The congress centre, venue for the World Economic Forum, is covered with snow in Davos, Switzerland. (Photo | AP)
DAVOS: As the world faces huge economic risks from growing trade disputes and inward-looking policies, a global survey Sunday said public opinion is overwhelmingly against populism and favours openness.
The global public overwhelmingly favours multilateral cooperation, is open to immigration and rejects the notion that countries’ best interests are achieved at the expense of others, according to the survey published by the World Economic Forum (WEF) a day before the opening of its high-profile annual meeting on this resort town on the Swiss Alps.
Majority of the respondents also said they believe upward mobility is too elusive and that governments are not doing enough to provide people with opportunity.
As per the survey, North Americans have the least trust in climate science, while Western Europeans are least likely to regard technology companies as altruistic.
The WEF said a majority of people in all regions of the world say they believe cooperation between nations is either extremely or very important.
It also found that a large majority rejects the notion that national improvement is a zero-sum game, and that most people feel that immigrants are mostly good for their adopted country.
The research, covering a sample size of over 10,000 people from every region of the world, was commissioned ahead of this week’s WEF Annual Meeting, where more than 3,000 leaders from across the globe would discuss imminent issues before the world in nearly 350 sessions over five days.
The WEF said the survey findings underline the key principles of the multilateral system and also roundly debunks the negative notion of immigrants that has raced to the top of the news agenda across Europe, North America and elsewhere.
However, regional viewpoints differ.
Asked how important it is that countries work together towards a common goal, a global average of 76 per cent said they believe it is either extremely important or very important.
These sentiments are felt most strongly in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, where 88 per cent share the same view.
At the other end of the scale, 61 per cent of Western Europeans and 70 per cent of North Americans said they consider cooperation to be extremely or very important.
Asked whether their country has a responsibility to help other countries in the world, South Asians again registered the highest levels of concurrence, with 94 per cent answering positively compared to a global average of 72 per cent.
Again, North Americans and Western Europeans were the least effusive, with only 61 per cent and 63 per cent respectively answering in the affirmative.
While a global majority of respondents — 57 per cent — said they believe that immigrants are “mostly good” for their new country, only 40 per cent of those living in Eastern Europe and Central Asia and 46 per cent of respondents in Western Europe subscribe to the same opinion.
North Americans trailed only South Asians in their approval of immigrants, with 66 per cent saying they believe immigrants are mostly good.
One finding showed that while most people still believe in the power of international cooperation, they share a much less positive view of their own country when it comes to social progress.
This despondency at the lack of upward mobility is felt most acutely in Western Europe, where only 20 per cent of respondents said they feel it is either extremely common or somewhat common for someone to be born poor and become rich through hard work.
Respondents in the US, where the ideal of the American Dream is deeply rooted in the national consciousness, were only a little more positive, with 34 per cent saying they believe the statement to be either extremely or very common.
“The combination of climate change, income inequality, technology and geopolitics pose an existential threat to humanity.
What we see with this research is that, while the international community’s capacity for concerted action appears constrained, the overwhelming desire of the global public is for leaders to find new ways to work together that will allow them to cooperate on these critical shared challenges we all face,” WEF Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab said.