages also report major increases in travel (58%) and exposure to foreign culture (56%), and that international investors are having more influence on the country‘s economic policies (43%).
By comparison, despite China’s growing presence in the global economy, the Chinese people still feel relatively disconnected from the world. Just one-in-five Chinese say they see a lot more trade and business ties with other countries, and only a quarter perceive a large increase in the availability of foreign movies, TV and music. Although China has attracted more foreign investment than any other country over the past five years, relatively few Chinese (15%) believe foreign investors are now exerting considerably more influence on the country’s economic policies. (This survey was conducted well before the outbreak of the SARS virus in the spring of 2003.)
People in Argentina have another, quite different, perspective on the question of whether the world is becoming more interconnected. Reflecting the severe economic crisis that struck Argentina in the months before the survey was conducted, there is little sense that trade and contacts with other countries have increased much. In fact, four-in-ten Argentines say trade and business ties with the rest of the world have stagnated, and a third says travel and communication have stopped growing.
Connected World: Impact on Countries
Overwhelming majorities of those surveyed – at least two-thirds of the public in every country except Jordan and Tanzania – think it is a good thing that their countries are becoming more connected with the world through trade and communication. For the most part, however, enthusiasm for the connected world is tempered. In most countries, majorities surveyed think growing connectedness is at least somewhat good for their nation, not very good.
People in Africa, the poorest continent, stand out for their strong embrace of globalization. Majorities in seven of ten African nations surveyed have very positive views of increased global trade and communication, including 71% in Uganda and roughly two-thirds in Nigeria and Kenya (68%, 67%). In other regions, support for expanding trade and communications is also quite strong in Vietnam (57%), Uzbekistan (54%) and Turkey (50%), which is aspiring to join the European Union.
By comparison, Western Europeans and North Americans take a more moderate view of the impact of globalization on their countries. Roughly nine-in-ten in every country surveyed in these regions believe more trade and faster communication have been at least somewhat good for their countries. But there are differences in the strength of this opinion – nearly half of British respondents (47%) and more than four-in-ten in Canada (43%) believe these trends have been very good for their countries. Fewer respondents in Germany (37%), the U.S. (36%), France (36%) and Italy (25%) agree.
Growing Foreign Trade: Personal Impact
Just as people generally believe that increasing foreign trade has been good for their countries, they also take a favorable view of its personal impact. Majorities in nearly every country surveyed – with Kenya the most notable exception – say growing business and trade ties with other countries have been at least somewhat good for themselves and their families.
In a handful of countries, most respondents view these changes very favorably. Nearly six-in-ten Nigerians (58%) and majorities in Vietnam (55%), Pakistan (55%) and Uganda (53%) say the growth of trade and business has been very good for themselves and their families. Elsewhere, enthusiasm is more muted. For example, solid majorities in North America and Western Europe say increased trade has been good for them personally, but no more than three-in-ten say its impact has been very good.
Good for the Country, Bad Personally?
Kenyans have a unique perspective on the impact of increased foreign trade and business. Fully nine-in-ten say this trend has been good for the country – and 63% say it has been very good. Yet people in Kenya take a sharply negative view of trade‘s impact on individuals. Only a third say it has had a positive effect – just 10% say very positive – while 66% believe more trade has been bad for them and their families.
This 53-point gap in very favorable assessments of foreign trade – between how Kenyans view its impact on the country and on them personally – is by far the largest of any country surveyed. But other publics also have sharply different impressions of how expanding foreign trade affects their countries and how it affects them and their families.
In Bangladesh, for instance, 46% of respondents say growing foreign trade and business had a very favorable impact on the country, but just 22% believe it has been good for them and their families. There is a similar gap in attitudes in South Korea and Uzbekistan and to a lesser extent in South Africa.
These differences also are apparent in several Eastern European countries, including the Slovak Republic, Bulgaria and Ukraine. Similarly, in former East Germany, where unemployment remains persistently high, people are twice as likely to see global economic connectedness as very good for the country as they are to see it as very good for themselves and their family (40% vs. 19%).
Foreign Culture’s Personal Impact
Globally, most respondents have a favorable personal reaction to the opportunity to sample foreign television, movies and music. In France, nine-in-ten people (91%) say it is good that they and their families have the opportunity to watch foreign movies and television and listen to music from other parts of the world.
While this view is shared almost everywhere, a few notable exceptions exist. Kenyans are about as negative about the personal impact of foreign culture as they are about increasing foreign trade: 61% of respondents in Kenya say foreign television, movies and music are bad for them and their families. A majority in Pakistan (55%) agrees, while Jordanians are split over the personal impact of foreign culture (50% positive/49%negative). In Bangladesh, another predominantly Muslim country, the public also is divided (49% positive/46% negative).
Generations Divide Over Cultural Imports
In most countries, younger respondents are more positive than older ones about the effect of foreign television, music and movies on their families. In Russia and Bangladesh, these age differences are particularly noteworthy. Fully 85% of Russians under age 30 say the opportunity to watch foreign movies and television programs and listen to foreign music is a good thing for them and their families; just 35% of those 50 and older agree. In Bangladesh, young people are nearly three times more likely than those age 50 and older to view foreign culture favorably (65%-22%).
Significant generational differences on this issue are apparent in many other countries, across all regions of the world: Senegal, South Korea, Guatemala, Mexico and Uzbekistan. The generational differences over foreign culture are much smaller in Pakistan, where young and old alike are critical of the impact of cultural imports, and in the United States and France, where nearly everyone likes these products.
English Necessary for Success
There is global agreement on the importance of children learning English. Solid majorities in every country surveyed believe that “children need to learn English to succeed in the world today.” Nine-in-ten Indians (93%) and Chinese (92%) agree that learning English is essential, and this view is strongly held. Fully 87% in India, and two-thirds of Chinese (66%), completely agree that children should learn English.
Generally, even those people who say they dislike American culture, or say they are concerned about the future of their own culture, believe it is necessary for children to learn English. Jordan is the only country in which a substantial minority (35%) disagrees with the idea that children need to learn English.
Respondents in the U.S. and Great Britain were asked a different version of this question, which asked whether it is necessary for children to learn a foreign language to succeed in the world today. Seven-in-ten in each country agree with that idea (72% of British, 70% of Americans), but sizable minorities dissent. Three-in-ten in the U.S. and comparable percentage in Great Britain (28%) do not believe it is necessary for children to learn a foreign language.
Globally, Problems Worsen
People’s attitudes toward the global changes that are affecting their nations and their families are best understood in the context of whether they think their lives are getting better or worse. For the most part, the people surveyed by the Pew Global Attitudes Project think life has deteriorated in many ways over the past five years.
Majorities, in most cases strong majorities, in 34 of 44 nations surveyed think the availability of good paying jobs has gotten worse in the last five years. Even in relatively successful economies such as the U.S. and Canada, most people say the job situation has gotten worse (55% U.S., 52% Canada). The notable exceptions are Vietnam (92%), Philippines (68%) and China (52%), where people generally think job opportunities have improved.
People in most parts of the world also think that working conditions for ordinary workers have deteriorated. This is particularly true in countries that have suffered economic reversals in recent years – Argentina (94%), Kenya (89%), Peru (85%), Brazil (84%), Bolivia (83%) and Japan (80%). This view is widely shared in nations that are making the transition from socialism to capitalism – such as Poland (83%) and the Slovak Republic (85%). By comparison, a majority of British (57%) and about half of Americans (50%), Canadians (48%), South Koreans (47%) and Filipinos (45%) believe working conditions have improved.
Strong majorities of the public also think that the gap between the rich and the poor has worsened in the last five years. In 30 of 44 countries, at least seven-in-ten people say economic inequality has grown, including 94% of those surveyed in Argentina, 92% in Russia, 91% in the Slovak Republic and 90% in Germany. Such concerns are particularly widespread in Eastern Europe, with the single exception of Ukraine. Roughly half of Ukrainians say economic inequality has decreased over the past five years, while 44% say it has increased.
Most people also believe that diseases spread more rapidly today than they did half a decade ago (The survey was conducted before the SARS outbreak). This is particularly true in Africa and Latin America where, in 16 of the 18 countries surveyed, more than seven-in-ten people think the incidence of disease has gotten worse. These are many of the same societies where AIDS and other infectious diseases are viewed as top national problems. But concern about the spread of disease is not limited to poor nations. Two-in-three Americans (68%) and more than half of all Western Europeans and Japanese share such fears.
Costs of Health, Aging Increase
Majorities in most countries say health care has become less affordable. This is particularly the case in Kenya, Argentina as well as in Germany, where patients now pay a greater portion of health care and pharmaceutical costs than in the past. In each of those countries, nine-in-ten people believe the affordability of health care has worsened over the past five years. Fully seven-in-ten respondents in the U.S. (75%) and Canada (71%) say health care costs have gotten worse.
But there are a few exceptions to this trend. In France, for example, 73% say the affordability of health care has improved over the past five years, compared with just 19% who say it has gotten worse. Health care also is perceived to be more affordable in Vietnam (76% better), the Philippines (64%) and the Czech Republic (54%).
In most societies, the public also says it has gotten tougher to provide for one’s old age. This perception is widespread in Argentina (91%), where people‘s life savings were drastically reduced when the country abandoned the de facto dollar standard, as well as in Kenya (93%) and Bulgaria (94%). France and most Asian countries are exceptions to this trend – majorities in those areas say it is now easier for the elderly to provide for themselves than it was five years ago.
Food, Medicine More Available
At the same time, most respondents see clear improvement in some areas. There is widespread agreement, even in many poor countries, that food is more plentiful in stores than it was five years ago. Majorities in five of eight Latin American countries surveyed, six of ten African nations, all six low-income Asian economies surveyed, and in five of six countries in the Middle East/Conflict Area report more food on their store shelves.
Similarly, people in many countries report that modern medicines and treatments have become more available – if not more affordable – over the past five years. This is particularly true in North America, Western Europe and most of Asia, but it is not universal. Fully six-in-ten in the Slovak Republic (64%) and Kenya (60%), and nearly half in Russia (48%) and Jordan (46%) say the availability of modern medicine and treatments has worsened over the past five years.
Even in many nations where people say modern medicines and treatments are more available, they express concern over the affordability of health care. Three-in-four Americans (75%) see more medical options available today, but an equal proportion say health care costs have increased. The same complaint is heard in Canada and in most of Western Europe – with France being a notable exception. More than eight-in-ten French (82%) say medicines and treatment are more available, and nearly as many report that health care has become more affordable (73%).
Improvements in Food, Medicine Linked To Globalization
The majorities who complain about declines in working conditions, the availability of jobs and inequality generally do not blame globalization for these problems. On the contrary, in areas where people think things have improved – as with the greater availability of food and medicine – many link these changes to growing interconnectedness.
Overwhelming majorities in Ukraine (80%), Great Britain (75%) and the Czech Republic (73%) think there is more food now available in their local stores because of globalization. Three-quarters of respondents also say that in Japan, where there has been increase of imports of Chinese fruits and vegetables. In fact, majorities in every wealthy nation surveyed – with the notable exception of the United States – link the greater availability of food in stores to the way the world has become more connected.
In 23 of 31 developing countries surveyed, pluralities or majorities also attribute the greater availability of food in stores to globalization. Moreover, in the handful of countries in which majorities believe food supplies have gotten worse in the past five years, relatively few blame the change on globalization. Six-in-ten Argentines say food availability has gotten worse, but just 10% of respondents blame globalization.
Similarly, over half of those surveyed in the two largest countries in the world – China (59%) and India (53%) – say growing ties between their countries and the rest of the world are the reason why modern medicines and medical treatment are more available today. Even stronger majorities in Vietnam (77%), Ukraine (71%) and Indonesia (70%) agree. In all, pluralities or majorities in 38 of 44 nations make that positive connection. Only in Jordan (30%) and Russia (24%) do large minorities think that health care is getting worse, and globalization is the culprit.
Globalization Not Blamed
People are also unwilling to link problems like economic inequality, the lack of good-paying jobs and poor working conditions to globalization. At least half of the respondents in every country surveyed, except Ukraine, believe the gap between rich and poor has gotten worse over the past five years. But for the most part, people do not blame this on “the way the world has become more connected”.
In Europe and North America, sizable percentages in every country say economic inequality has worsened. But fewer than three-in-ten respondents in each country believe it has occurred because of global interconnectedness. This pattern is apparent in other regions as well. Globally, there is only one country, Indonesia, where more than four-in-ten respondents (44%) blame the growing gap between rich and poor on globalization.
Similarly, people almost everywhere think there are fewer good-paying jobs these days, but they generally do not link this to the way the world has become more connected. Only in a handful of countries, such as Guatemala (38%), Bolivia (34%) and Lebanon (33%), do sizable minorities blame the deteriorating job situation on globalization.
The societies where people are most likely to think the world around them is getting better and who attribute that improvement, at least in part, to a more connected world include Vietnam, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, the Philippines and Indonesia. In each of these nations, at least half say that two or more indicators of well-being – the availability of good-paying jobs, the quality of work life, the rich-poor gap, and the availability of food and modern medicines – have improved in the last five years thanks to globalization. Only in a few countries – Guatemala (40%), Bolivia (36%), Jordan (34%), Mali (33%) – do a sizable number of people see a decline in two or more of these quality-of-life indicators and blame global interconnectedness for it.
“Globalization” Per Se
After being asked about their awareness of global interconnectedness, their sense of its impact on their family and nation, and its linkage to the their own lives, respondents were asked for their opinion of “globalization.”
In more than half the nations surveyed, at least six-in-ten respondents rate globalization as at least somewhat good. Yet in many countries, high percentages of respondents offered no opinion, indicating a lack of familiarity with the term. Far fewer respondents express negative feelings about globalization.
Support for globalization is strongest in Nigeria (90%), South Korea (84%) and Kenya (82%), followed closely by Indonesia (79%), Vietnam (79%) and China (76%). In all of these countries, governments and business elites have advocated globalization as a means of rapidly improving the standard of living.
Majorities in North America and Western Europe also have a positive view of globalization, but there also is significant opposition in these regions. Canadians favor globalization by three-to-one (69%-23%), but the margins are smaller in the U.S. and France. Six-in-ten French have a positive view of globalization, while 36% have a negative opinion – the largest percentage among wealthy countries.
Moreover, relatively few people in these nations – and in Eastern Europe and much of Latin America – say globalization is a very good thing; most say it is somewhat good. Only one-in-ten Americans and Canadians (10%, 11%) characterize globalization as a very good thing, and fewer Europeans agree. By comparison, nearly six-in-ten in Nigeria (58%), and more than four-in-ten in Kenya (46%), Uganda (44%) and South Africa (41%) see globalization as very good thing.
Opposition to globalization is most prevalent in Jordan, where 64% feel globalization is a bad thing. In addition, Argentines are evenly divided in their view of globalization (39% bad/35% good). In several countries, majorities or pluralities offered no opinion of globalization. Fully seven-in-ten in Uzbekistan, 57% in Pakistan, 55% in Russia, and 53% in Bulgaria expressed no opinion.
Young People More Likely To Favor Globalization
Despite television images of youthful anti-globalization protestors, in most Western European and Latin American nations, younger citizens are more positive about globalization than older ones. In France, for instance, seven-in-ten (72%) of those below age 30 say globalization is a good thing, while three-in-ten (28%) have a negative view. Among French respondents age 50 and older, fewer (58%) think globalization is good for France, while 35% say it is bad.
This pattern is apparent in Latin America well. Younger Peruvians are much more likely than their elders to view globalization favorably (63% under 30/36% 50 and older). Nearly half of younger Bolivians and Mexicans agree, compared with only a third of those their parents’ age.
Concerns Over Modern Life – Its Pace…
Despite the popular support for swifter communications and increasing international commerce, people are not entirely comfortable with the economic, technological and cultural change going on all around them. Roughly half of Americans, British, French and Germans criticize the pace of modern life. Italians are even more negative; six-in-ten (62%) dislike the pace of life today. Among people in major industrial nations, only the Japanese (63%) say they are content with the pace of life.
By contrast, people in the developing world have generally embraced the modern lifestyle. Throughout most of Africa and Asia – and to a lesser extent in the Middle East/Conflict Area – people generally say they like the pace of life today. In Nigeria, Lebanon and Indonesia, overwhelming majorities (85%) find the modern lifestyle appealing. However, it is notable that in some relatively globalized developing economies – such as South Africa, Egypt and Jordan – majorities say they do not like the pace of life today.
There is a clear generational divide on this issue. In France, Great Britain, Russia and Ukraine, people age 50 and older are about twice as likely to voice discomfort with the pace of life than are those under 30. This gap is biggest in Bulgaria: nearly six-in-ten (58%) Bulgarian respondents age 50 and older express concern that life is moving too fast; just one-in-ten (11%) of those under age 30 agree.
Attitudes on the pace of life are also strongly associated with views about modern technology. In nearly all countries, people who are critical of technological advances – especially television and the Internet – are more likely than others to be troubled by the pace of daily life.
And Fast Food
People’s attitudes toward fast food capture their contrasting views about the pace of modern life. Majorities or pluralities in all wealthy nations take a negative view of convenience foods. German respondents, by better than six-to-one (63%-10%), think fast food has had a negative, not a positive, impact on daily life. Other Western Europeans are only somewhat less critical. By significant margins, Americans and Canadians agree that convenience meals have changed things for the worse. Clearly, the dividing line in opinion on fast food is economic, not geographic. South Koreans and the Japanese share the same dim view of meals on the run.
But throughout the developing world, most people have a favorable opinion of takeout food. More than seven-in-ten respondents in the Philippines, Vietnam and China like convenience food. Africans, on balance, are also positive, although in several countries significant minorities offered no opinion. People in Lebanon and Turkey were divided on the issue.
Traditional Ways Threatened
Overall, there is a widespread sense that the rapidly changing world represents a major threat to people‘s traditional way of life. Africans are most likely to feel that their daily customs and traditions are under fire – more than eight-in-ten respondents in every African country express this concern. With only a handful of exceptions, this is also the prevailing view in other regions as well.
Public opinion in the United States is typical in this regard: Two-thirds of Americans say their way of life is being lost, while only three-in-ten people (29%) believe traditions remain strong. Sentiment that something is being lost in the modern world is shared by men and women and across all age groups.
The Philippines and Uzbekistan are the only countries surveyed in which majorities believe their traditional way of life is not threatened. That view is held by sizable minorities in three predominantly Muslim countries: Indonesia (48%), Jordan (44%) and Egypt (42%).
Too Much Commercialism?
The erosion of traditional ways is often blamed on commercialism and consumerism. Majorities in every Western European nation surveyed – and five of eight Latin American countries – agree that “consumerism and commercialism are a threat to our culture.”
More than six-in-ten French (63%) and Italians (64%) say these aspects of a market economy are a threat to their culture. Roughly half of Germans, British, Americans and Canadians agree. In Latin America, Bolivians (72%), Mexicans (64%) and Argentines (58%) are the most likely say consumerism is a threat to their culture.
This criticism is prevalent in many countries in other regions as well – but notably, not in the Middle East/Conflict Area. Majorities in Lebanon (64%), Uzbekistan (57%) and Jordan (54%) say commercialism is no threat to their culture. Pluralities in Turkey, Egypt and Pakistan agree.
Cell Phones Viewed Favorably
Still, people everywhere look quite favorably at how certain consumer goods – notably communications technologies – have affected their lives. Cell phones and the Internet are viewed universally as improving people‘s lives.
Overwhelming majorities in nearly all of the 44 nations surveyed say cell phones have improved things for the better. This view is equally shared in poor countries in Africa and Asia where relatively few people actually own cell phones. For example, only about one-in-ten people in Bangladesh and Vietnam have a mobile telephone of their own, but more than nine-in-ten respondents in both countries say such phones have been a change for the better (96%, 92%).
The only significant dissent to this viewpoint comes in some wealthy nations, such as Japan, Canada and the United States, where cell phone use is widespread. The Japanese, in particular, are divided in their assessment– nearly one-in-two (49%) say mobile telephones have changed things for the better, while more than one-in-three (37%) believe they have made things worse. A third of Canadians and a quarter of Americans have a negative view of the advent of cell phones.
As might be expected, non-cell phone owners in wealthy nations have a lower opinion of the devices than do cell phone owners. In Japan and Great Britain, about half of those without cell phones say they are a change for the worse; far fewer cell phone users agree.
Thumbs up for Internet
A similar pattern is apparent in global opinion toward the Internet. Outside of a handful of rich countries, most respondents say they never go online. Yet majorities in almost all of the nations surveyed say the Internet has changed things for the better. In many poor countries, however, large percentages express no opinion, reflecting the low level of Internet use and awareness in those societies.
About one-in-five respondents in several wealthy nations – including Japan (24%), the U.S. (21%), and South Korea (21%) – say the Internet has changed things for the worse.
TV Draws Criticism
People have mixed opinions about television, a technology that has now been around for two generations. In the developing world, television is generally seen in a positive light. By wide margins, Africans and Asians say it has changed things for the better. But in three wealthy nations – Italy, Germany and the U.S.– where television is practically ubiquitous, pluralities have a negative view of television.
Two-thirds of Italians (66%) say television has either been a change for the worse (49%) or had no major impact (17%) on daily life. Similarly, three-quarters of Germans and six-in-ten Americans believe television’s impact has been negative or, at best, neutral. Respondents in other industrial societies are also critical of television: Nearly six-in-ten South Koreans (58%), 51% of Canadians and half of French say television has had a negative or neutral impact.
Africans have overwhelmingly favorable views of television, but they also rely on television less as a news medium than do people elsewhere. Africa is the only region in which significant numbers of people say they still get most of their news from a source other than television; majorities in six African countries say they rely on radio for most of their news.
Thumbs down for Genetically Modified Foods
People in wealthy countries are generally critical of genetically modified foods. Majorities in all seven advanced nations in which the question was asked have negative views of such foods because of concerns they could hurt health and the environment.
Opposition to scientifically altered foods is strongest in France. Just one-in-ten French agree that such foods are a positive development because they increase crop yields to feed more people and are good for the environment. Roughly nine times as many (89%) believe scientifically altered foods are bad because of their potentially harmful effects on health and the environment. Attitudes toward genetic foods also are highly negative in Germany (81% bad), Japan (76%) and Italy (74%).
Americans take the least negative view of genetically modified foods. Nearly four-in-ten (37%) say they are good, while a 55% majority disagrees. Roughly three-in-ten in Canada (31%) and Great Britain (27%) have a positive opinion of scientifically altered foods, while roughly twice as many have a negative view.
Majorities of young and old alike think scientifically altered foods are bad. But women are less positive about these foods than are men in most countries where the question was asked. In Canada, for example, nearly three-quarters of women (73%) think genetically modified foods are bad, compared with just half (52%) of men. In Japan, 82% of women and 69% of men think these foods are bad.