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How the World Has Changed

Five years have passed since the global financial crisis, but economic worries still cast a long shadow over the world, literally. In the latest “Trending the World” data visualization marking the 40th Anniversary of GfK’s Roper Reports consumer trends survey, we have mapped the world’s worries, comparing 2008 and 2013.

The resulting infographic shows dramatically how economic issues have come to predominate the world’s leading concerns. Click on “recession and unemployment” for 2008, then toggle over to the same concern for 2013, and you see a marked increase in the number of countries citing it among their top five concerns.

In 2008, recession and unemployment was a significant worry, ranking #3 among 19 issues globally. It was among the top five concerns in 16 of 25 surveyed countries, and #1 worry in three countries (all in the Asia-Pacific region).

Five years later, the worry has spread, like a dark cloud, over the globe. Recession/unemployment edged out inflation and high prices as the world’s #1 concern in 2013; is now among the top five issues in 23 of 25 countries; and is #1 in 10 countries, including the USA. Inflation and high prices, meanwhile, is now among the top five concerns in 21 countries and is #1 in four countries, including China.

The third-ranked concern is also economic: having enough money to live right and pay bills. Worry over economic inequality has also gone up. Concern over social issues like crime, drug abuse, and AIDS, meanwhile, has declined.

“What’s on the World’s Mind, 2008 and 2013,” created in partnership between Roper Reports and the GfK Data Visualization team, color-codes countries for 19 issues, from the economy, to crime and lawlessness, environmental pollution, global warming, government corruption, the future of government-provided retirement accounts, the costs of health care, terrorism, and immigration. The higher the ranking, the darker the color.

“What’s on the World’s Mind” also shows how the concerns of particular countries are aligned, or not, with the rest of the world. America stands virtually alone, for example, in its concern over the cost of health care. In both 2013 and 2008, only one other country rated the cost of health care a top-five concern (Australia 2013, the Czech Republic 2008).

Within the data are potentially far-reaching insights. Education, for example, gets a higher priority in the developing world than in developed countries like the US and UK. The issue ranks in the top three in Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico.

In contrast, Germany and Japan, both with aging populations, are much more concerned about the future of retirement and pension plans. Sweden, meanwhile, is the standard-bearer on green issues, the only country to put both environmental pollution and global warming/climate change among their top-five concerns. South Africa is the only country to rate AIDS a top-five concern. Terrorism, on the decline as a concern for many years, ranks only 12th now globally and is a top-five concern in only one Roper Reports Worldwide country, Turkey, where it is #1.

In addition to being able to sort levels of concern by issue across the world, users, by hovering over countries, can find their top-five concerns for 2008 and 2013.

The data are from Roper Reports Worldwide, GfK’s annual global survey of consumers 15 years old and up. Now in its sixteenth year, the survey covers topics from brand attitudes, to values, aspirations, interests, and attitudes and behaviors in technology, health care, food & diet, personal finances, and other categories. More than 37,500 respondents were interviewed for the 2013 survey.

Roper Reports Worldwide is the sister product to Roper Reports US, an ongoing survey of consumers in the US started in 1973.

“What’s on the World’s Mind” is the fourth in the “Trending the World” data-visualization series. Earlier entries in the series included a 40-year Roper trendline comparing on concern about the environment in the US and globally,  drawn from Roper’s Green Gauge environmental study; Americans’ evolving definition of the Good Life since the 1970s; and Americans’ increasing openness to change.

For more information about Trending the World or the rich insights and databases of GfK’s Roper Reports Worldwide and Roper Reports US consumer-trends surveys, please contact

Jon Berry is Vice President, Consulting, on GfK’s Consumer Trends team. 

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Readers of your blog may be interested to learn that some of your early writing appears in a book published this week by the Tomales Regional History Center. The book is titled The Light on the Coast, 65 Years of News Big and Small as Reported in The Point Reyes Light: The History of West Marin’s Lively Little Towns and their Pulitzer-Prize Winning Newspaper. It was written by Dave Mitchell. You can go online to the Tomales Regional History Center ( bookstore for a full description.

Your piece, which was originally published in 1981, shows you as a young man already grasping social dynamics. It’s an account a counterculture group who move into the small town of Point Reyes Station, California, back in 1971. They rent a building on the then-half-boarded-up main street as a place to live but run afoul of county government when they create a performance space called the “Dance Palace” on the ground floor. Your story begins with county building inspectors threatening to shut them down; however, they manage to gather enough support from the straight community that in the end, the county board of supervisors starts funding them. During the following decade, that performance space evolves into the region’s community center. Your account is fascinating.

Happy Holidays from folks out here on the left coast!